NYTimes.com Article: A Matter of Faith

From: <koopa@gvsu.edu>
Date: Tue Jun 22 2004 - 12:42:22 EDT

The article below from NYTimes.com
has been sent to you by koopa@gvsu.edu.

An interesting op-ed piece from David Brooks, a conservative commentator of the New York Times. It states that Clinton received the majority of the evangelical vote in 1992 and 1996.


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A Matter of Faith

June 22, 2004


When Bill Clinton was 8, he started taking himself to
church. When he was 10, he publicly committed himself to
Jesus. As a boy, he begged his Sunday school teacher to
take him to see Billy Graham. And as anybody watching his
book rollout knows, he still exudes religiosity. He gave
Dan Rather a tour of his Little Rock church, and talked
about praying in good times and bad.

More than any other leading Democrat, Bill Clinton
understands the role religion actually plays in modern
politics. He knows Americans want to be able to see their
leaders' faith. A recent Pew survey showed that for every
American who thinks politicians should talk less about
religion, there are two Americans who believe politicians
should talk more.

And Clinton seems to understand, as many Democrats do not,
that a politician's faith isn't just about litmus test
issues like abortion or gay marriage. Many people just want
to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship
of believers. Their president doesn't have to be a saint,
but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be
engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God.

Clinton made this sort of faith-based connection, at least
until he sullied himself with the Lewinsky affair. He won
the evangelical vote in 1992, and won it again in 1996. He
understood that if Democrats are not seen as religious,
they will be seen as secular Ivy League liberals, and they
will lose.

John Kerry doesn't seem to get this. Many of the people
running the Democratic Party don't get it either.

A recent Time magazine survey revealed that only 7 percent
of Americans feel that Kerry is a man of strong religious
faith. That's a catastrophic number. That number should be
the first thing Kerry strategists think about when they
wake up in the morning and it should be the last thing on
their lips when they go to sleep at night. They should be
doing everything they can to change that perception,
because unless more people get a sense of Kerry's faith,
they will feel no bond with him and they will be loath to
trust him with their vote.

Yet his campaign does nothing. Kerry talks about jobs one
week and the minimum wage the next, going about his wonky
way, each day as secular as the last.

It's mind-boggling. Can't the Democratic strategists read
the data? Religious involvement is a much, much more
powerful predictor of how someone will vote than income,
education, gender or any other social and demographic
category save race.

Can't the Democratic strategists feel it in their bones how
important this is? After all, when you go out among the
Democratic rank and file, you find millions of Democrats
who are just as religious as Republicans. It's mostly in
the land of Democratic elites that you are likely to find
yourself among religious illiterates.

But of course this is the problem. Forests have been felled
so people could publish articles and books on the religious
right's influence on the Republican Party. But as the
Baruch College political scientists Louis Bolce and Gerald
De Maio have suggested, the real political story of the
past decade has been the growing size and cohesion of the
secular left, and its growing influence on the Democratic

According to the American Religious Identification Survey,
the number of Americans with no religious affiliation has
more than doubled since 1990. There is now a surging but
unself-conscious power bloc within the Democratic Party.

Like the religious right in the Republican Party, the
members of the secular left are interested primarily in
social issues. What unites them more than anything else is
a strong antipathy to pro-lifers and fundamentalists. While
75 percent of Americans feel little or no hostility to
fundamentalists, people in this group are far more hostile
to them than to other traditional Democratic bÍte noires,
the rich or big business. They don't like to see their
politicians meddling with religion in any way.

Just as Republicans have to appeal to religious
conservatives but move beyond them, Democrats have to
appeal to the secular left but also build a bridge to
religious moderates. Bill Clinton did this. John Kerry
hasn't. If you want to know why Kerry is still roughly even
with Bush in the polls, even though Bush has had the worst
year of any president since Nixon in 1973 or L.B.J. in
1968, this is one big reason.††



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Received on Tue Jun 22 13:08:55 2004

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