It's time for Democratic politicians like Elizabeth Warren who are courting Catholic voters, or who - like Senator Bob Casey - profess the Catholic faith themselves, to distance themselves from Daily Kos over the anti-Catholic Know-Nothing bigotry of Contributing Editor David Waldman.
Waldman, @KagroX on Twitter, is one of the leading figures at Daily Kos, the largest left-wing blog; a former Hotline staffer, he's a contributing editor and front-page writer, runs the affiliated site Congress Matters, and his tweets are frequently quoted and retweeted by Markos Moulitsas. In an angry, profanity-laden tirade last night on Twitter over a flap between a local Virginia church and the Girl Scouts, Waldman unloaded his hatred of the Church, grasping for every anti-Catholic trope he could reach (examples: "Catholic Church: the ones we don't rape, we'll alienate by calling them communist b****es" or "Catholics are the next Shakers. No one under 35 will ever stay in this church") and complaining that there are too many Catholics on the Supreme Court ("Oh that's right. Six Catholics. Fantastic.") Waldman's vicious rant would have been right at home with the anti-popery screeds of the Klan in its heyday, the Know-Nothings of the 1840s or the "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" trope that cost James G. Blaine the 1884 presidential election.
Waldman's full outburst, in reverse chronological order, is below the fold; warning, it includes language we do not ordinarily permit on this website):
This Klan manifesto from 1923 - see Points 6-8 - seems positively restrained by comparison:
Politics ain't beanbag, and Twitter is often not a place for the most thought-out opinions. But by any stretch, this is far over the line to simple hatemongering. It may not surprise us, but it should still offend us. And it should offend and embarrass Democratic officials that this is a loud voice in their coalition.
It may seem unfair to ask public officials to anticipate that stoking the fires of anti-Catholicism will be seized upon by extremists like Waldman, but they can certainly denounce it - unless it's precisely what they aim to accomplish. There is a long and dolorous history of anti-Catholicism in this country. The Know-Nothings' anti-Catholicism and hatred of new Catholic immigrants were intertwined. Then House Speaker Blaine sponsored the anti-Catholic 1875 Blaine Amendment to the Constitution (defeated in the Senate but enacted in many states and still used as a sword by the public school teachers' unions to this day) and lost the 1884 presidential election when he stood by as one of his surrogates branded the Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion". The Klan was the leading voice against the Church in the 1920s, and as late as 1960, John F. Kennedy was forced to defend his faith against conspiratorial charges of papal control of the federal government. Catholicism has been the faith of many waves of immigrants to this country and strivers for upward social mobility - Irish and Italians and Poles, Filipinos and Hatians, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans. There have always been those who find our faith threatening and seek to control it.
And the Catholic Church has been in the Democrats' crosshairs in this election season, moreso than in any election since at least 1960. It's not hard to see why. The four remaining GOP presidential candidates include Rick Santorum, an outspokenly traditional Catholic who has faced questioning on such uncontroversial Catholic beliefs as the existence of Satan, and Newt Gingrich, a late-in-life Catholic convert. Catholics are prominent and rising in GOP ranks, including John Boehner, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush (a convert), Bob McDonnell, Pat Toomey, Rudy Giuliani, Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, John Hoeven, Sam Brownback, Tom Corbett, Susanna Martinez, and Luis Fortuno. The six Catholics on the Supreme Court include all five Republican appointees: Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Scalia, Thomas, Kennedy and Alito. (The sixth is the first Hispanic Justice, Sonia Sotomayor).
The Obama Administration has played wedge-issue politics against the Church for reasons of both policy and politics, most recently with the rule, enacted by the Department of Health and Human Services, requiring Catholic institutions to provide health care plans including coverage of contraception, in violation of the Church's own position - a rule condemned by all 180 Catholic Bishops and scores of Catholic institutions, but which Democrats gleefully predict will be an electoral asset against the GOP precisely because defending the Church's religious freedom is a point of principle on which neither the GOP nor the Church can bend. In Washington State, Democrats are pressing even further, to require all health plans to cover abortions. These moves are all about taking away the Church's freedom, in its capacity as an employer, to follow its own conscience, and thus eliminating one of the last major institutions in this country not beholden to government. And the DSCC is using the confrontation in fundraising emails:
Will no one rid the Obama Administration of these meddlesome priests? The harder the Administration pushes the Church for political and financial gain and to achieve government dominance over social issues, the more the excitable followers of the Administration work themselves into lathers of Catholic-bashing. This is as good a time as any for Democrats to admit that this tactic has gone too far. (It's a recurring issue - Evangelical Christians and Mormons have come in for the same treatment before and will again).
Catholics are a majority in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania and over 40% of the population of in Massachusetts; Catholics are the largest religious denomination in 33 states, and in particular the predominant faith of Latinos in this country. We deserve to know that our elected leaders, regardless of party, will not encourage Waldman's sort of bigotry. Catholic politicians like Bob Casey, Joe Biden, Patty Murray, Jack Reed, Nancy Pelosi and Dick Durbin - or politicians like Elizabeth Warren who are seeking the votes of Catholic voters - should think long and hard about associating themselves with Daily Kos as long as Waldman is part of it. But moreso, they have an obligation not to encourage the extremist bigots in their midsts.