Religious Concerns

by digby

The liberal religio-political industrial complex strikes again, spinning a new poll to reflect that religious Americans are just plain disgusted with Democrats because we hate them for their faith. Which would mean that the 85% of Americans who say they are religios hate Democrats. It's a miracle we ever get elected to anything.

Amy Sullivan starts out her new article in TIME this way:

The hoary joke that a "religious Democrat" is more of an oxymoron than "jumbo shrimp" couldn't be more wrong in this election cycle, in which it's the Democrats who are talking comfortably about faith while their Republican counterparts dodge the subject. Even so, as the results of a new TIME poll show, the conventional wisdom about the two political parties and religion may be so ingrained that no amount of evidence to the contrary can change perceptions. That may very well help Republicans in 2008 despite their various religion issues. And it may also mean that most Democrats, with one important exception, will have to try twice as hard to reach faith-minded voters.

As Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy report in this week's TIME cover story, the three Democratic frontrunners are leading a fundamental shift in how their party thinks about religious Americans, which includes the first party-wide effort to target and court Catholic and evangelical voters. Republicans, meanwhile, have been lining up to receive the seal of approval from Pat Robertson and James Dobson. But at the same time, Mitt Romney has gone to great lengths to avoid talking about his Mormonism, John McCain's religious advisors quit his campaign in disgust, and when the AP inquired as to what church Rudy Giuliani attended, the former mayor essentially told them to mind their own business.

In spite of all that, according to the new TIME poll, only 15% of registered voters believe that Hillary Clinton is "strongly religious," compared to 22% for John Edwards and 24% for Barack Obama. Perhaps more problematic for Clinton is the fact that nearly one-quarter of respondents (24%) say they know she is "not religious" — that's almost twice the nearest candidate, Rudy Giuliani (13%).

Boy, that sounds bad, doesn't it? It looks like we are going to lose again, dammit.

Sullivan interprets the poll results to mean that more people think Obama is religious because the Democrats have always "outsourced" their religion to the negroes. Maybe she's right. But Sullivan seems to think this means that Obama is going to get a lot of red state Republicans to vote for him. I'm not kidding. She honestly believes that because Obama is a religious guy that Republicans will vote for a black liberal from Illinois and bring home those red state electoral votes. All roads lead to church, trumping every other signifier.

But unfortunately, Sullivan was forced to add this little qualifier at the very end:

Finally, the poll found that Americans have strong views about religion and politics in the era of George W. Bush. In May 2004, half (49%) of American voters said President Bush's faith made him a strong leader while only 36% said it made him too closed-minded. Today, voters have reversed their opinion about the role of Bush's faith: 50% now say it makes him too closed-minded and 34% say it makes him a strong leader. Similarly, while in 2004, only 27% said that Bush's use of faith did more to divide the country rather than unite it, today, 43% feel that way.

There is evidence of that division in the poll. By a two-to-one margin (62% to 29%), Republicans say a president should use his or her faith to guide presidential decisions. By contrast, Democrats reject this idea by a similar two-to-one margin (58% to 32%). In the same way, while three-quarters of Democrats say the president should not use his or her own interpretation of the Bible to make public decisions, Republicans are about evenly split (46% to 43%) on this. And while the overwhelming majority of Republican voters (71%) agree that religious values should serve as a guide to what political leaders do in office, 56% of Democrats disagree with this.

It remains to be seen whether Democratic voters would feel differently about any of these issues if one of their candidates took back the White House in 2008. It could be that respondents find it difficult to separate their general views on the questions from their opinions about Bush and religion. But it's also possible that the last seven have indeed fundamentally shifted the way many Americans think about religion and politics. The answer to that key question is something the Democratic frontrunners will be working to figure out.

Well, that sheds some new light on things, now doesn't it? In fact, it pretty much invalidates Sullivan's entire thesis. She insists that the Democrats are going to have trouble winning unless they can appeal to religious voters when the poll she's citing actually says that people are dramatically turning away from these explicitly religious appeals. She then scrambles to show that this is a partisan divide, but the fact is that party ID is dramatically shifting as well, not to mention that even some Republicans are clearly getting sick of this preaching as leadership model.

It's always been quite obvious that religion isn't going to buy Democrats any conservative votes.(See Cal Thomas --- you can't win with these people.) And anyone who isn't a staunch conservative has a zillion reasons to vote for the Democrats on other highly visible, important issues that have little to do with religion in any direct way. There is simply no evidence that anyone other than rightwingers will refuse to vote for Democrats in 2008 because they aren't religious enough. Indeed, the evidence actually points the other way.

The Democratic candidates are welcome to discuss their religion beliefs and use them in their campaigns. I'm sure there are many people who are interested in hearing what they have to say about it and how their religion informs their judgment. None of us heathen SP's have ever said otherwise. But I would really appreciate it if the liberal religio-politico industrial complex would stop trying to skew the political playing field with misleading analyses of what the electorate really wants. They may think they are being clever, but when they write things like this we know exactly what they are talking about:

Democrats, with one important exception, will have to try twice as hard to reach faith-minded voters.

Since it doesn't seem to make any difference how much they talk about their religion or spend time in church or anything else, what could they possibly do to prove that they are really, truly, god-fearing religious people? Why, they could adopt socially conservative policies!

That's the real agenda. These people are not as concerned about Democrats winning, despite all the concern troll advice for the last decade or so, as much as they care about making the Democrats more socially conservative. Amy Sullivan just proved it again by writing a misleading article that assumes Democrats are going to lose because they aren't religious enough --- at a time when the country is sick and tired of their leaders' using their religious views to justify policies that the majority don't want enacted. And let's just say that all this religion talk in politics doesn't exactly have the same punch now that so many of the allegedly pious, evangelical Republicans have shown themselves to be lying perverts.

Again, I have no problem with Democrats talking about their religious views. But it will not buy them one Republican vote. The religious folk who vote GOP on the basis of religion are never going to vote for Democrats unless they become social conservatives. That's the formula and that's what the liberal religious lobby is really pushing. I just wish they'd be honest about it.