November 6th marked a historic midterm election cycle. But what did it mean for American Catholics? Did the Catholic vote have a role in the 2018 midterm? How did the campaigns of Catholic politicians differ from those of previous elections?
The Ramonat Seminar has devoted the last two weeks to accessing the impact of Catholicism on our national politics, both past and present. In class and in their blogs, the Scholars debate whether the faith of Catholic politicians has historically shaped their politics. Some Scholars contend that the degree to which Catholic politicians embraced their faith publicly depends on audience and political context. Other Scholars argue that the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy created cultural tolerance of Catholic candidates, who have since mobilized their faith to support diverse political platforms. But as Catholics have become more tolerated in American society, according to some of the Scholars, controversial questions surrounding their campaigns have not disappeared but shifted from “should a Catholic be president” to “how Catholic are they”?
In preparation for their Spring research projects, the Ramonat Scholars put these arguments to the test by exploring historic news coverage of Catholic presidential campaigns. Using Loyola Library’s online databases, the Scholars found campaign coverage, opinion pieces, and political cartoons from Al Smith’s 1928 presidential run to the campaigns of Robert and John F. Kennedy. Their evidence raised lingering questions about when and why the Catholicism of past presidential candidates effected their runs for office. Yet the Scholars tend to agree that in the history of our national politics, faith matters.
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