Times sure have changed. It wasn’t but a generation ago (OK, a long generation, but still) that the Republican Party was the party of moderately conservative mainline Protestants, while Jews and Catholics were solidly in the Democratic camp. Now the GOP will feature a rabbi giving the convention’s opening prayer , and a Cardinal the closing prayer.
Both are friends of the magazine. Rabbi Meir Soloveichik has written for us over the years. Cardinal Tim Dolan was an Erasmus Lecturer half a dozen years ago. There’s some precedent. There certainly are Jewish Republicans (some of whom read this blog, I hope), and Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia gave the opening prayer for the 1972 GOP convention that nominated Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Nonetheless, Soloveichik and Dolan are signs of the times.
The Democratic Party is becoming the secular party with an attitude, as the HHS mandate and arguments of Obama administration lawyers in various religious cases indicates. This is driving religious people toward the Republican Party. That’s been happening for decades, of course, most obviously in the shift of Evangelical voters toward the Republican Party in the 1980s. (They went for Jimmy Carter as one of their own in 1976.) They reshaped the GOP, as the recent Republican primaries showed so clearly. It will be interesting to see how a second wave of Jews and Catholics continues to reshape the GOP.
The recently announced invitation extended to Cardinal Dolan to offer the closing prayer at the Democratic convention as well indicates that the Democrats are aware of their religion problem. They don’t want Catholics to feel unwelcome in the party that they pretty much owned in the major industrial cities during much of the twentieth century.
Cardinal Dolan accepted the invitation, and rightly so. At the end of the day, the Catholic Church that Cardinal Dolan serves and represents is loyal to God’s revelation and the moral truths accessible to all on the basis of natural reason. Sadly, the Democratic Party is captive to proponents of abortion, as well as efforts to redefine marriage. But that could change, and one hopes it will.