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September 28, 2004

Comments

DJW

Another reason African-Americans would cause problems for Dreher's argument: within the African-American community, religiosity is positively correlated with Democratic loyalty and liberalism.

(I don't recall my source for this information, so if it's wrong or out of date, I apologize)

John

The conclusions don't hold in other English-speaking countries either. Here, Labour was founded by Christian Socialists, (Who have been the target of ideological cleansing lately), and large numbers of Maori, PI and other Christians vote for them, despite the agenda of PC social engineering. BUT, However moral issues of war, poverty, etc. are (And they are indeed moral issues) they are issues with more than one validly Christian answer. Abortion, Gay marriage, embryonic stem cell research, Euthenasia and race relations (to name a few) ought to be non-negotiable issues, with only one answer. No. The fact they are not is a scandal. You try valiantly, Hugo, but answer the following questions for me convincingly, and then I might believe you.

1. If the Democrats are a "big tent", not captive to secularism,

Why is there no official recognition of Democrats for Life?

Why has the platform language stating that reasonable people can disagree on abortion been removed?

Why did Howard Dean tell the South to stop basing their votes on "God?"

Why are the Democrats opposed to using the pulpit to address social issues? (Except black pulpits (!))

Why have the Democrats not nominated a real Evangelical since Carter?

Why was Bob Casey booed off the stage?

Why is it that polling of Democratic delegates showed 60% describing religion as "Not important" in their lives?

The question isn't "Are there some Christians in the Democratic Party", because obviously there are. The question is "Is the Democratic Party captive to militant secularism?" and "Do they understand that and why religious values are important to large numbers of Americans?". I haven't seen anything to convince me that the answer to the first question should be anything other than "Hell yes!" and the second anything other than "Hell No!". Nice try, Hugo, but it won't wash.

Hugo

Valiantly? I am flattered!

Let me try:

Why is there no official recognition of Democrats for Life?

Good question. I wish there were. I've often wished my Democratic Party could have the same big tent philosophy as Republicans. If the GOP can put Schwarzenegger and Santorum on the same stage, why can't we put Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the leading pro-life progressive in the House up there with Hillary?

Why did Howard Dean tell the South to stop basing their votes on "God?"

Howard Dean may well be militantly secular. He also didn't get the nomination. I'm no more going to answer for him than I would for Lyndon Larouche.

Why are the Democrats opposed to using the pulpit to address social issues? (Except black pulpits (!))

Been to the Episcopal Church lately?

Why have the Democrats not nominated a real Evangelical since Carter?

Well, the GOP has only had one: GW. His father wasn't, and Reagan (for all his lip service) wasn't either. Bob Dole wasn't.

Why is it that polling of Democratic delegates showed 60% describing religion as "Not important" in their lives?

How about the obvious: 40% of them thought IT WAS. 60% ain't monolithic.

Look, there are wacky folks who hold platforms hostage in both parties. Dreher made sweeping -- and unintentionally racist -- generalizations that I don't think wash.

DJW

First of all, that 60% non-religious figure from John is way higher than others I've seen. If I weren't in a hurry, I'd look into this, but I'd encourage people to take that number with a grain of salt until some evidence is provided.

Secondly, John, there is clearly a lot of disagreement amongst Christians on the issues you think there should be none. Even those who agree with you on gay marriage or abortion on a moral level might disagree with you on whether it's the state's business or not. Asserting that there shouldn't be disagreement amongst Christians on these issues for theological reasons doesn't establish that in real life there isn't disagreement among Christians. As such, the Democratic positions on these issues are not in and of themselves evidence of "militant secularism" (and since you brought up gay marriage, it's worth pointing out that the Dems are clearly a big tent party on this issue, lots of prominent party politicians oppose them, others wholeheartedly support them, and still others have a variety of middle ground positions).

Hugo says:
If the GOP can put Schwarzenegger and Santorum on the same stage, why can't we put Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), the leading pro-life progressive in the House up there with Hillary?

Well, the short answer is quite simple. Like it or not, abortion remains a winning issue for Democrats and a losing issue for the GOP, so the GOP plays up their intra-party dissent and the Democrats downplay theirs.

However, not as much as is frequently reported. The media has consistently overstated the lack of prominence of pro-life Democrats at the conventions. There was at least one pro-life speaker at the 2004 convention (name forgotten--a congressman from RI, in a wheelchair....), and there have been others in most other years. It has become a widely held myth that Robert Casey was denied a speaking role at the 92 convention because he was pro-life. While we can't know exactly what was in the minds of those doling out speaking roles, it seems far more likely he was denied a speaking role because he refused to endorse Clinton/Gore. If I were in charge of a convention, I sure wouldn't book any speakers who weren't endorsing the ticket, regardless of their views on abortion.

Sorry to vent, for all I know you know all this, but it bugs me when I see the "pro-lifers aren't allowed in the Democratic party" meme go by unchallenged.

John

Democrats for Life still can't get even a link on the DNC webpage. NARAL and other pro-choice groups have several.

Jody

Can abortion properly be classed as a sexual issue? I wouldn't say so.

Astarte

Beyond the things that DJW and other people more versed in this subject have said; what's so wrong with secularism in the first place? It's although it's some awful, dirty word and only by getting religion can you ever be moral or right about anything. I've always thought of the left as being more open to difering religious /thoughts/, which leaves room for atheists and agnostics, sure, but also for anyone who feels largely left out of the religious right.

Mychelline

John,

How does one vote "no" on race relations?

I don't agree on several of your other slam-dunk no's but that's probably because I'm not Christian.

Leo

Posted by DJW: "Well, the short answer is quite simple. Like it or not, abortion remains a winning issue for Democrats and a losing issue for the GOP, so the GOP plays up their intra-party dissent and the Democrats downplay theirs."

My response: Protecting life (and let's call it human life, at least past the point of fetal viability) is a transcendantly moral issue. I recoil at the idea that the position that a major political party takes on this issue should be determined by the electoral arithmetic described by DJW, viz., how many votes does it gain us vs. how many votes does it cost us. Moral reasoning, either secular or religious, is the prism through which we should address this topic. Counting votes pro and con before deciding one's position represents a total abdication of moral reasoning.

obeah

Also, I'd like to see the evidence that abortion is a winning issue for the Democrats, at least on the national level. Last I heard, only about 10% of the electorate would refuse to vote for a candidate who did not share their position on abortion, and the majority of those voters were pro-life.

DJW

Leo, to be clear, I didn't mean to imply that such a strategy was justified (I happen to not be bothered by it, being squarely pro-choice, but any principled pro-lifer probably should be)--I was simply explaining the strategic dynamic at work here.

But....if you don't like the way Democrats play the abortion issue for electoral gain, you should be even more disgusted with the GOP. They speak the language of pro-life, but the vast majority of them will equivocate when it suits their needs. They almost never do anything about it. And then they play pro-lifers for saps with a kabuki dance like the partial-birth abortion act. They get credit from pro-lifers for passing it and get political mileage out of squacking about liberal activist judges who strike it down. But a careful look at the imprecise, medically and legally nonsensical language of the bill make it pretty clear that it was designed to a) not actually prevent any abortions, and b) be struck down by the courts. If it actually did work, the GOP would suffer a debilitating backlash from key swing constituencies, and they know it. This political strategy (legislatures passing bills for symbolic reasons that they actually want and expect to be struck down by the courts) has been part of American politics for a long time, but if you're appalled by an issue of such moral importance being treated as crass political strategy by the Democrats, you should really be disgusted with the GOP.

DJW

obeah, I know a number of pro-lifers who would love to be Democrats otherwise, so I understand your doubt. The constituency that makes this a winner for the Dems is the suburban upper-middle class women who are socially moderate to liberal and economically conservative. There is strong evidence these women will defect from the Dems to teh GOP in much greater numbers when the GOP candidate is pro-choice. (I don't have any links or cites handy, and this computer is too darn slow to look around for it. Maybe later, if I'm at a better computer).

DJW

And one more thing--I'm pretty sure the number of voters who would never vote pro-life is as high as the number of voters who would never vote pro-choice.

La Lubu

Democrats irreligious? Funny, the faces I see working phone banks, walking precincts, going to Dem rallies and fundraisers tend to be the same faces I see at Mass, at church socials, cooking mostaccioli at Catholic school fundraisers, and flipping pancakes at K of C hall breakfasts. The rest of the Democrats can be found at various Protestant denominations, at the synagogue, or the mosque, or Buddhist services. Or, they're folks who would describe themselves as very spiritual, but not connected to organized religion. Some are even Pagan. Very few would describe themselves as agnostic, and I haven't yet met a Democratic self-described atheist. Maybe my experience is skewed because of where I live, but I question the 60% figure.

I also take issue with the term "militant secularist". The separation of church and state is critical to the free practice of religion. I don't want governmental institutions telling me or any other citizen how, or if we should worship. For one, forced religion can be called a lot of things; "faith" isn't one of them! It is a false assumption that those of us who take the separation of church and state seriously are acting out of anti-religious impulses. For me, it's an issue of being able to practice and raise my daughter in a faith that is a numerical minority; where I live, there is still plenty of anti-Catholic fervor, and some refuse to believe we are Christian!

Thank you for bringing this subject up, Hugo. The "where are the religious Democrats" business reminds me of "where are the female bloggers".

NancyP

This "pro-life" canard is a crock-o-sh_t ****in most cases****, since the typical "pro-life" person is fine with the war, fine with AIDS orphaning hundreds and thousands of children, fine with the death penalty, and fine with the lack of universal prenatal care and the third-world-level infant mortality rates in some areas of this country. To me this indicates that the issue the average "pro-life" voter is concerned about is S-E-X, particularly since many oppose contraception.

As for levels of self-reported church attendance of party delegates, I somehow think that the party atmosphere affects this. If one party thinks that outward religiosity is required, then those delegates will lie upwards. If the other party doesn't really care about what their folks do on their sabbaths, well, those delegates will answer truthfully, since there is no penalty for doing so. This is no different from any other questioning on favorably viewed or unfavorably viewed behaviors - people often falsify. Which makes those "likely voter" polls suspect - voting is regarded as socially respectable.

Tara

I think this whole topic is very funny, partly because John did exactly what Hugo pointed out as a flaw in the original article, picking one issue (on which there can in fact be muliple not just moral but religious positions), and setting that as the barometer of religiousness/secularity for an entire party...

When you say that abortion is anti-religious, you are saying that religions that accept/would keep legal the practice of abortion don't count as religions. That would include the entire Jewish people, oops, too bad, not a real religion...

I think a closer look at the meaning of "secular" is also warranted. If a person has very strong personal beliefs, do they not count as religious unless they are hanged onto a particular accepted religion? Or is it the lack of God that makes them secular? There are religions that don't believe in God/in a God that in anyway resembles the Christian model. So no matter how 'faithful' you are to one of those, you don't count as religious? What makes a belief religious, actually? Only if you can say - I believe this is what God wants? Am I secular if I pray three times a day and keep shabbat and keep kosher? I don't know but I did for over a year, and *I* considered myself secular the entire time. Are you going to tell me I wasn't?

So it is also useful to attend to the meaning of 'religion.' One way to do this that I can speak of a little is what does the protection of freedom of religion mean? In Canada, anyway, the Supreme Court decided that it's not just freedom to practice a specific already existing religion as the religious authorities of that religion say is required (not just included, mind you, but required). They said basically that any practice that the person believes is spiritually fulfilling is protected by freedom of religion (with the usual caveat, to the extent that cuts off nobody else's nose).

The method that John is suggesting seems to be: find out what a person believes, and if it doesn't match my definition of religious, based on a certain slice of Christianity, they're not religious no matter what they think they are...

David Morrison

As a voter I wouldn't be more likely to vote Democratic if they evidenced a smidgen, a merest taint, of an admission that the critics of abortion-on-demand culture have a point; that the sexual revolution has brought us far more bodies piled on the barricades from HIV and other STDs than any real "freedom" and that they will not win many elections taking the faith of millions of Americans and stomping on it.

Until then, they must not care about my vote because they have effectively written me and millions like me out of their electoral calculus.

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