As we chatted between mouthfuls of Chick-fil-A after the Presidential Candidate Info Night, the elder Dr. Wolfe expressed some regret that there were no die-hard liberals on the panel of professors. True, each of the professors had looked at the candidates from different angles, but there were no major disagreements among them.
Ask around and you can see that this dearth of truly liberal political views is not limited to the Politics Department; it is a campus-wide phenomenon. Why is this?
It is not that all progressive policies are adverse to Catholicism. A Catholic politician could plausibly and morally endorse universal healthcare, gun restrictions and environmental protection. The problem, of course, is that to support these issues would most likely mean identifying as a Democrat.
Being both a Democrat and a Catholic is not unheard of; Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi are two prominent examples, and perhaps more notable still is JFK.
Being a Democrat and a Catholic who follows all the teachings of the Church, however, is a contradiction. Abortion and same-sex marriage are at the heart of the conflict; whereas the Democratic Party has emphatically upheld abortion since the ‘70s and same-sex marriage in the past decade, the Church has always been explicit in its condemnation of both.
In the past, a politician could run as a Democrat and still hold to their own views on an issue. At the local level this is still true, as organizations like Democrats for Life of America testify, but on the national level it has become practically impossible. The American political landscape has become so polarized that to try and run as a pro-life Democrat is a fool’s errand.
As our generation has grown up with this sharp Republican and Democratic divide, we have grown accustomed to associating Republicanism with Catholicism.
There is nothing especially Catholic about having a strong military, a lax government economic regulation or an increase in border security. Republican politicians often also support the right to life and traditional marriage, so we tend to lump them all together – a Catholic conservative.
As college students we cannot do a lot about changing the divide between being a Republican and being a Democrat. Some of us might decide to run for office and we will most likely have to choose a party to register and identify with.
It is not necessarily bad in itself that a majority of the population on campus holds to a more conservative political agenda. It can become a bad thing, however, when one accepts it blindly without asking why.
After all, exploring other possible ideologies for government is part and parcel of a liberal arts education.