Cardinal Dolan in Charlotte: a looming disaster for Democrats
By Phil Lawler
| August 29, 2012 9:48 AM
Say what you will about the prudence of Cardinal Dolan’s decision to offer a prayer at the Democratic convention. What about the tactical judgment of the Democratic Party leaders who will welcome him?
Jeff Mirus has questioned whether Cardinal Dolan should have made the offer to deliver closing prayers for the Democratic event. As usual, I find myself in agreement with Jeff. But there’s another side to the question: Should the Democrats have accepted his offer?
If I were a partisan Democrat, I would say No: the Democrats should not have invited Cardinal Dolan to Charlotte. Since I am not a partisan Democrat—quite the contrary—I’m delighted that they did. The cardinal’s appearance will hurt, not help, President Obama’s chances for re-election.
Sharon Otterman of the New York Times observes that Cardinal Dolan’s visit to Charlotte will “lead to one of the most intriguing tableaus of this convention season.” She explains:
Cardinal Dolan, an opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage who is among the Catholic bishops suing the Obama administration over its contraception health care mandates, will bless a gathering of thousands of delegates who passionately disagree with him.
The Democrats are apparently planning a convention that will appeal to the primal instincts of anti-Catholic bigots. Speakers from Planned Parenthood and NARRAL will whip up the crowd, warning that any hint of restriction on legal abortion would constitute a “war on women.” Homosexual activists will acclaim the President for advancing their drive toward legal recognition of same-sex marriage. Administration officials will remind the world that Obama introduced mandatory contraceptive coverage despite tough opposition. And then, after hours of shrill rhetoric, with the crowd in a frenzy of partisan fervor, the convention organizers will introduce the leading American representative of the institution that is most closely associated with opposition to legal abortion, to same-sex marriage, and to mandatory contraceptive coverage: the Catholic Church.
One of the most important purposes of a political convention is to fire up the troops: to rouse passions, to rally the party’s faithful as they prepare for battle with their political enemies. This year the main enemy will be Mitt Romney, of course. But looking toward the future, over a longer time horizon, many liberal activists see the Catholic Church as the enemy. So how will they feel, and how will they behave, when an agent of that “enemy” appears on the convention floor?
Yes, the cardinal’s appearance will present an interesting tableau, to say the least. Whether Cardinal Dolan acknowledges it or not, he will be addressing a largely hostile crowd. (There will be hundreds of Roman Catholics on the convention floor, no doubt, but not the sort of Catholics who bow to episcopal authority.) Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Michael McGough conveys the “us vs. them” mentality that will dominate the meeting in Charlotte in his headline: “Prayer for the godless party: Dems call Cardinal Dolan’s bluff.”
How will partisan Democratic activists respond to the cardinal’s presence. I see two likely possibilities.
- Hard-core ideologues might make their contempt manifest. Cardinal Dolan could face demonstrations, interruptions, heckling, a chorus of boos.
- Or cooler heads could prevail, Democratic leaders could impose discipline, the cardinal could hear nothing but respectful applause.
In all likelihood the actual event will see a bit of both reactions. The cardinal will be greeted politely. But there will be some grumbling when Cardinal Dolan prays—as surely he will—for a respectful attitude toward human life and a determination to support marriage and family. And even if the angriest demonstrators are kept outside the convention hall, TV viewers might notice that the rhetoric of those who oppose the cardinal’s appearance will sound very similar to the rhetoric of Democratic speakers who appeared earlier on the convention schedule.
One way or another—because he is treated rudely, as an enemy; or because he is treated politely, as a foreign dignitary—Cardinal Dolan’s appearance in Charlotte will help Catholic voters to notice that they are no longer “at home” in the Democratic Party. Like the cardinal they may be accepted as guests, but as long as the Democratic Party embraces the culture of Death, Catholic Democrats will be operating on alien territory.
Cardinal Dolan offered to attend the convention if his presence was wanted. The truth is that he is not wanted. But the Democratic Party has chosen to pretend, and that is a serious tactical error.