US Democrats to appoint "Catholic Outreach" coordinator

Seeking to staunch mounting losses of the Catholic vote to the US Republican Party, the Democrats has decided to hire a Catholic Outreach Director tasked with reconnecting the party to its traditional "white ethnic" core support base.

The National Catholic Reporter (NCR) reports that a Catholic outreach director will be hired as early as this month, rounding out an religious organising team at the Party's Capitol Hill headquarters that includes staff dedicated to Muslims, African-American churches, Protestants and Jews.

It is the latest indication, say some observers, that Democrats have learned a key lesson of John Kerry's failed 2004 presidential campaign.

"I'm very encouraged that the Democratic Party seems more open and amendable to being inclusive and welcoming to pro-life Democrats like me," said Raymond Flynn, former mayor of Boston and Bill Clinton's ambassador to the Vatican. "They've been far more receptive this year than anytime I can recall."

"The last cycle was a wake-up call," said Leslie Brown, coordinator of the national committee's "faith in action" effort. "When you lose [the Catholic vote] with a Catholic candidate then you've got to go back" and address the problem, she said.

Kerry lost the "white Catholic vote" to President George W Bush by 13 points, and by an even greater margin in the key swing state of Ohio.

According to the NCR, the evolving Democratic strategy to win the Catholic vote is based on two pillars: diffuse the debate over abortion and other hot-button social issues while simultaneously broadening the discussion over "values" to include issues such as health care, education, the environment, wages, corporate greed, public corruption, and immigration.

But the tough job of the outreach coordinator includes more than just reaching out to Catholics in the pews. It also includes placating vocal members of the hierarchy and conservative Catholic opinion-shapers who used their pulpits in 2004 to challenge Mr Kerry and other pro-choice Catholic office seekers.

Party officials are still spooked by Kerry's run-ins with high-profile bishops and by attacks from the conservative Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights.

"We need someone who will not alienate the institutional church," said a Democrat familiar with the hiring process.

"Someone with credibility who understands how to organise within the church and understands the politics of [the church] and is able to navigate through that while also understanding the complexity of the issues in the Democratic Party."

Democrats seek to woo Catholics back to the fold (National Catholic Reporter 16/6/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Democratic Party (Wikipedia)

Moral issues "decisive" in Bush re-election (CathNews 5/11/04)

16 Jun 2006