If you do an online search for "Donald Trump Catholic problem," you'll see the media has ran this story everywhere; post and tweet, rinse and repeat. See, e.g., National Review, July 18: "Donald Trump's Catholic problem"; Forbes, Aug. 23: "Trump has a Catholic problem"; Patch.com, Aug. 29: "Donald Trump's Catholic Problem"; New York Magazine, Aug. 30: "Trump has a Catholic problem. But how bad is it?"; and The Washington Post, Aug. 30: "Donald Trump has a massive Catholic problem."
Catholic voters are kind of like "moderate" Republican primary candidates: The media loves to trot them out while they're useful. But once that's done, the long knives come out. Thus, for a group that despises Donald Trump the way the press does, Catholics suddenly become a terribly important constituency. (Once the presidential election is over, Catholics' pesky opposition to abortion, assisted suicide and sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage will again make them anathema.)
It's true that evangelical Protestants are far more likely to vote for conservative Republicans. Catholics, on the other hand, have a great deal of immigration in their family histories, a natural sympathy for those discriminated against, and a devotion to a decidedly leftish view of "social justice" — all of which make them more receptive to Democrat candidates' positions.
But it's not as if Catholics' favoring Democrat presidential candidates is a new phenomenon. Forty-seven percent of Catholics voted for Bill Clinton in 1992. (In his second term, that number rose to 55 percent.) Barack Obama got 53 percent of the Catholic vote in 2008, and 49 percent in 2012.
Donald Trump's bombastic personality, his comments about illegal immigrants and various aspects of his personal life do not sit well with many Catholics, and a significant number — if polls are correct — intend to vote for Hillary Clinton.
But Clinton should give Catholic voters far more pause than she apparently does.
It is not merely her participation in the Obama administration's deceit about the Benghazi terrorist attack, her own incompetency and dishonesty in maintaining a private email server, or the increasingly unsavory "pay-to-play" allegations.
It is Hillary Clinton's loyalty to "Big Abortion," and the implications for her Supreme Court picks that should concern Catholics, and anyone else with a modicum of respect for constitutional liberties.
Far too many Catholics see the issue as strictly one of the legality of abortion, and thus a thing decided. In conversations with my own Catholic friends who are #NeverTrumps or Clinton supporters, their argument goes something like, "Abortion is already legal, and you can't be a one-issue voter."
Abortion's legality is not the issue. It is the confluence of other legal trends applied to abortion that I think bodes ill for Catholics under a Hillary Clinton administration.
I have said all along that the HHS contraception mandate was a stalking horse. Most people — including Catholics — don't care much about contraception. But the Obama administration was field-testing the precedent of having an unaccountable regulatory agency issue a potentially controversial regulation. If the public doesn't like it, it would take congressional legislation to overturn it; legislation that a Democrat president would clearly veto. Thus, the staying power of any such law rests with the Supreme Court.
It is all too easy to see a Hillary Clinton administration making abortion mandatory care under the Affordable Care Act, which would thereafter have to be covered by insurance policies and paid for by employers. Clinton is a tool for NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, both of which we can expect to push for that regulation.
The next step would be to compel physicians and hospitals, no matter their religious affiliation, to perform and offer abortions. This is the tactic we have seen with gay marriage activists who have sued florists, cake makers and photographers who did not wish to participate in a gay marriage ceremony.
And this is where the Supreme Court's disposition towards religious liberty arguments becomes so critical. Defendants in the gay marriage cases have attempted to assert religious objections — just as the Green family did when they objected to paying for abortifacient contraception in the Hobby Lobby case. The Greens won. But it was a 5-4 decision, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissent was quite clear — she objected to "commercial enterprises" being allowed to assert "sincerely held religious beliefs" that, as she viewed it, interfered with the "compelling government interest in uniform compliance with the law."
Hospitals are commercial enterprises. Doctors' offices are commercial enterprises. How will Catholic and Christian medical providers who oppose abortion fare in a Supreme Court where Justice Ginsburg's views are the majority?
Objections to a Clinton presidency are not just "about abortion." They are grounded in concerns about executive overreach, an unaccountable regulatory state, an overpowered judiciary and serious potential threats to religious freedom.
This should give Hillary Clinton a serious problem among serious Catholics.