Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, is Catholic. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Donald Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, is Catholic. And yes, Trump is trying to have it both ways: attacking Biden over his faith while wailing that Democrats are attacking Barrett for hers.
According to Trump, Biden is “against God,” “against the Bible,” and “essentially against religion.” Biden attends Mass every Sunday, while Trump rarely attends church and has been reported to mock his Christian supporters. But when Barrett—who has for instance spoken repeatedly at an event intended to teach a “distinctly Christian worldview in every area of law”—enters the picture, Trump is outraged, outraged that a few Democrats have very cautiously dared to raise the question of whether she would try to impose her religious beliefs on U.S. law.
In fact, relatively few Democrats have had much to say about Barrett’s faith, so it’s especially striking how much it features in Trump’s defenses of her. It’s almost like he’s trying to change the subject from what she would do to the Affordable Care Act or Roe v. Wade by emphasizing Catholicism as the key conflict over her nomination. (Actually, it’s entirely like that.)
Trump does so against the backdrop of an election in which he and Biden are competing for Catholic voters. He’s not shy about using the election of the only ever Catholic president of the U.S. as a weapon against the man running to be the second, either.
“On the religious situation with Amy, I thought we settled this 60 years ago with the election of John F. Kennedy,” Trump said. “Seriously, they’re going after her Catholicism.” If “they” are the endlessly irritating comedian Bill Maher, maybe so. If “they” are the Biden campaign or Democratic senators, then no, and, again, Trump’s attacks on Biden over faith are relevant here.
What the attacks are not is surprising. Trump, as we see again and again, has no shame. Negative shame, even, reveling in attacks all the more if they go beyond being false to the point of being farcical.
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