By John Norton
Depending on your preferred label for the country's largest-ever presidential primary/caucus day, here comes Super Tuesday, Super Duper Tuesday, Giga Tuesday, The Tuesday of Destiny or, our staff favorite, Tsunami Tuesday.
On that day 24 states will hold caucus or primary elections for one or both parties. When the dust settles in the early morning hours on Wednesday, we likely will have de facto nominees for both Republicans and Democrats.
You may be surprised at the social and moral issues that voters in general, and Catholic voters, will be taking to the polls.
Americans' three greatest concerns are: poverty (78 percent), Americans' personal debt (78 percent) and HIV/AIDS (76 percent), according to a study released in late January by The Barna Group.
Other concerns identified as "major" problems facing the country include illegal immigration (60 percent), global warming (57 percent), abortion (50 percent) and the content of television and movies (45 percent). Roughly one-third of Americans identified both homosexual activism and lifestyles as a major concern.
Catholics tracked pretty close to the typical American -- and Protestant -- respondent but were slightly more likely to be concerned about abortion (52 percent) and global warming (59 percent). (The only group that really stands out from the crowd is the relatively small, 15-million-member evangelical block, whose top concern far and away was abortion at 94 percent). In this week's issue, Emily Stimpson analyzes the Catholic vote and what the candidates are doing to court it (see Page 3).
Although the survey used data collected in January and August 2007, when very few experts were warning of the risk of recession, a huge number of Americans and Catholics even then were identifying economic issues as among their greatest concerns. More recent data paints an even more pessimistic picture, but Catholics should know they have a body of teaching and tools at hand to help them get the most out of such crises (see Family, Page 6, and Editorial, Page 19).
Between the elections and economic storm clouds, our country faces a challenging crossroads. What can we do? In addition to becoming informed and conscientious voters, we can also throw ourselves into the spirit of prayer, asceticism and penitence that the season of Lent affords.
See this issue's definitive In Focus guide to Lent starting on Page 9, including a "poster" to hang on your refrigerator. The poster is also available for download on our website, www.osv.com.
Look in our March 16 issue for a similar guide to Holy Week.
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- John Norton