Biden Second Catholic To Become US President: Is It Difficult For Non-WASPs To Reach White House?

In a country where White Anglo-Saxon Protestants dominated the political scene a few decades ago, Joe Biden's win was welcomed by Catholic religious leaders

The United States got its second Catholic president in the form of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. In a country where White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs) dominated the political scene a few decades ago, Biden's win was welcomed by Catholic religious leaders in the country.

Throughout his campaign, Biden did not shy away from telling his supporters how his Catholic faith influenced his life. He quoted papal encyclicals during the campaign and was spotted clutching rosary beads as he left mass on Election Day. During his victory speech on Saturday, he quoted Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 from the Bible.

"To everything there is a season: a time to build, a time to reap, and a time to sow and a time to heal. This is the time to heal in America," said the 77-year-old, who ended the speech by quoting the Catholic hymn "On Eagle's Wings" to highlight the message of unity and healing.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Twitter/Joe Biden

The Role Of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants In American Politics

The WASPs are immigrants who settled in American in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. They arrived from northern Europe, chiefly from Britain, Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia. The WASPs were the first immigrant group to settle in America.

Throughout the centuries they prospered in the U.S. and controlled the banks, industry, politics and law among several other fields. While their social influence declined since the 1940s, the WASPs still dominate politics, financial and philanthropic areas.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to be elected the country's president breaking the WASPs control of the White House. In the late 1950s, Protestants and Evangelicals viewed Catholic political leaders with skepticism and suspicion. Conflicted Democratic voters sent letters to Kennedy admitting that they supported his policies but would not for him because of his faith, according to Shaun Casey, director of the Berkley Center for Religion.

President John F. Kennedy in an undated photograph
President John F. Kennedy in an undated photograph Reuters

A year after Kennedy's assassination in 1963, Republican William E. Miller became the first Catholic to get a vice presidency ticket. However, he went into obscurity. In 2012, then-House Speaker Paul Ryan — a Catholic —appeared on the GOP ticket. While incumbent Vice President Mike Pence was Catholic, he turned to evangelical Christianity.

Hence, Biden's win to the White House is a big news for Catholics. Over the years even though the WASPs have dwindled from the political scene, the Republican Party is yet to give the top ticket to a non-WASP.

The Last WASP President Of The U.S

President Donald Trump — who assumed the White House as a Presbyterian — is also technically a WASP since his parents had German and Scottish ancestry. However, experts believe that George former George H.W. Bush was the last WASP president of the U.S. since he came from an elite background — often associated with the WASPs.

"George H. W. Bush had traces of this sense of superiority, with his relentless pursuit of dynastic governance. One can read this instinct as laudable: a father cultivating love of public service in his progeny," described the Atlantic's Franklin Foer in 2018.