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Democrats continue to alienate Catholic voters | Opinion

It is not that voters like Republican candidates better; it's just that they just dislike Democrats more.

During a recent confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) attacked Amy Coney Barrett, a nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, for her Catholic faith.
During a recent confirmation hearing, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) attacked Amy Coney Barrett, a nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, for her Catholic faith.Read moreCliff Owen / Associated Press

OHIO VALLEY — A clip of actress Martha Plimpton's exuberance over the "best" abortion she has ever had played on the television above a gas-station counter somewhere along U.S. Route 422 between Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A woman with a name tag designating her as the manager rolled her eyes and said to no one in particular as she went about stacking the shelves behind the counter, "And they wonder why people don't vote for Democrats around here anymore."

Plimpton, age 46, is best known for her role in the 1980s Steven Spielberg classic kid adventure movie The Goonies. She made her remark in an interview with Dr. Willie Parker at a #ShoutYourAbortion event in Seattle in June.

Actions like Plimpton's do not help the Democratic cause of reclaiming power and influence in Washington, D.C. — at least not with Main Street voters. Nor do they help Democrats win local races.

"Democrats used to debate the legal right to have one, and that was a point of view that was shared by most voters," said Michael Wear, a theologically conservative evangelical Christian Democrat who served in Barack Obama's faith outreach office in the White House. "I don't understand why, 14 months before a midterm election, why would you push 20 percent of voters who would love to support Democrats out the door? Better yet, why would you speak of pro-life Democrats as though they were some extraterrestrial who just landed on Earth?"

It is rare for someone who has had an abortion to celebrate it — Plimpton seems to fail to understand that. Maybe the privileged class understands? Well, even if it did, that wouldn't help the Democratic Party win back voters. Or is it the intellectual class? Well, even if it does, that won't win back majorities either. Or maybe it is the celebrity class? There aren't enough in the class to win back the House or the Senate.

In short, this is not the message you want to win every down-ballot seat the party has let waste away under the thrust of identity politics.

It is not that voters like Republican candidates better; it's just that they dislike Democrats more.

The face of the Democratic Party has increasingly become the face of celebrity, scold, and entitlement. The people the party used to attract to its "stand for the working class" creed have faded from their reach; they have lost touch with their needs and values; and they certainly have lost touch with any type of meaningful message.

They fail to celebrate hard work, demand that supporters be pro-abortion rights, expect them to be agnostic, and expect them to stand for their multitude of identity politics. Instead of bringing people together and being part of a greater political party, division is the only way forward.

"We have seen a tendency in some part of the progressive coalition to react to Republican extremism by becoming extreme in our own voices," said Wear. "Well, that's not helpful."

The idea that the Democrats' problem is not being "forceful enough" in their progressiveness is actually the Democrats' weakness, Wear said. But he remains hopeful things will change. "They have to or we won't win," he said.

A recent Senate confirmation hearing was held for Amy Coney Barrett, a Notre Dame Law professor and nominee for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. During the hearing, Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senator from California, attacked Barrett for her Roman Catholic faith.

Feinstein confronted her on some of the materials she used for her writings about the role of religion in public life, as well as academic lectures she delivered to Christian legal groups.

Here in the Ohio Valley, down-ballot Democrats have lost their seats in spades; on both the Pennsylvania and Ohio sides, voters began peeling away from the left after Al Gore in 2000 in elections from state legislator to senator to Congress to the presidency.

Data from a nationwide exit poll shows that President Trump won Catholics over Hillary Clinton, 52 percent to 45 percent. That's a huge swing from the past two elections, when Catholics voted for Barack Obama by a margin of 9 percent in 2008 and 2 percent in 2012.

Why is that important? Well, in states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and all throughout the Midwest, the Catholic vote is a very important bloc no matter what you are running for — and that includes retaking the majority in 2018.

"The last thing Democrats should be doing is purposefully stiff arm people we are going to need to win," said Wear. "If we have one chance to take back Congress this strategy is not going to it."

Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. For more information, visit