Friday, April 15, 2005

Tories, Religion and Quebec

Ales Raus, quoting a story from CNN, points out an interesting statistic, one that goes against expectations:
Only 29 percent of churchgoing Catholics favor the death penalty for murder. Among less observant Catholics, nearly two-thirds support the death penalty.
This is one stat where churchgoing Catholics are probably out of step with other Christian churchgoers and the non churchgoing population. It marks Catholics as unique and it is interesting precisely because in many other ways, the largest divide among Christians is not what kind of church they attend. It is how often they attend, if they attend at all.
The pride that swelled Kennedy's support among Catholics in 1960 did not seem to be there for Kerry in 2004. The Catholic vote went narrowly for George W. Bush, a Protestant. What happened between 1960 and 2004 was that religion began to loom larger in U.S. politics -- not religious affiliation, whether you are a Protestant or Catholic, but religious observance, whether you are a regular or an occasional churchgoer. Both Protestants and Catholics split, with regular churchgoers voting more Republican. Nearly half of U.S. Catholics attend church regularly, and they gave Bush a 13-point lead over Kerry.
It would be interesting to see how these things map out north of the 49th. If that trend was to make it's way across the border, it might be very useful to the Canada's Conservative party. It suggests that there could be a national rallying position there for the taking, if Canadians should ever convince themselves that the most pressing divide in the country might just be that of a diverse groups of religious traditions facing off against a secular elite that sees increasingly little limit to how deeply it can interfere in people's lives. Traditionally, the Liberals were the Catholic party for the same reasons that they were the party for immigrants. I don't think the Tory party can be said to have been heavily Protestant, although technically Anglicans are Protestants. The Tories have been perceived as being somewhat more the party of English establishment and tradition. Being the Catholic party likely gave the Libs large inroads into Quebec, which they still have - even though neither the Libs or Quebec generally can be considered heavily Catholic today. The Tories' Anglo nativism hurt them in la belle provance before the Quiet Revolution and it lingers on, I think, in the form of Quebecers revulsion (too strong a word? I'm not sure) towards elements of a Tory party that they see as still too overtly Anglo. Sadly, I think this can amount to a kind of anti Evangelical zenophobia on the part of some. To be sure, both sides have trouble understanding the other. There have been no shortage of Tory (and Alliance) outreach programs, but they seem to fall by the wayside more often than not. What needs to change? Well, here's my idea, for what it's worth. If it's not happening already, the Tories should make a serious attempt to understand Quebec's traditional culture - and special attention needs to be paid to that culture prior to the Quiet Revolution. I'm not suggesting there's a boatload of Tories votes waiting for offers to undo the effects of the Quiet Revolution. That'd be a huge misreading of the situation. What I am saying is this: every change in a culture is an effort to change for the better. That effort is bound to succeed in some areas and fail in others. The key to understanding where the Quiet Revolution failed is in understanding what it was an attempt to alter. Once we see how the past and the present interplay (with the 1960's as their pivot point), we will also possess the language needed to offer change to Quebec in a manner that will be perceived as intuitive, insightful and above all, non threatening. The worst thing we can do in Quebec is blather on about "ten equal provinces" and completely unhindered markets - particularly when it comes to culture. All of our provinces are different, it's true. But the magnitude of Quebec's difference from the others simply has to be recognized. It is the first step to any dialogue. I doubt many of them will admit it, but I think Quebecers find their position on this continent at least somewhat precarious, so we need to admit this without saying it too loudly. They're proud people, I think. I wonder if we will see or have already seen a similar voter change in voter alignment here. The Liberals' embrace of gay marriage and abortion makes it hard for someone who takes Catholicism (or any Christian) seriously to consider them. The Tories tougher stance on law and order needn't be an obstacle in Canada, because there is no death penalty here. If there are respectable native French speaking people people who are already voting Tory or considering it, we need to try and get them noticed, to be spokespeople for the party in that province. What those people need to be able to articulate is not the fineries of the divine presence or the filoque, but that Quebecers have a wealth of social and political tools at their disposal for the fine tuning of their society. Those tools do not begin with the modern Liberal party and end with the nationalist parties. One ought to point out that the modern Liberal party is in some ways quite different from what it used to be. It can be said that that party is a colossus through which Quebec has successfully straddled Canada for some time; it can also be said that the party works to benefit a certain class of Quebecers most of all. And, once that question is successfully raised, one can ask if it might be possible to alter that equation by aligning with others who find themselves in opposition to that class. That would be the Tory party, by the way. At least, it would be a Tory party if the Tories had a face to present to Quebec that was not that of a know it all stranger from another culture. Talking louder is not the answer.

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