A Wing and a Prayer

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.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “A Wing and a Prayer

  1. nightshift66

    As a bona fide resident of the Bible Belt, I have little hope that any rapprochement (sp?) can be reached with most fundies. But they are a small fraction of professing Christians. Obviously, in a country in which over 70% identify themselves as “Christian” of some stripe, one needs a large portion of those individuals to win elections. Christians are not a monolith by any stretch, and many (or most) vote for the individual and the platform.

    Personally, I think that the Dems running for office do best by focusing on their public policy, which promotes Christian goals such as charity, strong families, and fairness. Dems will never be able to demagogue the subject like the GOP can, and in a sense they abandon their principles when they try.

  2. I’m deeply suspicious of any attempt to reach out to Evangelicals, because I’m not sure what progressives can do to “reach out” without compromising our values.

    And while it’s true that no group should be treated as a monolith, Evangelicals have proven themselves somewhat fickle and untrustworthy allies the few times that their interests have dovetailed with progressives. Remember, even the Environmental Evangelicals are quick to point out that they’re anti-choice and they don’t support basic rights for homosexuals (though they do use different terms). It’s just that some of them have decided to focus on other issues in addition to the standards.

    I can appreciate that there are Evangelicals who support reproductive freedom and who agree that this nation’s laws apply to everyone. I guess that I’m an example of one, since I grew up in a conservative denomination – even getting my BA from the same school where James Dobson got his. But we are a small and shrinking minority, even losing the professorships we once had. And the leadership of Evangelical denominations and groups has long been not only conservative theologically and politically, but of the opinion that the two naturally go hand-in-hand.

    What dissent there actually is within Evangelicalism is something that the Democratic party simply isn’t in a position to influence. Certainly Democrats can and need to be welcoming to anyone who chooses to grow up and leave the Republican coalition, but despite the bleating and blathering from some “progressive” Christians out there, that doesn’t require any changes in Democratic party stance or attitude.

  3. I like the focus on policy. The biggest problem the Democrats face is that they’ve effectively allowed the right to cast the Democrats as the party of atheists, and while some of us are, the fact is that we atheists know we’re only about 10-15% of the population at best. We know there’s no such thing as an atheist party, and there won’t be any time soon, so what we’re hoping for, in terms of religion in the state, is the most separation we can get. But we often agree in terms of policy with progressive christians, and I’m all for teaming up with them.

    Democratic politicians don’t need to out-Bible the Republicans, because even if we could convince evangelical conservatives, we really don’t want them on our side. The Dems just need to convince the fence-sitters that they’re not the God-haters the right makes us out to be.

  4. evilchemistry

    This isn’t as crazy as it sounds.

    Yes it is. Ask yourself this question: How has religion been so successful over the millenia? Fear. See being rewarded for doing good just isn’t enough to keep people in the pews but if you scare the shit out of them they listen. Not exactly Dem SOP, but it certainly is the GOP’s. Ask any of these evangelicals the difference between social responsibility and social conservatism and they will tell you that they are the same thing. Obviously, there is a minority of tolerant evangelicals. If they are tired of being associated with the kooks that is their problem. Do something about it.

    whoever more successfully reaches Christian voters.

    What fucking country did Howard wake up in today? Seriously, WTF?

  5. Remember, lots of evangelicals voted for Bill Clinton.

  6. Remember, lots of evangelicals voted for Bill Clinton.

    Yeah, and then we found out that it was time to either shut up or leave.

  7. Silver Owl

    As a pagan woman with gay friends that wants to have full automony of my body, my decisions, full educational options, full employment and equal pay, peace in practicing my path and equal regard under the laws for my gay friend of which the evangelicals are exteremely rabidly opposed to the idea is insane.

    The next question for Howard Dean is who’s freedom is he going to advocate sacrificing to garner the evangelical vote? How far is he willing to have the government establish laws and policies that get their dead asses into heaven?

  8. Fuck’em!!

    I was raised as one of them, and they are a group that is about fear and hatred and above all else, ignorance.

    If America needs that vote to survive, America doesn’t deserve to survive.

  9. Pingback: Daily Round-Up at Shakesville

  10. Pingback: ShortWoman» Blog Archive » Even the stuff to help you pay for it is too expensive.

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