Your Catholic guide to the Democratic National Convention
Catholics to the DNC: 'Listen up!'
CHARLOTTE — An estimated 6,000 delegates, the most-ever at a Democratic National Convention, will gather in Charlotte next week to nominate President Barack Obama as its candidate for president.
This is the first time the Queen City has hosted a national party convention. North Carolina is considered a swing state, and both the Democrats and the Republicans are fighting hard for votes here in an election considered too close to call by most polls. In 2008, Obama took North Carolina and helped usher in Democrat Bev Perdue as governor.
The Republican Party held its national convention in Tampa, Fla., to nominate former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney. Florida is also a battleground state.
Pictured: The children of Matthew and Jennifer Hoefling model the new “America, Defend Life!” T-shirts that supporters will be wearing during several pro-life rallies during the DNC. The T-shirts are available for sale through the organization’s website, www.americadefendlife.com. (Photo provided by Andrea Hines)
In both conventions and campaigns, Catholics are playing prominent roles. Both vice presidential candidates are Catholic, keynote speakers at both conventions are Catholic, and Catholic teaching on abortion, marriage, immigration and social justice has come into play with each party's platform. The Catholic vote is expected to be a crucial one in this hotly contested presidential campaign.
Much of the Democratic National Convention will be held at Time Warner Cable Arena and the Charlotte Convention Center in the uptown area, but delegates, visitors and media are scattered all over the city. Much of uptown will be closed off for security reasons during the convention, with the tightest security on Thursday when Obama comes to Bank of America Stadium to give his acceptance speech, concluding the convention and kick-starting the fall election season in earnest.
What else can Catholics – especially North Carolina Catholics – expect to see next week?
THE CHURCH IN THE ZONE
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is delivering the closing prayer of the DNC just as he did at the Republican convention – a nonpartisan move signalling that Catholics are an important constituency which the parties ignore at their peril.
St. Peter Church, the oldest Catholic church in the city, is steps away from the convention action, and parish leaders are planning to use the national attention to spotlight social justice issues of concern to Catholics: immigration reform, income disparities and poverty, among them. Mass at 12:10 p.m. will also be celebrated as usual each day.
Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament will take place at St. Patrick Cathedral beginning Monday, Sept. 3, and continuing throughout the days of the convention.
Bishop Peter J. Jugis will celebrate Mass at the cathedral on Tuesday, Sept. 4. His homily will address the formation of conscience when preparing to vote.
The Diocese of Charlotte also is displaying two large banners at St. Peter Church calling for the protection of the unborn, traditional marriage and religious liberty.
CATHOLIC VOTES IMPORTANT
The tight presidential race means every vote counts, and Catholics have traditionally been a powerful voting bloc.
According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 54 percent of Catholics voted for Obama in the 2008 election, an improvement of 7 percentage points for Democrats from the 2004 election, in which Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic Democrat, received just 47 percent. Catholic support for Obama was 9 percentage points better than its support for the Republican candidate Sen. John McCain in 2008.
The Pew poll said Catholics comprised 27 percent of the electorate in 2008, which would be about 34 million voters.
Obama won by about 9 million votes, and, extrapolating from the poll, about 18 million Catholics voted for Obama.
CATHOLIC KEYNOTERS SPOTLIGHTED
For the first time, both the Democratic and Republican parties have Catholics giving the keynote addresses at their conventions. These keynote addresses often signal the up-and-coming party leaders to watch for future elections. Particularly in recent Democratic Party history, some keynote speakers have gone on to become the party's nominee and president, including Obama and former President Bill Clinton.
N.J. Gov. Chris Christie addressed the GOP in Tampa in its prime spot, while San Antonio Mayor Julian Cástro will speak to the DNC.
LATINO VOTES AND MORE
Cástro is the first Latino keynoter at a Democratic national convention. His speech is aimed to help the Obama campaign's effort to retain another key demographic that supported him in 2008.
According to the Pew poll mentioned above, 67 percent of Latinos supported Obama, improving the Democrats' performance from the 2004 campaign by 14 percentage points.
The Obama administration has long been a supporter of the DREAM Act, which would help young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children obtain work permits and attend college. After the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives refused to consider the DREAM Act, Obama issued an executive order allowing for some temporary measures to protect young people from deportation (see related story on page 3).
The DREAM Act is a key policy issue for Latino voters, and something that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has long advocated. But there are other issues just as important to Catholics in this election season – including abortion, traditional marriage, social welfare, religious liberty, immigration and more.
For both parties, Catholics have been visible in both conventions this year, and for the first time in U.S. history, both vice presidential candidates are Catholic: For the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, and for the Republicans, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
Besides the two Catholic keynoters Christie and Cástro, both conventions have notable Catholics in their speakers line-up.
At the RNC, Catholics who spoke included former Sen. Rick Santorum, House Speaker John Boehner, former N.H. Gov. John Sununu, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio and Va. Rep. Barbara Comstock.
Prominent Catholics scheduled to speak at the DNC include Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Md. Gov. Martin O'Malley, Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, and Sister Simone Campbell of Network. Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is also attending as a delegate.
— Stephen Guilfoyle, correspondent