The Party Faithful

THE PARTY FAITHFUL....Conservative pundits who write about religion often describe the Democratic Party as "hostile" to religion. Liberals who write about religion generally don't, but they do charge Democrats with being generally clueless about it — and with being clueless about the electoral possibilities inherent in getting a clue. This is essentially Amy Sullivan's message, as Paul Baumann notes in his review of Amy's new book in our current issue:
The Party Faithful is rich in anecdote and, for the most part, incisive in analysis. Just how ignorant have the Democratic Party's movers and shakers been about the nation's millions of evangelicals? Sullivan tells the story of Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe being introduced to megachurch pastor Rick Warren, one of the three or four best-known evangelicals in the country and author of The Purpose-Driven Life, a colossal best seller. "Nice to meet you, Rick," McAuliffe is reported to have said. "And what do you do?"

Sullivan uses many stories to drive home this point, among them that of Mara Vanderslice, an evangelical who ran Kerry's religious outreach operation. Vanderslice's hopelessly under-resourced operation was ridiculed or dismissed by other Kerry staffers, and her advice to the candidate ignored. In the final days of the campaign, however, she was sent to lend a hand in Michigan, and found a sympathetic listener in Donnie Fowler....These tactics worked, apparently, as Kerry went on to fare much better among weekly-mass-attending Catholics in Michigan — a full fifteen points higher, in fact — than he did in Ohio and Pennsylvania, states with similar Catholic populations.
Amy is a former editor at the Washington Monthly, so she's well known to many of you for her previous guest blogging here. And if you'll excuse an understatement, many of you have been skeptical of her case. Democrats aren't hostile to religion, is the usual rejoinder — often offered right before a series of cavalier references to believers in bearded guys in the sky or the flying spaghetti monster. Nope, no hostility here!

Well, I'm not religious myself, so I don't really care. But I do care about winning elections, and if liberals can win more of them by toning down the sarcasm and taking the religious community a little more seriously, is that too much to ask?

Amy will be guest blogging here for the next week, so we're going to find out. Are Democrats clueless about religion? Are there electoral gains to be made even among evangelicals? Do we have to sell our souls to do it? And what about abortion and gays?

Persistent optimist that I am, I hope we can chat about this stuff over the next few days in a fairly civil way. We can do that for one short week, can't we?

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