Political Hay

Democrats of Little Faith

Their politicians want evangelical voters, but their voters don't want evangelical politicians.

By 7.7.06

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The headlines covering a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, which was conducted in late June, focused largely on the troubling statistic that revealed 35 percent of respondents would not vote for a Mormon for President of the United States. Religious bigotry, while a shadow of its former self, still lurks around electoral corners.

But as if that information were not disturbing enough, some statistics from the same poll have received less attention but appear nevertheless to invalidate the American left's affectations of religious tolerance and pious political correctness.

According to the survey, 37 percent of self-identified liberals would vote against an evangelical Christian candidate for president; 38 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats would do so. Democrats as a whole are significantly more likely to vote against an evangelical Christian candidate for president -- over a quarter (28 percent) -- than either Republican or Independent voters. And barely a majority (53 percent) of all Democrats would vote for an evangelical candidate for president.

This new information could not come at a worse time for Democrat politicians. Since their 2004 electoral drubbing, some Democrats have made entreaties toward the evangelical community. Recently, for example, Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois urged his party to reach out to evangelicals so as not to "abandon the field of religious discourse."

"Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith," Sen. Obama admonished his fellow partisans. And yet, this new data seems to belie the authenticity of those same Democratic appeals to evangelicals. If so many in their own political base are so hostile to evangelicals, is it any surprise that so many of the Democrats' appeals to evangelicals have been so inept? In their attempt to be "in but not of" the world of faithful America, Democrats have struck a uniquely tone-deaf chord.

Consider the almost schizophrenic ramblings of Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean on the matter of faith in public life in the order in which they were uttered:

"We are definitely going to do religious outreach. Even in my campaign I was interested in reaching out to evangelicals."

"The issue is: Are we going to live in a theocracy where the highest powers tell us what to do? Or are we going to be allowed to consult our own high powers when we make very difficult decisions?"

"They [Republicans] all behave the same. They all look the same. It's pretty much a white Christian party."

"The religious community has to decide whether they want to be tax exempt or involved in politics."

"The truth is, we have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community."

It doesn't get any more inauthentic than that. And this is from the leader of the Democratic Party.

What do these data mean in practical terms? After all, the Democrats are unlikely to field a born again Christian for president in 2008 anyway (though, it theory, it isn't out of the question), right? Yes, but it speaks to a deeper suspicion Democrats have toward the faithful, and vice versa. This suspicion has been on full display in recent elections; 2004 most prominently. It is likely to remain on display throughout the foreseeable future, despite recent reports that "the God gap" between the parties is on the wane.

Again, after the 2004 election, some Democrats initiated a campaign to win the hearts and minds of America's faithful. Perhaps they should start by opening the hearts and minds of their own political supporters.

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About the Author

Patrick Hynes is an account executive with the consulting firm Marsh Copsey + Scott and the proprietor of the websites www.passionforfairness.com and www.crushkerry.com.