DNC Chairman Howard Dean would like his party to reach out to evangelical Christians.
In a speech in Nevada Monday, Dean said evangelicals are undergoing a “generational change” that emphasizes social responsibility over social conservatism. He noted that he’s never seen gay marriage mentioned in the Bible, but there are many references to inclusiveness and helping the poor.
The former Vermont governor says Democrats are poised to win the White House next year, but that the election may ultimately hinge on whoever more successfully reaches Christian voters.
This isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
The easiest — and most dangerous — thing to do in politics is to treat a group of voters as a monolith, either always at your beck and call to vote with you or to write them off as hopelessly lost to the other side. The assumption by a lot of progressives that evangelical Christians are in the thrall of James Dobson and Pat Robertson and will never accept the idea of gay marriage or a woman’s right to choose not only assumes that these voters care only about those issues, that they can’t be at least informed about issues from another point of view, or they can’t be reached at all. Obviously there are gay Christians and they don’t all belong to the Metropolitan Community Church, and there are straight evangelicals who support what they believe to be the true Christian mission of reaching out to everyone. (And they blog, too.) Granted, they may be a minority among the evangelicals. Or they may be just silent while people like Dobson, Robertson, and the bigmouths of the Religious Reich suck all the oxygen — and the money — out of the room.
The danger for the Democrats is that any attempt to woo the evangelical vote runs the risk of being seen as pandering to them for their votes only to discard them or ignore them once they have delivered the votes. That’s already happened to them more than once with the GOP — remember David Kuo and his experience in the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives — and they’ve got every right to be skeptical.
If the DNC has a prayer of bringing in the evangelicals, they’re going to have to be brutally honest with them and say that while they may not agree with them on every issue, there are those — poverty, health care, and the environment — that can unite them. And if they’re upfront about their differences, at least they won’t be accused of promising them everything and delivering nothing but lip service.