Tag Archives: brian burch

Brian Burch – 2018 Defender of the Faith

Co-founder of catholicvote.org helps Catholics apply faith to public issues

As the President of CatholicVote.org and a married father to nine children, the youngest being a three-month-old, Brian Burch doesn’t have a lot of time for hobbies.

“Life goes by too quickly. Thankfully as Catholics, we believe there is something after this. Otherwise, it would be very odd,” said Burch, 43, who in 2008 cofounded CatholicVote.org, a nonprofit aimed at presenting a Catholic voice and perspective in the public square.

Burch is also a member of Legatus’ DuPage County Chapter in Illinois. In that capacity, Burch received the 2018 Defender of the Faith Award at the Legatus Summit in January. He recently spoke with Legatus magazine.

How did you feel about being named the 2018 Legatus Defender of the Faith?

I felt both honored and undeserving at the same time, given the caliber and prestige of many of the past recipients. But certainly, I’m grateful for the recognition of the work that, not myself on my own, Catholic Vote has accomplished over the last decade in trying to serve the Church and to help Catholics better understand and apply the teachings of our faith to American public life.

What is CatholicVote.org’s mission?

It’s in the world of public policy and law, which incorporates elections and the virtue of prudence, which is often misunderstood. This is why it’s important that lay people carry out this work. The Church doesn’t have specific blackand-white answers on every political question. It involves certain principles that must be faithfully applied to the greatest extent possible by people of good will seeking the common good.

How would you describe CatholicVote.org’s work in the last ten years?

The longer you are involved in politics, the more you grow to be chastened a bit by the reality of how difficult and how cyclical things sometimes seem to be. At the same time, the fact that the Church, in spite of its extraordinary mistakes and lack of courageous leadership on the part of some, remains a critical and viable voice in the public culture and in the public debate on issues of perennial importance is a testament not necessarily to the work we do, but to the triumph of the truth despite our human condition.

What are some issues you see playing a critical role for Catholic voters in the 2020 elections?

There’s the basket of issues that apply to any election that involves what the Church calls the foundational issues. In any serious moral culture and in an American context, that includes the sanctity of life, the continued efforts to protect the autonomy of religious institutions and persons of conscience, and certainly protections for the traditional understanding of the family.

Of course those issues extend to all sorts of other issues that involve prudence, such as the good of the economy. Increasingly health care will be a prominent issue driving the debate. Immigration will certainly be there. Federal judges have also been cited as an important issue for Catholics.

Mixed up in all those particular policy debates is also the question of what kind of country we hope to become. I think that debate in many ways is playing out in the minds of many Catholics today when they hear some proposals, particularly on the Left, to revolutionize the way we understand our economy, protect the environment, provide medicine, while throwing into doubt the ideas of gender, the family, of traditional institutions such as churches and the role of religion itself.

When did you join Legatus? Has it benefited your spiritual life?

I’ve been a member for about two years. To have an opportunity to pray the rosary, go to Mass, to hear from a fantastic speaker is itself a gift, but the caliber of speakers and the relationships we’ve established with the members of our chapter have really been a wonderful aid in living out our faith in the midst of the chaos of this world.

Winning the White House in 2016

BRIAN BURCH: Aspirational rhetoric is important for Republicans to win the White House . . .

Brian Burch

Brian Burch

Remember Obama’s feisty “you didn’t build that” charge? The provocative line struck a nerve with entrepreneurs and business owners across the country.

How could he be so dismissive? Doesn’t he recognize the risks, sacrifices, and hard work required to build a successful business? It’s entirely possible that Obama’s remark wasn’t a gaffe at all. By goading Republicans into defending business owners, the Obama campaign helped further cement a central narrative that ultimately sunk Mitt Romney. Exit polls showed Romney scoring higher among voters overall on the economy, values, and his vision for the future. But on the question of “Who cares about people like me?” voters favored Obama by a whopping 81-18 points.

Romney and his surrogates didn’t waste time coming to the defense of American businesses. In Tampa, they paraded business leader after business leader before the Republican National Convention. But something was missing. Or someone. As Rick Santorum later noted, the stage should have included the other people who help build businesses, namely the workers.

The key to Obama’s success in 2012 was his ability to destroy Romney’s reputation among working-class voters. Indeed, whether a gaffe or not, having a fight over who “built that” became part of a larger Obama campaign strategy.

An ad by Priorities USA titled “Stage” was narrated by Mike Earnest who described building a stage at a paper plant in Marion, Ind. He explained that after they built the stage, everyone was fired. “Mitt Romney made over $100 million by shutting down our plant and devastated our lives. Turns out when we built that stage it was like building our own coffin, and it just makes me sick,” Ernest said in the ad. The ads worked. Following the election, Ohio voters in focus groups specifically brought up the coffin ad to denounce Romney.

Sean Trende, an elections analyst with Real Clear Politics, discovered that 2012 was the year of the “Missing White Voter.” Between 2008 and 2012, the census estimated that the number of whites of voting age increased by 3 million. Trende says: “If we assume that these ‘new’ voters would vote at a 55% rate, we calculate that the total number of white votes cast would have increased by 1.6 million from 2008 to 2012.” The opposite occurred. The number of white voters actually went down by 6.1 million. Romney lost because white working-class voters, especially in the Rust Belt, refused to go to the polls to support a candidate who, they believed, made money at the expense of workers like them.

The strategy has become all too familiar. Democratic politicians consistently brand their positions as policies favoring “working families,” yet Republicans struggle to make the same case. While Republicans consistently win voters making $50,000 per year or more (approximate U.S. median income), voters making under $50,000 determine who wins. Molly Ball of The Atlantic writes: “Whether Democrats win these voters by a 10-point or a 20-point margin tells you who won every national election for the past decade.”

Republicans are beginning to get the message. The key to their electoral successes rests with how well they do with working-class voters — particularly white voters. Democrats likewise are in hot pursuit of the same demographic, touting policies such as free community college and an increase in the minimum wage.

Conservatives are paying more attention to a “reformed conservatism” policy agenda championed in part by leaders such as Arthur Brooks, head of the American Enterprise Institute. NBC News recently reported that Brooks, a devout Catholic, “has the ear of every potential presidential candidate.” Admonishing Republicans to think creatively about policy and message, Brooks is changing the way the GOP is talking about poverty and poor people.

Potential Republican presidential candidates have already adjusted their rhetoric. Jeb Bush talks about a “right to rise.” Marco Rubio says the problem isn’t income inequality but “opportunity inequality.” Scott Walker routinely casts himself as a champion of “hard-working taxpayers,” while Mike Huckabee’s new book title is unapologetic: God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.

Gone is rhetoric that was toxic with blue-collar voters. No more who “built that” defense of business owners or references to “takers.”

A move to aspirational rhetoric is an important first step for Republicans anxious to win back the White House. But equally important are concrete policy proposals and a message that resonates with America’s working families — especially families in purple states such as Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania (these are states, incidentally, where approximately 25% or more of the electorate call themselves Catholic).

BRIAN BURCH is president of CatholicVote.org, a national Catholic grassroots advocacy group based in Chicago, Ill.

The American Catholic Almanac

BRIAN BURCH & EMILY STIMPSON gather 365 inspiring stories in this new tome . . .

burchThe American Catholic Almanac
Brian Burch, Emily Stimpson
Image Books, 2014
416 pages, $24 hardcover

What do Buffalo Bill, JFK, Vince Lombardi and Andy Warhol have in common? They’re all Catholics who have shaped America. In this page-a-day history, 365 inspiring stories celebrate the contributions of men and women shaped by their faith.

Subtitled A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States, the book tells the fascinating, funny, and unlikely tales of Catholics’ influence on U.S. history, culture, and politics. This unique collection highlights the transformative role of the Catholic Church in American public life over the last 400 years.

Order: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The 111th Congress and Catholic conscience

In 2001, many Catholics celebrated a new day in Washington. Michael Novak noted at the time, “Better laws are coming. Public consciences are thawing.” After a hard-fought election campaign and results contested (and ultimately resolved) by the Supreme Court, Catholics welcomed the inauguration of President George W. Bush with high hopes.

Eight years later, the Catholic vote has swung to the Democratic Party, with a small but significant majority of Catholics supporting the recently-inaugurated Barack Obama. For a host of reasons — from concerns about the economy, opposition to the Iraq War or simply an eagerness for change — a sizable number of Catholics abandoned the GOP and embraced a candidate some have called “the most pro-abortion president in history.”

Catholics appalled by the injustice of abortion are rightfully concerned. More than likely, the gravest threat pressing the conscience is the Obama campaign statement before a Planned Parenthood audience in which he pledged: “One of the first things I would do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act,” otherwise known as FOCA.

The ominous legislation would do more than enshrine Roe v. Wade in federal law. FOCA would eliminate laws such as parental consent requirements, required ultrasound testing and bans on partial birth abortion. The proposed law is so far reaching that Chicago Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Paprocki warned that the measure would have “devastating consequences” and could force the closure of all Catholic hospitals.

As menacing as FOCA might appear, the evidence suggests that the deepening recession and other pressing issues will likely prevent serious consideration of the legislation this year. Obama’s political instincts are sharp; he is unlikely to expend the political capital necessary to press FOCA so early in his presidency. Given these circumstances, it might be said that our greatest danger is setting expectations so low that the absence of FOCA becomes our only measure of success.

Instead, abortion advocates are already pressing for a series of incremental changes designed to re-orient every significant federal agency in favor of pro-abortion policies. A report signed by 55 abortion leaders in December recommended a series of sweeping changes in the Obama administration’s first 100 days, including $1 billion in international funding for abortion providers and $700 million domestically.

The report also gives a detailed outline of vacancies in the federal district courts and a list of appointments to various executive agencies, which are expected to be staffed with allies where — according to columnist Deal Hudson — “the billions being demanded for abortion funding will eventually flow unimpeded.”

Certainly one of the biggest pro-life battles to come in the 111th Congress will be the fight over taxpayerfunded abortions. Despite the fact that Americans have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars annually to organizations for services related to abortion, the U.S. taxpayer has not directly funded abortion (except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother) since 1976.

The pertinent provision, called the Hyde Amendment, was held intact all eight years of the Clinton Administration and prevents Medicaid funds from being used directly for abortion. The abortion lobby is salivating over the prospect of removing this restriction, which would result in federally subsidized abortion for low-income women, the demographic where most abortions occur. The Hyde Amendment must be approved each year and is likely to spark an intense fight in Congress. Similar measures to the Hyde Amendment include limits on tax dollars for abortion for members of the military, Peace Corps, Indian healthcare services and federal prisoners. Abortion advocates have these provisions in their sights; some have already been lifted.

The debate over taxpayers and abortion will grow more intense as economic conditions remain difficult. With many Americans losing their jobs and homes — and trillions being expended on bailout programs — the nearly $3 billion in new funding proposed for the abortion industry should not pass without vigorous public debate.

Perhaps of deeper concern, however, is the question asked by papal biographer George Weigel in a Newsweek column last November: “Does the payment of federal taxes that go to support abortion constitute a form of moral complicity in an ‘intrinsic evil’? And if so, what should the conscientious Catholic citizen do?”

These questions loom large as the newly aligned power structures in Washington begin to enact a panoply of changes likely to make demands on the pocketbooks of American Catholics — and also their consciences.

Elections indeed have consequences. Yet if recent history is any guide, political winds can change unexpectedly, and what typically begins in high hopes ultimately must face the realities of American politics. America remains a broadly diverse country where prolife sentiments, however fashioned, run deep. Not every Democrat is a pro-abortion extremist, and not every campaign promise becomes law.

What to do? We must take up the challenge as Catholics throughout history have taken up challenges of such import — renewed prayer, fasting and spirited engagement. Thankfully, in American politics there is always hope. And change.

Brian Burch is the president of Fidelis, a national Catholicbased advocacy group which received national attention for its online election video at CatholicVote.com.