Pop Quiz on Democrats and Religion

4 01 2008

Filed under: Christianity, Politics, Conservatism, Liberalism, Church and State

Pop quiz on Democrats and religion:

Which presidential candidate opened a recent event in South Carolina with: “Giving all praise and honor to God. Look at the day that the Lord has made.” Former Baptist Minister Mike Huckabee? Nope. Former Mormon Bishop Mitt Romney? Nah. Catholic school-educated Rudy Giuliani? Not even close.

Those are the words of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, whose remarks, spoken at Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville are typical of the religious rhetoric emanating from the Democratic presidential candidates.

Like I said before, Democrats are trying the religious identity politics as much as Huckabee. But let’s see why Huckabee is attracting most of the Christian vote.

Why have the Democrats failed to narrow the “God gap”? Here are two important reasons. First, religious voters have learned that strong religious sentiment is not a reliable predictor of policy. History is instructive. In 1976, openly evangelical Democrat Jimmy Carter catapulted to the presidency by capturing the support of 6-in-10 Bible-believing white Protestant voters. Though Mr. Carter was an ardent “believer,” he did not, by supporting abortion and policies that stifle religious freedom, govern like one.

Four years later, Carter lost that same voting bloc to Reagan by 25 percentage points, proving that Christians can 1) think for themselves and 2) will not vote for a candidate simply because he identifies as a Christian.

A second obstacle for Democrats (and one that amplifies the first) is the intra-party squabble between religious and secular Democrats. Non-churchgoers, though comprising only a small share of the electorate (15 percent in 2004), are decidedly liberal. What’s more, non-religious Democrats constitute a significant portion of the party’s interest groups, funders and activists.

Not surprisingly, secular liberals are uneasy about the prospect of a faith-based Democratic Party. National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy summed up the sentiment of many secular Democrats when she said, “I don’t want a progressive evangelical movement any more than I want the conservative one we have right now.” Which means when Mr. Obama proclaims that, “secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square,” he does so warily.

It’s not a matter of if the candidates will have to dance between both secularists and Christians. It’s an issue of which party can dance the best with one partner while the other watches and generate the least amount of jealousy.

Democrats have the upper hand in this scenario. Secular liberals (in general) make up more of the Democrat voting percentage than Christian. Only 22% of weekly churchgoers voted Democrat in 2004. But 64% of non-churchgoers voted for Kerry in 2004. But conservative Christians are a significant portion of a Republican candidate. The closer the percentage between and religious and secular, the greater skilled dancer politician it will require to win the White House.

This speaks to several arguments:

  1. Rush’s accusation of Huckabee and identity politics is inaccurate. Huckabee is the most conservative candidate. Who also happens to resonate with religious voters.
  2. Highlights the stark difference between conservatism and liberalism in politics and demonstrates that the Republican party (today) is more of a friend to religion than the Democrat party.
  3. The Democrat party will NEVER see more than 30% of the religious vote while continuing to support the murder of babies, homosexual marriage, separation of church and state, etc.

The fact that Democrats have an advantage and are still unable to win at the polls demonstrates even further the fact that values voters are a force in America who aren’t fooled by simple identity politics or religious speak. Maybe that is why Daily Kos fears Huckabee more than any other candidate.

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