Hudson’s background is important to understand his book’s value. Hudson describes how he got involved in the Republican efforts in 2000 and 2004 and the outcome of his efforts, but he is confined by modesty.
I first met Deal Hudson in the basement office of Crisis magazine sometime in the late 1990’s when I was the president of the Cardinal Newman Society for Catholic Higher Education. We were both fighting in the trenches yet neither of us gave the other a second thought. A subscriber to Crisis, I read the result in 1998 of the Catholic Voter survey that put Deal Hudson, and his colleague Steve Wagner, on the political map. The result documented the migration of Catholics away from the Democratic Party and identified a substratum of Catholics as the key Catholic “swing” vote: church-going Catholics.
The survey’s then groundbreaking results, discussed in Hudson’s book, reflected my own experience and move to the Republican Party. Like many Catholics, I had been a natural Democrat, researching for Glenn and then campaigning for Hart in 1984. Like many Catholics, it was Reagan’s unequivocal anti-Communism that led me right, and the Democrats’ evident commitment to radical cultural and moral transformation that closed the deal.
I read the results of the Crisis survey as a Catholic opinion leader. Karl Rove read them differently. They proved his conclusion that Republicans could win presidential elections even if only by small margins by securing vital swing votes, first among them active Catholics. Hudson helped Rove accomplish this in two elections by giving Republicans a missing insight into the Catholic mind, which became reflected in both the speech and accent of George W. Bush and a historic outreach to Catholic opinion leaders that went far beyond previous GOP appeals to Catholics as either blue collar voters or Episcopalian wannabes.
Hudson’s insight helped George W. Bush invite Catholics to join Evangelicals, not just in voting again for the same presidential nominee, but to do it for the same reason: a reaction to years of daily affronts to their faith and morals. Washington is full of people who have made important bricklaying contributions to history and, with regard to politics, this was Deal Hudson’s most evident “but for me” but not the most impacting.
In leading Catholic outreach before and after the 2000 election, Hudson accomplished two long-needed things. He wrested the Catholic voice from two groups of Catholics who had stunted Catholic political activism. First, Hudson replaced the myopic leadership within the Republican Party of country-club Catholics, mostly lace curtain Irishmen, who treated Catholic outreach as little more than an opportunity to socialize with people much like themselves, without offering any heavy lifting of intellect. Hudson then accomplished something else.
Lay Catholic leaders had allowed themselves to be overly concerned with our bishops’ sanction over our activities. Deal Hudson ended that. His Catholic Working Group, formed after the 2000 election, and his efforts to mobilize Catholics to advise the Bush administration, including like-minded bishops, ended the monopoly of the liberal United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and their Washington lobbying staff as the political voice of Catholics. Notably, the Conference wrote letters to President Bush objecting to the very existence of Hudson’s group.
Deal Hudson’s new book offers a silent retreat that helps us put into context the events of our lifetime, and to understand how irreligious bigotry, secularism, relativism, and carnality have caused both popular reaction and a reaffirmation of faith into action that has shaped our politics and the choices of our lives.
Mr. Miranda served as Catholic outreach advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and as the first president of the Cardinal Newman Society for Catholic Higher Education. He was a fellow for the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation, and is a recipient of the American Conservative Union’s Ronald Reagan Award.
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