Jo Ann Nardelli and the Democratic revolt
“Faith is the reason I switched parties.”
So said Jo Ann Nardelli when my office contacted her last week to talk to her about why she left the Democratic Party for the Republican Party. Nardelli is a former Pennsylvania State Democratic Party Committeewoman and former president of the Blair County Federation of Democratic Women.
Nardelli said she had felt a “distancing from the party” over the past six months to a year as President Obama took the party leftward and began pandering more and more to left-wing special interests.
Candidate Obama promised unity and pledged post-partisanship. But President Obama has become the most divisive politician in recent history, remarkably eager both to attack-his political enemies, the Catholic Church, critical news outlets, other branches of government-and to pander-to environmentalists, gays, public employee unions, feminists, abortion groups and others.
But Nardelli’s switch shows that as Obama’s slice and dice campaign continues, he risks taking significant slices out of his own Democratic Party.
The last straw, Nardelli said, came on Sunday, May 6, when, before heading off to mass, she and her husband watched Vice President Joe Biden on Meet the Press.
Nardelli calls Biden “a man of deep Catholic faith whose Irish Catholic ways remind me very much of my own father of Italian Catholic background.” She said she felt sick when she heard Biden announce his support for same-sex marriage.
She knew where things were headed. Once the president came out for same-sex marriage, it would lead to a change in the party platform and every Democrat would be forced to comply. “Therefore, I knew I had to resign my positions, dissolve my affiliations, take a stand and change to the Republican Party,” she said.
Obama’s same-sex marriage announcement may have helped him with gay-rights groups-he quickly raised more than $15 million off the decision-but it has hurt him among people like Nardelli, a practicing Catholic who’s been a registered Democrat for more than 40 years.
Nardelli’s not alone. With the HHS “contraceptive mandate,” Obama has made a political calculation that appealing to secular and liberal female voters is more important than the constitutional rights of faithful Catholics.
A subsequent “accommodation” did little to quell the anger that followed. It got Obama’s liberal Catholic allies back on board. But now the administration is being sued by dozens of Catholic and other religious entities for breach of First Amendment rights.
Polls suggest Obama’s attacks have hurt him. Obama enjoyed a 20-point advantage against Romney among women in the early spring. Now Obama and Romney are running even among them.
Several recent polls find Obama sliding among Catholic voters. Obama won Catholics by nine points in 2008. And he was ahead by nine points in early March, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.
In its most recent poll, Pew found that 47 percent of Catholic voters would vote for Obama, while 52 percent would vote for Romney. If that margin were to hold on Election Day, it would mark a swing of 18 million voters away from Obama-enough for him to lose the election.
Obama’s fundamental problem is that he’s out of touch with ordinary Americans. You’ll remember that part of the wisdom in Obama selecting Joe Biden for the number two slot was that Biden’s Catholic, working class roots would help Obama with those voters.
It may have helped him marginally in 2008. But with his attacks on religious conscience, with his job-killing economic and nonsensical environmental policies, Obama has made it clear who matters to him, narrow ideological constituencies that he hopes will donate enough money to his campaign to get him re-elected. To that end, Planned Parenthood endorsed Obama last week with a $1.4 million ad buy.
Former Alabama Democratic Representative Artur Davis recently switched parties too. The former Obama ally has moved to Virginia and recently wrote on a blog, “If I were to run again, it would be as a Republican.”
Davis, who is black, blamed Obama’s divisiveness, particularly on racial issues, for his change. “Frankly, the symbolism of Barack Obama winning has not given us the substance of a united country,” he wrote. “I have taken issue with an administration that has lapsed into a bloc by bloc appeal to group grievances when the country is already too fractured.”
Nardelli and Davis aren’t the only Democrats having a change of heart. Recently, 42 percent of voters in Kentucky voted “uncommitted” on their ballots in the Democratic presidential primary. In Arkansas an obscure lawyer named John Wolfe got 42 percent of the primary vote.
In West Virginia a federal inmate garnered more than 40 percent of the vote, and in Oklahoma pro-life activist Randall Terry got 18 percent of the vote.
Echoing Ronald Reagan, Nardelli insists “I did not leave the Party, the Party left me!” That sentiment is no doubt shared by many other moderate and working class Democrats. In five months, we’ll know just how many.