Leading conservative intellectual Michael Novak has defined Hillary Clinton as “unvotable” for Catholics in the upcoming presidential elections because she and her party oppose everything that Catholics hold most dear.
In an interview with the Italian online journal Tempi on the so-called “Catholic vote” in the 2016 elections, Novak admits that Trump is not the candidate of his dreams, but given the options, he stands head and shoulders above his opponent.
“It is clear that Trump is not exactly the candidate by whom a Catholic would want to be represented. But in politics you elect a president, not a saint, or a bishop or the Pope,” said Novak, the author of the international bestseller The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism and a point of reference for many Catholic thinkers.
Along with other Catholic intellectuals, Novak considers Hillary to be simply unvotable. “She’s a woman who has lied, violated national laws and anyone else would end up in prison for these things,” he said. “As for me, I cannot vote for a candidate so favorable to abortion, to the secularist agenda in the moral sphere and such a ferocious adversary of religious freedom.”
Asked about Trump’s spat with the Pope over building a border wall with Mexico, Novak said it is a problem that affects Italians but not one that has resonated particularly with American Catholics.
“Here, no one pays the slightest attention,” he said, “while illegal immigration is a real problem, strongly felt by the Americans who want to uphold the law.”
Novak acknowledged that it isn’t easy for Europeans to see the elections the way Americans do. “The truth is that if Clinton wins we risk losing our freedom, because Democrats are increasingly illiberal with those who don’t think the way they do,” he said.
Regarding the popularity of the Republican candidate with middle America, Novak said that Trump is “very good at talking to the gut feelings of the country” and always repeats the same message to Americans: “they have betrayed you, it is time to change.”
“If he is successful it is because he simply speaks a great truth. All Americans know very well that they have been betrayed. But this betrayal did not happen in a day, it started 60 years ago,” he said.
Gradually, “we started to divide values from life, values from law, through many small compromises. And Catholics have a great responsibility in this. Education has failed, because the universities have all fallen into the hands of the left and we have pulled down a whole generation, the so-called millennials, into a vacuum of values and meaning,” he said.
“When I think that this should be the main theme in this election and that no one talks about it, it makes me shudder,” he said.
Novak is noteworthy for having refused to sign a letter released by Catholic intellectuals and pundits during the Republican primaries last March, in which they called Trump “manifestly unfit to be president of the United States” and urged their fellow Catholics and fellow citizens “to reject his candidacy.”
Although the letter was intended to sway the primaries away from Trump, once he won the nomination, it left the letter’s signers in the problematic position of having already come down firmly against the Republican candidate, thereby hobbling their opposition to the Clinton campaign.
This, in turn, left Novak as a sort of standard-bearer for Catholic intellectuals firmly opposed to a Hillary Clinton presidency, especially since, as a political realist, he understands — as some of his colleagues seem not to — that there are only two serious candidates in the election. For all its poetic grandeur, voting a “third party” candidate equates to abstention from the democratic process.
In other words, the essay portion of the exam is over. Now it’s multiple choice.
Novak said that he believes that one of the essential dividing lines between the two parties today revolves around the liberal indoctrination received in American higher education and the subsequent control over U.S. culture.
“The main issue in this election is the divide between those who are college educated and those who have not attended,” says Novak. “The former have a firm grip on the country. They control the TV stations, newspapers, radio, universities, all the great vehicles of culture.”
“Some argue that they have formed a new social class, under the hegemony and control of the Democratic Party. They have drunk from a secular teaching that draws its content from New York Times editorials,” he said.
Catholics “are regarded with suspicion” by the academic elites, Novak said, “because the new politically correct class looks down on all those who do not think as they do, accusing them of sexism and racism.”
“If ordinary people are still realistic and live with their feet on the ground, the elites—well represented by the Democrats—are outside the world,” he said.
“In short, they have control of culture, but not of the neighborhoods, not of the streets,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome.