Imagine a generally conservative evangelical figure switching his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic because in his view the 2012 Republican Convention's array of speakers and the party's platform convinced him that he could no longer in good conscience be affiliated with a political party which he believed steadfastly aligned itself with sinful positions on say care for the poor or immigration reform. Network news media would surely fall all over themselves to book that preacher on their morning and Sunday shows and print publications would scramble to get an exclusive interview.
Well, that sort of treatment has not greeted the Most Reverend Thomas Tobin, the bishop who oversees the Catholic diocese of Providence in Rhode Island. At a Young Republicans event last Tuesday, Tobin noted he joined the Democratic Party in 1969, but can no longer remain one, not after the 2012 Democratic convention's war-on-women/abortion-heavy confab. Providence TV station WPRI broke the story on August 13 (emphasis mine):
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) - Roman Catholic Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin revealed Tuesday night that he recently became a registered Republican, but he also emphasized that the church and its mission shouldn't be viewed through a narrowly partisan lens.
"The a-ha moment for me was the 2012 Democratic National Convention. It was just awful," Tobin, 65, told the Rhody Young Republicans during an event at the Holy Rosary Band Society Hall in Providence. The leader of Rhode Island's roughly 621,000 Catholics said he had been a registered Democrat since 1969.
"I just said I can't be associated structurally with that group, in terms of abortion and NARAL [Pro-Choice America] and Planned Parenthood and [the] same-sex marriage agenda and cultural destruction I saw going on," Tobin said. "I just couldn't do it anymore."
Tobin switched his affiliation to the Republican Party effective Jan. 5, according to voter records reviewed by WPRI.com. He is registered to vote from a house on the 140-acre grounds of the diocese's Gate of Heaven Cemetery in East Providence.
"I've changed my party registration now, but the fact is that the registration itself doesn't mean a whole lot to me," Tobin said.
About 60 people who attended Tobin's nearly two-hour discussion on faith and politics gave him a standing ovation before and after he spoke. He made the disclosure about his affiliation by holding up two pieces of paper - his letter from the East Providence Board of Canvassers confirming his Republican affiliation, and his baptismal certificate.
"My thesis tonight is that the two of these are related, and can be related very comfortably, and frankly if I had to choose between the two - between my party affiliation and my baptismal record - this is the one that will bring me to eternal life," Tobin said, pointing to his certificate of baptism.
"Would Jesus be a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative?" Tobin asked. "I'm going to punt on that question and say: all of the above and none of the above. Labeling Jesus or labeling the church or labeling me depends on the particular issue."
So Tobin is making perfectly clear he votes the issues and he won't change his mind on issues because of party label, but that the Democratic Party has become so doctrinaire on abortion and gay marriage that there's no room in it for committed pro-lifers like himself.
A Google search for "Thomas Tobin" yields mostly blog entries, with nothing from major newspapers or national news feeds. The August 15 "quote of the day" at the Washington Post's online "On Faith" section excerpted Bishop Tobin's remarks, but no story on his switch to the GOP has made the paper's print edition.