Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Senior Editor and Training Coordinator, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.
The exit polls from Tuesday’s tightly contested Ohio Republican primary closely resemble Michigan’s from last week, with Santorum and Romney’s supporters clearly breaking along religious, ideological and class divides.
Once again, Santorum won white evangelicals (47%, compared to Romney’s 30%), and Romney won Catholics (44%, compared to Santorum’s 31%).
Once again, Romney cleaned up with high-income voters. He beat Santorum by 14 percentage points among those who make over $100K/year and a whopping 29 percentage points among those who make over $200K/year.
Once again, Santorum was the right-wing favorite. He won 48% of “very conservative” voters, compared to Romney’s 30%. Santorum also beat Romney by 9 percentage points among voters who “strongly support” the Tea Party.
Once again, Santorum dominated among anti-abortion voters. Two-thirds of those who say abortion is the most important issue voted for Santorum, and he beat Romney by 16 percentage points among voters who think abortion should always be illegal.
What we have here is a clear divide between the well-heeled establishment and the staunchly conservative base. With Romney now a near-lock to win the nomination, it will be interesting to see if he can broaden his appeal beyond the wealthiest Americans and connect not only with social conservatives, but also with middle- and working-class voters. Given the pitched culture-war battles going on right now, that’s an awfully tall order.
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As Kristin mentioned earlier, today was the Blunt Amendment’s day of reckoning in the Senate . Fifty Democratic Senators and retiring Republican Senator Olympia Snowe did the right thing and voted against this destructive legislation. Sadly, the rest of the Republican caucus and three Democrats (Senators Casey, Manchin and Nelson) voted to give corporate bosses the power to pick and choose which healthcare services their employees and employees’ families may receive.
Via TPM, I saw that Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) released a thoroughly misleading defense of his vote:
“However, the Senate is having a debate as to whether the federal government has the right to bully religious organizations. Let’s be clear, in no way would this amendment deny or interfere with a woman’s access to contraception. This is an absurd allegation. The debate today is about one thing and one thing only; whether the federal government can force religious organizations to provide a service that violates their faith. Supporters of the President’s healthcare law believe the federal government can oppress religious organizations, force individuals to buy a product they may not want, and put personal healthcare decisions in the government’s hands.
First of all, giving every employer the power to deny coverage of any treatment based on any ostensibly moral objection most certainly would interfere with access to contraception. USCCB staffer Anthony Picarello indicated as much when he complained that the Obama administration’s accommodation for religious institutions would not allow Taco Bell owners to deny coverage of contraception. The only way Heller isn’t outright lying is if he A) honestly believes that no employer would refuse to cover contraception – in which case this whole fight would be a mere intellectual exercise, or B) is completely unaware that many women cannot afford contraception coverage out of pocket.
Second, the Obama administration has explicitly put in place policies ensuring that religious congregations, dioceses, schools, hospitals, charities, universities, and health care facilities will not be required to provide contraception coverage if they have moral objections to it. I don’t know which religious organizations Heller thinks are being “oppressed” here, but he must have a broader definition of a religious organization (and a more expansive definition of oppression) than I can imagine. Or, again, he could just be dealing in misinformation.
In the coming days I expect we’ll be hearing more arguments along these lines, but I hope other lawmakers who voted in favor of the Blunt Amendment will provide a more honest explanation for their support of this extreme legislation. I’d love hear somebody explain why letting employers dictate which health care services their employees’ may receive is a morally defensible way to address religious liberty concerns.
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Ed Kilgore has a great post today about Rick Santorum’s failure to win Catholic voters in Michigan last night. Here’s Ed:
…based on prior evidence, there’s really no particular reason to think the “Catholic vote” was ever Santorum’s to lose. His voting base has always been conservative evangelical Protestants, who also make up a high percentage of the voters fixated on making abortion illegal, a particularly strong Santorum demographic. I’m sure the JFK slur didn’t help, but this is one “surprise” in Michigan that really shouldn’t have been that surprising.
The exit polls strongly support Ed’s diagnosis. Santorum’s strongest support came from voters who think abortion is the most important issue (77%) and people who think abortion should always be illegal (60%), and he bested Romney by 16 percentage points among evangelicals and 42 percentage points among voters who said the candidates’ religious beliefs matter a great deal.
A couple of other things from the exits jumped out at me:
- Santorum dominated among the hard right, winning 50% of voters who identify as “very conservative,” compared to Romney’s 36% support among this group.
- Romney continued to garner support from wealthy voters and struggle among middle-class and blue-collar voters. Romney won 55% of voters with incomes of $200k or more, but Santorum beat him among
all other income brackets those who make less than $100k.
On the whole, the exits suggest that the contest between Santorum and Romney looks a lot like a face-off between the GOP base and the well-heeled establishment.
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You’ve probably heard by now that Franklin Graham was yet again impugning President Obama’s faith on a cable news show yesterday. In addition to the usual dog-whistle rhetoric (“He has said he’s a Christian, so I just have to assume that he is,”), Graham overtly dabbled in conspiracy theory. Asked by the host if the president is “categorically not a Muslim,” Graham said “I can’t say categorically because Islam has gotten a free pass under Obama and we see the Arab Spring and coming out of the Arab Spring the Islamists are taking control of the Middle East.”
Franklin Graham casting doubt on the president’s faith is a dog-bites-man story at this point, and Graham doesn’t need my help to make himself look like a demagogue — but it’s worth mentioning just how deeply wrong these attacks are. Not only does he dishonestly impugn the President’s Christian faith, he also advances anti-Muslim bigotry and puts forth a discrediting image of Christian leadership.
A pastor should not go on national television to speculate about the sincerity of other people’s Christian faith – especially to score political points. Franklin Graham should apologize to the President, and cable news shows should stop giving his religious bigotry and dishonesty a public platform. He has demonstrated a clear lack of credibility as a commentator on faith and politics.
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Later this month, the Senate will vote on the Blunt Amendment – legislation that repeals not only the requirement that employers offer health insurance plans that cover contraception without a copay, but also allows employers to refuse to offer coverage of any medical service they object to on moral grounds. It’s completely open-ended. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he supports the legislation.
In other words, the folks who warned that “Obamacare” would put a government bureaucrat between you and your doctor have no problem putting Donald Trump in charge of which specific medical treatments his employees may and may not have. Unfortunately, prominent faith leaders are supporting this radical amendment:
Leaving coverage decisions up to each employers’ conscience might create chaos in the marketplace, “but chaos is sometimes the price you pay for freedom,” said Richard Land, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, who is backing the bishops whole-heartedly.
Land’s statement reflects an extremely privileged notion of “freedom.” Arguing that a private employer should be able to impose his moral values on employees to the extent that he controls the specifics of their health care shows a greater concern for the individual preferences of the powerful than for the welfare of everyday people.
Someone with libertarian leanings might say “well, if employees are dissatisfied with their coverage, they are free to get a job elsewhere.” But when jobseekers outnumber job openings 4-to-1 nationwide and almost half of Americans are one economic shock away from poverty, that’s cold comfort.
This isn’t about the consciences of religious institutions, this is about giving every employer – from the most virtuous to the most unscrupulous — power to impose their “morals” on their employees, medical consequences be damned. Given that our society is already rife with examples of business owners abusing their employees, the Blunt Amendment puts families in danger by subjecting their healthcare to the whims of employers who have an economic incentive to make up moral reasons to offer inadequate insurance.
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