From the earliest days in the New World through the disputed presidential election of 2000, the influence of Catholics on American politics has followed a peculiar arc. In Colonial America, Catholics were often denied participation in the process; but in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Catholic bloc was recognized as a swing vote that determined the outcome of numerous elections; and today Catholics are either so assimilated or disunited that as a group their impact is declining.
George J. Marlin, author of Fighting the Good Fight: A History of the New York Conservative Party (St. Augustines Press, 2003), here traces the political and electoral history of American Catholics from the time of Lord Baltimore and the founding of Maryland to the election of George W. Bush. It is an inspiring story of ethnic Catholics who arrived on Americas shores with only the clothes on their back, worked through their parishes and neighborhoods to overcome nativist bigotry, and became a significant voice in local, state, and national political affairs.
Along the way we meet heroes and villains of this rich and diverse narrative, who unified, courted, and hated Americas Catholic voters:
* Aaron Burr who wooed New Yorks fledging Catholic population to carry the state that put Thomas Jefferson over the top in the election of 1800;
* Andrew Jackson and Henry Clays dueling over the Catholic votes in key battleground states of Pennsylvania and New York;
* New Yorks Archbishop John Hughes mobilizing Catholic voters to fend off bigoted nativist attempts to deny them their rights as citizens;
* The anti-Catholic election tactics of U.S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James Garfield to mobilize nativist voters;
* The "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" controversy that derailed James G. Blaines presidential campaign and swung enough Catholic votes to elect Grover Cleveland in one of Americas closest elections.
* Inner-city Catholic politicians battling Protestant Evangelicals, Reformers, and Eugenicists during the Gilded Age;
* The presidential campaigns of Al Smith and John F. Kennedy and the anti-Catholic tactics employed to discredit them;
* The post-Vatican II cultural wars that drove ethnic Catholics into the arms of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan;
* The rise of the cafeteria Catholic voter and his impact on the political process.