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How Obama Won In Health Care And Contraception

Feb 14th, 2012

Health careThe Obama administration’s decision to compel the Catholic institutions, like schools, hospitals, and charity groups to provide their employees with health care insurance policies that cover contraception has been regarded by many as a huge political gamble made by the President.

Although progressives seem to agree with the administration’s choice, some analysts believe that he will pay for this blunder in November.

This argument is based on the assumption that most Catholic voters take their religious leaders’ choices into consideration when making their decision, but this is not necessarily the case. American Catholics have different political beliefs and are not a homogeneous group. For instance, about a third of the 70 million Catholics are Latino and would likely vote a Democrat by a wide margin. Furthermore, while the Catholic leaders are very conservative on sensitive issues like abortion and gay marriage, their congregate are no more conservative than other Christians regarding these issues. Portraying Catholics as conservatives and always in agreement with their leaders is prejudicial and insensitive. It is also a poor political assumption. For years, the Republican Party has failed to win the support of the Jewish community by appealing to its most conservative factions. They are still committing the same mistake by pursuing the Catholic vote the same way.

The Republican Party is actively pursuing white Catholic voters, but they cannot expect any improvement by staking out fringe stand on social issues. Religious leaders (of any religion) and their followers have a complex relationship, but the Republican approach does not show this. Catholic voters represent a huge proportion of swing voters. These Catholics are mostly young, mostly female, and are more liberal than Catholics who vote for Republicans. These voters are mostly pro-choice and support the use of artificial contraception. While Obama’s stand might be opposed by religious leaders, its effect on the votes of Catholic voters will be much lesser. The opposition will most likely come from older and more conservative Catholics, but these voters have already set their minds against Obama in the first place.

The negative impact of the Obama policy might not be very significant, but the potential positive effect of this decision may have been overlooked entirely. There are at least two reasons why this can be a good thing for the President. First, the decision to force Catholic institutions to offer affordable health insurance which covers contraception is an achievement in itself which Obama can show to the Democratic Party’s progressive core.

Second, the arguments have already shown the contrasting views Americans have concerning contraception. The Republicans may not understand what this implies. The Obama administration is forcing the Republicans to expose their extremely conservative views regarding contraception. This is a radical stand especially for a 21st century political party.

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