Religion and politics

by Eszter Hargittai on November 3, 2004

[As I pulled up CT to post this, I see that Kieran just wrote about something similar. Not shockingly, we were trained in the same Sociology Dept.)

Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes today makes the argument that “the Democratic Party’s first priority should be to reconnect with the American heartland”. He continues later by saying that “One of the Republican Party’s major successes over the last few decades has been to persuade many of the working poor to vote for tax breaks for billionaires.” Precisely. I am always shocked when I have conversations with people – doesn’t happen too often, but I try to do it when possible – who are clearly hurting the most by Bush’s politics, but who are nonetheless avid supporters.

Kristof goes on to address the issue of religion and politics in particular.


To appeal to middle America, Democratic leaders don’t need to carry guns to church services and shoot grizzlies on the way. But a starting point would be to shed their inhibitions about talking about faith, and to work more with religious groups.”

This is a point Amy Sullivan has been making throughout the year (and earlier). She has written tirelessly and convincingly about it numerous times in several venues.

http://www.ndol.org/ndol_ci.cfm?contentid=252572&kaid=127&subid=170”>Here’s one:

Religion is the third rail of Democratic Party politics. Seasoned political operatives who can soberly discuss the details of human rights atrocities or abortion procedures start twitching when the issue of religion enters the conversation. Congressional aides who maneuver through the world of Medicare regulations or appropriations with ease become stymied by references to faith. And hustings veterans who would never dream of running a campaign without targeting racial minorities and union members look askance when asked about outreach to religious communities.

Many Democrats are religious. More than one-half of Democratic voters attend church more than once a month. But until professional Democrats get over their aversion to all things religious, they will continue to suffer the political consequences.

Personally, I would prefer that religion was a more private affair. But one need not spend too much time in the United States to understand that religion is an incredibly important component of most people’s lives, and not such a private one for many. So it is not surprising that one ignores it at one’s peril.

If the U.S. had a parliamentary multi-party system where one could choose representatives closer aligned to one’s views then a party may be able to afford to put religion aside. In Hungary, the only place I can vote, I have always favored a particular liberal party. It never comes even close to a majority vote partly because it is viewed as the party of the intellectual liberal elite (a perception, Kristof argues, the Democratic Party seems to have among many). But a vote for that party closely aligned with my views does not mean a vote completely lost, because it can still have parliamentary seats and create alliances with other parties that represent similar views. And if part of the majority alliance, it can even have representatives in the top positions. But it is only affordable to take such nuanced points-of-view, because supporters of those nuanced positions can still be represented. That is not how politics works in the U.S.. And, hopefully, most of us who would prefer to keep religion out of politics recognize that. Although it may frustrate me that religion is so central in American political discourse, I would still rather have it be part of the discourse than watch people vote for a president who will clearly not represent their interests.

On a final note, one frustration as a social scientist interested in questions of culture and religion, is that there is very little funding available for research in these areas. Given the kind of importance cultural values and religious beliefs seem to play in people’s everyday lives, I find it quite disappointing and disturbing.

{ 85 comments }

1

Steve 11.03.04 at 6:16 pm

I wrote up a piece on this a couple days ago if anyone is interested.

2

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 6:21 pm

Clearly, there are two things which progressives (especially religious progressives, like myself) must do. One is long-term, the other is short-term; I have no idea which is more likely to come about than the other. (Both are, it goes without saying, unlikely in general.)

1) There are, there have always been, there will always be, Christians whose beliefs lead them to be social conservatives and economic progressives. We exist, and we have no party to represent us. (The Democratic party, back in its working-class hey-day, did so; but that faction has been declining as the Teixeira-“new class” thesis has come to dominate.) What we need to work for the transformation of America’s political and party system, so that more venues can open up, and the death-grip which an essentially libertarian “conservatism” holds over “moral values” in America can finally be loosened. May not happen in my lifetime, but something worth working for, and praying for.

2) In the meantime, the work directed towards the Democratic party by Amy Sullivan and all other religious individuals on the left, whatever our internal disagreements, needs to continue. There is little chance that a triumphant Republican party will have any cause to rethink and reconnect with the religious fundamentals of their agenda; they have their “base,” and it’s winning for them. The Democrats, on the other hand, especially in the wake of this latest defeat, might be open to suggestions. This won’t get us the real party diversity we actually need, but it’s better than nothing.

3

MS 11.03.04 at 6:35 pm

The problem is that this version of the religion / politics problem presumes that the religion comes first, is closer to the heart of these voters, than the political activism. Not sure that this is the case.

And remember – your “economic justice” may not be theirs. You might like, for instance, entitlement programs, the welfare state, social security, soft-version socialism. What they’d like is nouveau versions of Salvation Army kitchens, self-reliance programs, return to traditional family structures as a solution for ingrained poverty.

It’s tough to talk rational economic progressivism who feel either that 1) poverty is the doorway to salvation or 2) their wealth is a marker of grace.

(Hint: #2 is the one at work in the southern suburbs in question…)

4

abb1 11.03.04 at 6:40 pm

The point here shouldn’t be that ‘Democratic leaders need to talk about faith more’, but that the current political system seems to be seriously biased towards reactionaries and it needs to be replaced with modern parliamentary multi-party system, proportional representation.

Politicians shouldn’t have to talk about their faith, they aren’t priests. The political system is obsolete, screwed up – that’s the problem.

5

nihil obstet 11.03.04 at 6:42 pm

No, I don’t think so. In the sixties and seventies, many churches played a big role in civil rights, women’s liberation, and opposition to support of dictators in Latin America. Other churches adopted a litmus test on sexual issues, and lambasted public social programs (like food stamps) as stealing and therefore contrary to God’s will. The fact that very conservative people have joined very conservative churches does not mean that they would vote more progressive if Democrats just talked about God more. Remember, Jimmy Carter was a born-again Christian who talked a lot about God in public places. Got beat by Reagan and his self-proclaimed American values. The Catholic Church has a logically coherent set of views on life, but the only one that makes it into political campaigning is its anti-abortion stance. It is utterly false that Democrats running for public office trash talk on churches; they, in fact, talk about the importance of their faith (Clinton, Gore, Kerry, all did it, though not in the quantity and at the decibel level of Falwell and Buchanan).

It’s not really about respect for religion or for God. That “old time religion” is a surrogate for issues having to do with suffering increased insecurity in a complex world where they feel (and are) powerless. They deal with these feelings by investing emotionally in the area where they feel powerful (God loves me and tells me I’m right).

There’s a lot of regional difference in the way people talk about religion. I know that Southerners and I suspect that Midwesterners talk about religion more casually than Northeasterners and probably West Coasters. So some of what you’re talking about may be differences of regional style. I don’t think that will be solved by Democrats trying to explain to pentecostals that Jesus talked more about feeding the poor than about gay marriage.

6

Enzo Rossi 11.03.04 at 6:49 pm

Are we sure that the people who told exit pollsters that they gave priority to ‘moral values’ told the truth? (To themselves and/or to the pollsters.) I’m not that sure: saying that you care about morals is more dignified than saying that you voted out of a concern for security (i.e. out of fear), or for the economy (i.e. out of greed).

7

bob 11.03.04 at 6:55 pm

It’s not talking more about religion, or taking on religious attributes. It’s acknowledging that religious beliefs (whatever they are) are a central, vital part of many people’s makeup and self-image, and being sensitive to that when asking for their support and assistance. It’s like acknowledging and being sensitive to ethnic and racial heritage – ignoring it or wishing it didn’t matter just gets in the way of making the necessary connection to the individual.

8

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 6:56 pm

“It’s tough to talk rational economic progressivism who feel either that 1) poverty is the doorway to salvation or 2) their wealth is a marker of grace.”

You’re absolutely correct, ms, that it’s difficult to sort out genuinely religious motivations from nouveu class ones. Lots of evangelicals are economically liberated suburban dwellers, and hitting them with the progressive imperatives of the Bible (which exist, by the way) hardly is a guarantee of success. (Witness Gov. Bob Riley’s failed attempt to repair Alabama’s tax code while talking about the Christian need to serve the poor.)

I don’t for second want to imply that either of these points of action are easy, or a cure-all, or a one-way street. I tear my hair out daily because of the letters I see from local Baptists in our daily paper every morning. No, there isn’t going to be some mass realization that a lot of “conservative” religious moral values are untrue to the faith. Religion and populism meld in discomforting ways. But this is where progressives are in America today. It’s something like this, or just continuing to wait for everything to blow up in our/their faces.

9

a different chris 11.03.04 at 7:04 pm

Leaving out Israel because I’m not sure how it fits, the most religious country in the Western World is the farthest rightward by quite a degree.

Bush, casual dealer of the death penalty, Hammer of the Sand Niggers, won overwhelmingly with white church-goers.

We might also mention that the opponent also clutches a religious tome tightly when delivering his threats.

Yeah, we need more breathless exchanges of Bible verses in the public sphere. Like we need a hole in the head – or should that be “another” hole in the head, as we are bleeding badly from a number of self-inflicted ones now, the biggest coming yesterday.

Look, my friends such as Mr. Fox who are also church-goers (I have no idea if he is white or not): The evidence is now overwhelming that American politics are the way they are because of something that has happened inside the churches. I am outside (in the insulting term, “unchurched”) so I have no idea what the hell is going on in those big tax-exempt boxes.

But I tell you this: there is very clearly an extremely nasty taint in Mother Mary’s milk there, and you better damn well, repeat- DAMN WELL figure out what it is before you add more of it to the American diet.

Remember the bumpersticker – God Save Me From Your Followers.

It isn’t funny anymore.

10

bobcox 11.03.04 at 7:06 pm

My ex-parents-in-law were devout Christians. I don’t have contact with them any more, but I’m sure that Bush’s God-talk resonates super-strongly with them, and would be the overriding consideration in their votes. Roughly speaking, such Christians feel somewhat oppressed in modern culture, and so having the President repeatedly stick up for them (verbally) is unboundedly important.

11

ms 11.03.04 at 7:07 pm

That’s the point – the religion stuff only works when we play on their field (race, women, gays) and not on ours (class). Why? Because the faith is (now) predominantly a forum for other issues…

Unless you are ready to give up the ship – start the gay bashing, proper place of women, coded race talk etc – this is not a road that leads anywhere at all… It’s that simple: we can do it, but then we won’t be “us” anymore but “them.”

12

harry 11.03.04 at 7:18 pm

Look, atheists have some work to do here too. Liberal atheists/secularists have been happy to treat religious believers like some sort of lunatic; to make it sound as if, int he moral arena, anything goes.

The truth is that adultery, for example, is wrong. And most of us think that. But Dems gave the impression that they didn’t think that when they sprung, absurdly, to Clinton’s defence in 1998.

Divorce (which the fundamentalists practice as much as anyone) is usually bad; we need to say that, and think through ways of protecting children from it, which might include making it harder.

The public culture is… well, its disgusting. We may differ in our diagnosis of exactly what is disgusting about it; but we converge with the right about a good deal of what we think about it (they think homosexuality is wrong; but it isn’t. They think that constant in-your-face represntation of meaningless sex and wanton violence is bad — they’re right!)

We may also differ in our diagnoses of what causes it (an interaction between unregulated corporate domination of the culture, and certain universal human weaknesses, in my view) — but let’s discuss that with them.

The secular left has a lot of work to do demonstrating that we do, in fact, have largely sensible moral values, and we shouldn’t leave all the work of mediating to believers like Russell and Amy Sullivan.

13

Uncle Kvetch 11.03.04 at 7:20 pm

There are, there have always been, there will always be, Christians whose beliefs lead them to be social conservatives and economic progressives. We exist, and we have no party to represent us.

Russell, what would the Democratic Party need to do to make “social conservatives/economic progressives” like yourself feel “represented”? Commit to the overturning of Roe v. Wade? Rolling back nondiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation? Requiring organized prayer in the public schools?

You’ve said a lot in this and other threads about the importance of Democrats talking the talk where religious people are concerned, but very little about actual policies.

14

Inip 11.03.04 at 7:24 pm

I haven’t thought this issue through thoroughly, but I’m inclined to disagree. Democrats’ adopting religious language for strategic reasons amounts to little more than providing a moralistic wrapping around the same positions they already had. This attitude will be dismissed as pandering. As for Amy Sullivan, she was ultimately unconvincing in her advocacy of Gen. Wes Clark’s candidacy (he won only one state), and she is unconvincing now. In both cases, it’s my hunch, she is trying to out-Republican the Republicans, and many voters will stick with the real thing. (Of course, Clark’s honorable military service is not intrinsically “Republican”, but the motive of his Democratic supporters was clearly to coopt a toughness that appeals to right-leaning segments of the electorate.) Democratic appeals to religion often amount to guilt trips, whereas Republican appeals to religion often amount to self-righteousness (there is conviction there too, of course). I’m inclined to think the only recent Democratic success of note, President Clinton’s two wins, came not from centrism but from his unrivalled skill at communication, both in terms of policy fluency and empathy with voters.

To be sure, many voters’ minds are influenced by emotional factors. But appealing to those factors, which are after all, intangible, is a matter of personality and communication style, not of substance. Religion, by contrast, is (or ought to be) a matter of substance, and those genuinely inclined to speak in religious terms should feel free to do so (hopefully in nonsectarian ways). I’d rather we combine the toughness of well-chosen policy proposals with the empathy of listening than rely specifically on religion, which divides people as often as it unites them.

15

jet 11.03.04 at 7:30 pm

Something here everyone is addressing casually, but which appears critical to your arguments, is that modern religion is somehow philosophically in lockstep with liberalism.

You are crazy if you believe the apposing arguments have no merit. “Give a man a fish…”, “God helps those who help themselves…” Most religious conservatives are all for helping the poor, and if they are really religious, they probably give to the church to do this. But feel robbed when the government takes away their personal choice in who and how to help.

And those who are conservative and not religious won’t ever be convinced that social justice has merit. These people are much more likely to feel that they have earned their money and no one else is entitled to it.

It doesn’t hurt that it is usually easy to point to government inefficiency and misuse, but that the equalivent church problems are quicly solved by meetings, internal politics, or finding a new church.

Jesus never said “Give to Caeser so they he might provide for all in his most just and fair manner”.

16

Russell Arben Fox 11.03.04 at 7:41 pm

Uncle Kvetch,

“Commit to the overturning of Roe v. Wade?”

Considering how warped the consequences of that judicial decision have been, I’d be in favor of such.

“Rolling back nondiscrimination laws based on sexual orientation?”

Certainly not.

“Requiring organized prayer in the public schools?”

Requiring? Who said abything about requiring? How about simply “not forbidding?”

Generally, I like Harry’s list. Abortion, adultery, violence and sex on the tv, etc. An additional advantage to such a list of targets: they are, as Harry notes, as much or more indulged in in rural and Southern states as anywhere else. Which means that it might be an agenda which a religious left could usefully be turned back upon the populist, rural, evangelical base.

17

Joe O 11.03.04 at 7:41 pm

Clinton and Carter are born-again christians who are not anti-gay, anti-women, anti-black.

I am an atheist who was raised catholic. Catholic politicians have problems with talking about religion and god.

For one thing Catholics believe that people are saved by both works and faith as opposed to Martin Luther’s contention that people are saved by faith alone. A crude representation of this dispute is shown in the Chick Tract where a Catholic who has done many good works is surprised to wakeup in hell.

Protestant politicians like Carter, Bush, and Clinton can say that they are saved in a natural, unpretentious way; to Catholic politicians this language is unnatural since you can’t be saved without good works and it is presumptuous bragging to say that you have done sufficient good works.

Catholicism is also typically not oriented toward a personal unmediated relationship with god. Weber describes the tension between church and sect in christian religion; catholic politicians typically don’t have the charisma and fire of the sectarians and this shows in their religious rhetoric.

It is sad to say but democrats need to run protestants with a personal relationship with god to do better in the south and midwest.

Edwards should be the man for 2008. We need to get the democratic party to clear the way for him.

Because of New Hampshire, the primary system gives too much advantage to northern candidates. These candidates don’t play well in the south. Kerrey was certainly better than Dukakis, but the democrats haven’t won since 1960 without nominating a southerner.

18

Jon 11.03.04 at 7:43 pm

While the Ohio saga may linger for some days, it’s abundantly clear that the Democrats have suffered a devastating defeat. Bush has his mandate, the GOP owns Congress and the governorships, and the Supreme Court is only a matter of time.

Let the recriminations begin. Progressives will no doubt cite a host of factors, from Kerry’s wooden personality, the unshakable flip-flopper label, the Swift Boat slanders, “voted for it before I voted against it”, among others. But these are questions of tactics, not strategy. At the end of the day, Democrats must realize their party is adrift in terms of ideology, policy and branding, and that is the source of Tuesday’s calamity.

Democrats need to learn five lessons from this debacle, and learn them fast:

  • Restore credibility on national security.
  • Compete for white males.
  • Move beyond identity politics.
  • Understand intensity versus propensity in the culture wars.
  • Focus on branding and communications.
  • For more detail, see:

    “The Donkey Gets Its Ass Kicked: Five Lessons for Democrats”

    19

    Terrier 11.03.04 at 7:45 pm

    In all this I wonder how these issues can be compromised? The possibility that I could find comon ground with someone who wants to consign women to coat-hangars, discriminate against homosexuals, or even outlaw Sunday liquor purchases is completely incomprehensible to me. This country IS coming apart – some of us are intelligent enough to treat other with compassion and understanding and equality and others of us are stupid small-minded bigots who react like Beavis and Butthead when someone says “gay.” And of course, some of us ARE intelligent but are so selfish that we would rather listens to the screams of torture victims that give up a nickel to provide a sponge of vinegar for them. We are not only IN hell – we’re living with the groundskeepers.

    20

    Giles 11.03.04 at 7:49 pm

    Theres also probably a marriage angle – people who are married are more likely to have children and people with children are more used to explaining moral issues.

    An married with children vs single shows a similar split between Repulicans and Democrats.

    21

    inip 11.03.04 at 7:52 pm

    Russell,
    Voluntary school prayer is almost inevitably coercive. Children are not always committed to tolerance — remember the phrase “peer pressure”? At times it defines the school environment — all the more so in this case because prayer is popular with the adult role models these kids are learning from. The desire to win cannot justify violating the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, but even more important, it cannot justify cruelty.

    22

    robbo 11.03.04 at 7:57 pm

    The truth is that adultery, for example, is wrong. And most of us think that. But Dems gave the impression that they didn’t think that when they sprung, absurdly, to Clinton’s defence in 1998.

    Woah. Revisionist History Alert. I don’t recall any Dems defending the concept of adultery in 1998 or any other time. I remember Dems defending the President against being impeached for a failure in his personal life that the Right and the media gleefully parlayed into Clinton’s long-desired political demise.

    Harry, if you think that Democrats should have rolled over and demanded Clinton’s resignation over a blow job, just because the hypocrites of the Right demanded it and to avoid “giving the impression” that we advocate adultery, then you’re a freaking idiot. I don’t see self-righteous Bill O’Reilly fighting his accuser in court and I don’t see his pure and chaste flock distancing themselves from him. Republicans routinely “give the impression” that we attacked Iraq in direct retaliation for their deep involvement in 9/11, but that doesn’t seem to trouble our Evangelical bretheren even a little bit. I’m trying to take this all in stride, but this country is losing its collective mind and soul and we’re all going to pay for it.

    23

    Randolph Fritz 11.03.04 at 7:59 pm

    Must we re-fight all of Europe’s 20th-century religious conflict in the 21st century USA? It seems so.

    24

    a different chris 11.03.04 at 7:59 pm

    >violence and sex on the tv, etc. An additional advantage to such a list of targets: they are, as Harry notes, as much or more indulged in in rural and Southern states as anywhere else

    Sigh. Have you ever tuned in the country/western version of MTV? I do a lot, I watch it for the stunningly hot chicks and double-entendre lyrics. Seriously.

    If you seriously think that American fundamentalism has anything to do with the moral values expressed by the adherents I don’t know what to tell you. It isn’t just the Bush Adminstration where you have to watch what they do, not what they say.

    25

    Nicholas Weininger 11.03.04 at 8:05 pm

    What about secession?

    I’m serious. The eastern and western blue areas are now completely geographically contiguous, and each would be a very viable nation on its own. A peaceful separation is not a common thing in history, but it’s not impossible either.

    One should at least consider that as an alternative to another round of clumsy bowing and scraping before the bigots. Outreach is good in many circumstances, but sometimes it’s better simply to go one’s separate ways. I for one do not want to be part of the same country as the people who flocked to the polls yesterday to vote their barbarian prejudice.

    Perhaps, to paraphrase the great William Lloyd Garrison, we can detach old Massachusetts at least from the car of Bushery.

    26

    David Yaseen 11.03.04 at 8:20 pm

    Why do we need religion in public life? Don’t we subsidize churches for that?

    The problem is that the country’s been dumbed down to the extent that a decisive number of us cannot conceive of a basis for morality or even for determining our own interests outside of religion. Doing the right thing means nothing to this group unless it’s somehow daisy-chained to the bible. And you can daisy-chain anything to the bible.

    Maybe thumping the old King James is the only way we can win going forward, but it’s an awful long-term strategy, and corrosive to the nation. Not to mention that the other side will kill us at this game.

    I have a different explanation for why we lost this election, if anyone’s interested.

    27

    dsquared 11.03.04 at 8:21 pm

    It is, I think, time to resurrect my plan of having the UK join the USA as the 51st state. By my calculation, we would need to be given 120 electoral votes.

    28

    SomeCallMeTim 11.03.04 at 8:24 pm

    “What about secession?”

    Well, we’re obviously not going to secede for number of reasons, not the least of which is that no one actually wants to secede.

    But we can do what we can to decouple Blue State lives from Red State lives. Specifically, lets (1) get a restriction of benefits to state citizens of X years in place (this is presently unconstitutional, I think), (2) devolve benefits to the state level, and (3) not pay for the Red States anymore. As it is, states vary dramatically on social grounds; I’m not sure why we should have to hedge Red State bad decisions with our revenue streams.

    And really, its a trope of Federalist Society federalism that the states are supposed to be differing experiments in governance, so we should have their theoretical support.

    29

    harry 11.03.04 at 8:30 pm

    I think Clinton was fair game for impeachment. He lied under oath in a sexual harrassment suit. He was also a complete scumbag, in telling his whole Cabinet, many of whom were personal friends, that he was telling the truth, and asking them to stake their reputations on it. Should the Dems have actually impeached him? I don’t know. Certainly, every Democrat I talked to about it was very, very uncomfortable when I suggested he had done something wrong. And I was only saying that lying under oath was wrong. Perhaps Dems should have defended him against impeachment. But in doing so they might have done better, both politically, and in terms of their own morality, to give the impression that three of his behaviours were, at least, utterly wrong; i) adultery ii) lying under oath and iii) refusing to take responsibility for his behaviour by resigning on the spot, as anyone with any moral fibre would have done.

    I think Bush is a hypocrite and repsonisble for numerous unnecessary deaths (more than Clinton, who was, hwover, not exactly someone with clean hands). And I feel free to say that. And when my evangelical Republican relatives accuse me of being a hypocrite I can look them in the eyes and say; ‘no, I’m not. I apply the same standards to Democrats as Republicans, because I really believe those standards are universal’.
    I also have no embarrassment when I talk to people about Bill O’ Reilly. People who defended Clinton… well.

    Are evangelical Christians who listen to Country music, or vote for someone who lied to take his coutnry and the world into a wasteful and unecessary war also hypocrites? Some are, for sure. Russell says that if we made something — not for political gain, but because it is obviously part of who we are — of our moral values we’d be in a better position to point out the dissn=onance between their declared values and their behaviours. I agree. But the deeply religious are a very, very, mixed bag of people. We can cede them all to the right, if we want. Or we can try to see whether we can communicate with them.

    inip: 8 million children are forced to watch advertisements for candy, fast food, violent video games, etc, in public schools. Nobody, but nobody, including the people who make the ads, thinks that this is in any way good for the kids. I agree with what you say about voluntary prayer. But I can see why a religious person might say to a liberal ‘Why do you sepnd so much energy trying to prevent kids from praying voluntarily in schools when you allow compulsory indoctrination into crass materialist values?’

    30

    inip 11.03.04 at 8:39 pm

    Harry,
    Removing advertising is a cause that might unite anticonsumerist leftists and religious conservatives, and I might join some formulation of such an effort myself. There’s a problem with your comparison, however. Religious views are in some sense uniquely intimate matters of conscience, which perhaps explains why the Establishment Clause appears in the First Amendment even before freedom of speech and press. The material world, by contrast — for all its vicissitudes — is one we all share, and can be subject to policy- and sociologically-oriented critique in a way that matters of faith really can’t.

    31

    Steven Gilchrist 11.03.04 at 8:40 pm

    It is a core liberal value that I don’t care what your religion is.

    It is a core liberal value that I’m not impressed by how often you go to church and I don’t expect you to be impressed by how often I go to church.

    It is a core liberal value that whatever communication you have with God is between you and God.

    Those values come from the sub-core liberal value that you can arrive at beliefs without faith.

    When a minority of people who form their beliefs based on facts and reasoning are outvoted despite a heroic effort by a majority of people of base their beliefs on faith, I’m not sure there is an answer to that.

    An election with George W. Bush on the left and Jerry Falwell on the right – I don’t know. I’d vote for Bush rather than effectively abstain, but that is bad news.

    32

    Nicholas Weininger 11.03.04 at 8:43 pm

    somecallmetim: that’s not a bad idea, actually. Being a decentralist libertarian, I’d go for it wholeheartedly– and it’s Contract-with-America style federalism, so how could the Repubs oppose it? Except of course that they *will* oppose it since they have no actual commitment at all to any of their own stated principles. So I give it only one notch more probability-of-success than actual secession.

    It is, however, not true that “no one actually wants to secede”. *I* do. The Free State Project folks do. We’re not many yet, it’s true, but there are several plausible circumstances that could change that fast: a draft, for one.

    33

    steven gilchrist 11.03.04 at 8:48 pm

    On the other hand, when you have waitresses voting against raising the minimum wage or subsidized healthcare because of her faith based belief system,

    there just has to be a way we can manipulate that just as well as the conservatives

    Liberals are willing to sacrifice votes over the principle of freedom from imposed religion. Conservatives are willing to sacrifice votes over what principle?

    Focussed economic progressives on the other hand, are not willing to give up votes for religious principles.

    Maybe we should see their gay marriage and raise them misdemeanor criminal status for adultery – and tie that in with subsidized health care.

    Seriously – anyone think that would work?

    34

    Anthony 11.03.04 at 8:58 pm

    The whole “religion” issue boils down to one thing right now: abortion. True or not, the Democratic party is seen as the party in favor of allowing any woman or girl to get a tax-funded abortion at any time in her pregnancy for any reason, without any input or notification from anyone else in the case of minors. Suffice it to say that most of the electorate holds more moderate positions than that. A Democratic Party which could, at its top levels, understand that most Americans are morally conflicted about abortion would have a much easier time neutralizing the Republican’s advantage among religious voters. Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” really resonated with voters, even though Clinton didn’t actually do anything which might have made abortion more rare.

    The Republican’s official position is that abortion should only be allowed in the cases of rape or incest, but even that minimalist breathing space is more concession to people’s moral conflicts than is evident in the NARAL/NOW Democratic line that all the candidates hew to in the primaries.

    Roe v Wade, while atrocious constitutional law, is actually a pretty good starting point for public policy. Note that Roe doesn’t create a right to taxpayer funding of abortion, and that it allows banning all third-trimester abortions unless the mother’s life is in danger. Having Democrats propose limits and sensible exceptions which correspond with what people who don’t hold either extreme view would allow Democrats to claim some of the religious voters who are now solidly in the Republican camp.

    35

    craig duncan 11.03.04 at 9:01 pm

    David Yaseen makes a good point. I admit it is tempting to draw the conclusion that liberal Christians should more actively tout their faith, that for every “Vengeance is mind” quotation from the Bible, someone somewhere should in public speak of rich men, heaven, camels and needles.

    But… I am more inclined to the following line of thought. The source of the disastrous policies of the Bush administration surely lies in large measure in their construction of a fantasy-based community, driven by ideology and wishful thinking, and their shunning of the “reality-based community” (to use a rightly popular catchphrase of late). Fantasy rather than reality. Faith rather than reason.

    If I am right that that is part of the problem, then there is sizeable risk involved with a Democratic strategy of rewinning some of the religious voters by upping the amount of religious references by Democrats, by encouraging Democrats to speak of “what my faith in Jesus has taught me,” and so on. For it validates the method of resolving public issues in the realm of faith rather than the court of reason. That abets the problem identified in the previous paragraph, rather than aids it. That is my worry.

    I’m not sure what the alternative strategy is, though. Start picketing conservative churches, hold signs that say “Reason rules!”? Hardly. So what, then? Part of the answer is what Harry suggests: showing that atheists and agnostics have deep moral values, and perhaps even agree with some religious conservatives on some issues, e.g. the tawdriness of much popular culture.

    But that can only go so far. I’m not sure how to go the rest of the way. I’m tempted to say: Get active. More closely check the curricula of religious schools, to be sure there is some critical thinking taught. Monitor home schooling. This will inflame the culture war. It may be hopeless, too, for a party out of power. Moreover, it is naive to think a course in “critical thinking” can overcome the spoonfeeding of unthinking relgious dogma that religously conservative parents dish out to their kids.

    But what strategy is there? Maybe my despair over the election is limiting my imagination today. I hope I am overlooking some obvious alternative.

    36

    Steven Gilchrist 11.03.04 at 9:06 pm

    The value system of liberals may be tied too closely to the greed/self or group interest aspects of liberalism.

    Conservatives are perfectly willing to join with anti-abortion forces to help kill the estate tax. If the anti-abortion forces were imposing mandatory tithes or something, the conservatives would join the value-liberals to kill the enforced tithing.

    Are economic progressives willing to join with anti-gay marriage forces they may not really agree with in order to get subsidized health care?

    Maybe we should separate liberal values into a church so that we can ignore them when it is time to advance tax policy and other economic issue that have nothing to do with any particular value system.

    37

    Donald Johnson 11.03.04 at 9:07 pm

    I’ve gone to evangelical Christian churches much of my life, though currently I attend one a bit more liberal. Th use of religious language in public places seems to matter. For instance, at Reagan’s funeral Danforth apparently gave an evangelical Christian sermon or something close to it (I didn’t see it). Some of my friends were very pleased, because the name of Jesus was mentioned in a public place and broadcast on national TV and I suppose they felt there was a chance people might have been swayed towards Christianity by it. Secularization bothers evangelical Christians and the mention of God and Jesus in public places pleases them.

    Speaking for myself, while listening to my friends rave about the Danforth sermon it was all I could do to keep from throwing up–Reagan was a staunch friend of mass murderers the world over and to my mind Danforth should have been struck by lightning if he praised him. But evangelicals (and former evangelicals) of my sort are the minority–I know some others, but probably most would have been hugely pleased because some politician talked about God. Frankly, I used to be pleased myself, though nowadays I’ve gotten a teensy bit cynical about it.

    Bush’s division of the world into good guys and bad guys is also very appealing, in part because it can be done on religious lines, though I’m not sure how common anti-Islamic feelings are. And then there’s Christian Zionism, which is expressed in various ways, as when Christians expiate the historical guilt for Christian antisemitism by criticizing the Palestinians for killing Jews. Well, no, they don’t say that, but it is what is going on.

    In my opinion evangelicals need to do some reaching out themselves, but if you want to reach out to them, one way to do it without condescending to them is to challenge them on their own moral consistency. For instance, evangelicals are quick to condemn Muslim atrocities–they aren’t so quick to condemn or even know about atrocities committed by people they support. And that’s the way to challenge them–evangelicals know how the prophet Nathan tripped up King David. Point out that they don’t live up to their own moral values and you’ll reach some of them, I think. As Christians they’re supposed to know they’re sinners and they ought to listen to criticism. Some will.

    38

    Uncle Kvetch 11.03.04 at 9:13 pm

    Uncle Kvetch,
    “Commit to the overturning of Roe v. Wade?”
    Considering how warped the consequences of that judicial decision have been, I’d be in favor of such.
    “Requiring organized prayer in the public schools?”
    Requiring? Who said abything about requiring? How about simply “not forbidding?”

    Russell, those 2 answers tell me that you’re talking about a version of the Democratic Party that I could not possibly support. I realize I’m just a fringy, freaky, unbelieving type, but I have a feeling I’m not unique. An appeal to social conservatism like the one you advocate could drive as many people away as it attracts.

    And FWIW, I’m totally on board with Nicholas W. and the secession idea. The Republic of Midlantica, anyone?

    39

    abb1 11.03.04 at 9:18 pm

    At first, secession sounds like a real good idea, but unfortunately the lines are not drawn between the north-east and the south or anything like that: 40% of the Vermont population voted for Bush, for example.

    The borders lie between the cities and small rural towns, they cut thru suburbs.

    So, how do you secede? Eastern Mass can’t secede from Western Mass, Manchester is not going to secede from Conway in NH; Austin can’t break away from Texas.

    40

    jet 11.03.04 at 9:18 pm

    David,
    “Why do we need religion in public life? Don’t we subsidize churches for that?”

    Tax exempt is not the same as subsidized. Your assumption of subsidation presumes ownership by “society” and not the individual, which is a very new idealolgy, one considered soundly thumped in mainstream US.

    And dumbed down? By what measure? Your personal one? As far as formal education goes, we’ve never been more educated.

    This thread has turned retarded. Bush didn’t win by thumping the bible, and in case you didn’t notice, it wasn’t 10’s of millions of bible thumpers kicking your ass. It’s not like the religious right was this low turn out group that all of a sudden came to the polls. You lost to the millions of slackers who never get out and vote but got fired up this time, and they got fired up by Bush’s rhetoric and not yours.

    So stop your whining and your blind tumbling to the left, and move back to the safe, sane, center where we all can get along and change society in baby steps.

    41

    robbo 11.03.04 at 9:23 pm

    Okay, Harry, so you believe that any president caught telling a lie should be subject to impeachment, regardless of whether it has any relevance to governance of the United States. It’s great that you’re not a hypocrite, but humans will be humans — your insistence that all politicians meet your standards of saintly purity ensure that none ever will. The end result is two terms for the likes of GW Bush — after all, if they’re all just liars why not choose the one who gives you a pony and promises to kill all the bad guys?

    Utopians always have tremendous, high-minded ideas, they just never work in the real world. I’ll take a flawed and complicated Clinton over a dangerous and simple-minded Bush every time.

    42

    jet 11.03.04 at 9:25 pm

    This thread has turned into a replication of why the left lost the election. You’re all batty. Did it every occur to you that Bush’s policies were just more persausive? That tax cuts get people excited? That flexing military might has always got people worked up, especially when the attackee is a significally demonized boogey-man?

    Bush didn’t win by thumping his bible, he didn’t win by a legion of bible thumpers. He won my undecided slackers getting hard for his ideas, and not for yours.

    43

    Nicholas Weininger 11.03.04 at 9:32 pm

    abb1 makes a good point about the difficulty of secession. An answerable point, I think; there are plenty of historical secessions, including the American Revolution, that came off despite opposition from a large minority of the population. But one to give us pause.

    There are a few plausible city-states, though, that could achieve enough unanimity to make this less of a factor. Boston and environs is one– “Eastern Mass. can’t secede from Western Mass.”? Why not? Then there’s NYC and its metrosprawl (the Commonwealth of Tri-Insula comes to life at last!) and the Bay Area on the other coast.

    44

    robbo 11.03.04 at 9:42 pm

    Undecided slackers “got hard” because of Bush’s policies? How insightful. Hey Jet, since you find CT so batty why not post somewhere else?

    45

    abb1 11.03.04 at 9:56 pm

    Yeah, I’m just saying that division is less of the regional nature and more of a lifestyle – urban vs. rural.

    It’s not a US-specific phenomenon – drive a hundered kilometers from Amsterdam and you’ll probably find pretty much the same kind of religious, conservative and even reactionary folks you might see in rural Ohio.

    The problem is that in the US a very small portion of the population live in the cities, it’s mostly suburbs and small towns. Not too cosmopolitan life-style.

    46

    harry 11.03.04 at 10:02 pm

    bq. Okay, Harry, so you believe that any president caught telling a lie should be subject to impeachment, regardless of whether it has any relevance to governance of the United States

    No. Not if you read what I wrote. He lied under oath in a sexual harrassment case. It turned out, of course, to be massively relevant to the governance of the US. Impeaching him probably would have saved us from Bush. I think there’s a case that his behaviour and the Democratic response to it played a real role in bringing us Bush. It certainly upped the ante for Gore, making it even harder than it would otherwise have been to know how to relate to the Clinton legacy in the campaign. But, either way, there was a strong case for impeachment. I thought in particular that the official feminist movement sounded absurd during the furore over it: here’s this guy who has gutted welfare provision and managed to replace AFDC with something worse (who’d have thought it possible); who is lying ina sexual harrassment case, and the public face of American feminism was all about trashing his accuser.

    I’d prefer Clinton over Bush too. But that was never the choice.

    I know people are upset about defeat. I’m less so because I think the Dems lost this race years ago. I witness a lot of behavior by liberals that either deliberately or unwittingly presses all the wrong buttons with the deeply religious without contibuting one iota to developing or pushing forward a more progressive agenda.

    47

    a visitor 11.03.04 at 10:32 pm

    I just wanted to jump in, as one of those “white-evangelical-Protestants-who-voted-for-Bush” types that yall are discussing. I have a lot of friends (and a husband) who think like me, so it may help yall to hear why I voted the way I did.

    For the record, I have a college degree, my husband is in school getting his masters in neuroscience, I don’t listen to country music, and we don’t own a gun.

    Let me see if I can shed some light on what it’s like on the “inside” of a Bible-believing community.

    I am intensely opposed to abortion, and I cannot in good conscience vote for anyone who supports it. I seriously believe that laws and civil society and social charity springs from the conditions of individual hearts, and that it is the basis for improving the lives of both the poor and increasing the generosity of the rich. That is why moral issues are so important to me (and my cohorts)- they color every other decision, and the motives of those decisions, from health care, to taxes, to dealing with the poor, abortion, smut on TV, etc.
    Deal with economic issues alone, and you’ve got a bunch of greedy rich folks (obviously generalized). Deal with the heart, and you’ve got people who, if they do end up getting rich, are more likely to be charitable and humble in their giving and attitudes.
    Whoops! Gotta go and cut this off early.

    48

    Donald Johnson 11.03.04 at 10:46 pm

    Some of my friends are like you, visitor. But I never noticed the evangelicals giving a crap (except for the lefty Sojourners crowd) when Reagan was funding death squads here, there, and everywhere.
    I’d like to think that being an evangelical Christian makes people compassionate–it’s supposed to. In practice, people who are evangelicals often behave like any other set of idealogues–they focus on certain victims (the ones victimized by the right sort of villain) and ignore others. Christians should be better than that, by our own standards. By and large, we’re not.

    49

    James J. Kroeger 11.03.04 at 10:55 pm

    Nicholas Kristof is quite right in pointing out that the Republicans succeeded in persuading large numbers of Average Americans to vote against their own best interests. I do not believe, however, that the Democrats lost the election because John Kerry failed to communicate the fact that he embraces religious values that are important to most Americans. I would argue that they lost because they simply do not understand how Republican strategists use religious issues—and every other sort of issue—to win the only campaign that matters: the Image Campaign.

    Republican strategists pulled off yet another big victory because they understand something that their Democratic counterparts do not: the state of mind of The Swing Voter. The typical Swing Voter knows that he does not understand the subtle details of the issues well enough to make a wise decision, so he relies on his “impressions” of the candidates. Is this candidate someone I can trust to rule over me? Understanding this, the Republicans focus all of their efforts on defining Democrats in the minds of the Swing Voter in a negative, vaguely threatening way. They do this by relying primarily on negative campaigning.

    Republicans know that accusations and insinuations are persuasive to Swing Voters primarily because they are typically headline-readers and sound-byte-nibblers who do not seek out in-depth explanations of complex issues. If the media reports that a Republican has accused a Democrat of having a character flaw, the average Swing Voter will tend to believe it unless it is successfully answered. These attacks not only create a negative image of their opponents; they also implicitly suggest that Republicans are devoid of the character flaws they are attacking. It enables them to indirectly claim that they are noble & virtuous before the electorate.

    Republicans understand precisely what they are doing when they speak disparagingly of “those Democrats.” It’s a variation of the “us vs. them” social comparisons that are so common among high school students. Throughout October, Swing Voters constantly saw video clips of George Bush standing in front of his adoring supporters, ridiculing John Kerry with his smirky smile. People do not tend—on a natural level—to want to be associated with those who are being ridiculed.

    Average Americans who put Republican candidates into office with their votes do so because they are identifying with those whom they intuitively perceive to be social “winners.” They don’t understand all of the nuances of the issues, but they do have this impression that there is something “defective” with The Democrats. Once they’ve become invested in their identity with the Republican Party, they instinctively defend Republican policies even when those policies are likely to harm them. In order for the Democratic Party to win these Average Americans back, they must begin to fight fire with fire.

    If they want to again become the majority party, Democrats need to define The Republican Politician as a DECEIVING, MANIPULATIVE, SCHEMING, MEAN-SPIRITED, CON-ARTIST who willfully and gleefully assassinates the character of any innocent victim that stands in the way of his rabid lust for power. They need to create an image of The Republican Politician in the minds of the Average American that is instinctively feared. In defining The Republican Politician as essentially manipulative, Democrats will also indirectly be defining themselves as The Protectors of the Average American.

    Democrats tend not to want to participate in “character attacks” because they maintain an idealistic hope that a respectful debate of the issues of the day is possible in a civilized society, but they really have no choice. The Republicans have no such inhibitions re: the use of scorched earth tactics and character assassination. Every attack and accusation made by the Republicans must be used to define them as smiling, disingenuous weasels. In doing so, they must express both derision and wisdom and show an eagerness to explain what the Republicans are up to. They need to take the time to point out and explain in television commercials the misrepresentations, the deceptions, the intent, and the strategy of the Republican attacks.

    It will also be important for Democrats to spend more and more time ridiculing the stupidity of Republican policies and—implicitly—those who embrace/defend them. This is necessary in order to socially isolate those who belong to the Republican Party (or to at least counteract the social pressure on Swing Voters that is created when Republicans ridicule Democrats). If the Democrats fail to do this, the Average American will not even listen to what they have to say re: “the issues.” If their image of Democrats is sufficiently negative, they won’t want to be persuaded because they’d want to protect an identity that had become very important to them.

    James J. Kroeger
    http://www.taxwisdom.org

    50

    Donald Johnson 11.03.04 at 10:58 pm

    I should update my 20 year-old (but still relevant) complaints about evangelical Christian social morality by pointing out that nowadays it seems to have a lot to do with gay marriage. If Christians had so much to say on the rights and wrongs of this subject, shouldn’t they have been in the forefront of efforts to secure their rights in areas outside marriage, long before the secular world? Since we weren’t, shouldn’t we be just a little humble about it?

    Evangelicals do jump in on some very important moral issues (like AIDS in Africa), but one could say this about almost any group. Last I heard, Bush hasn’t funded his initial proposal to fight AIDS in Africa to the extent that he promised–Kerry promised to do twice as much. Apparently that didn’t win him enough of the moral vote.

    51

    James J. Kroeger 11.03.04 at 11:01 pm

    Nicholas Kristof is quite right in pointing out that the Republicans succeeded in persuading large numbers of Average Americans to vote against their own best interests. I do not believe, however, that the Democrats lost the election because John Kerry failed to communicate the fact that he embraces religious values that are important to most Americans. I would argue that they lost because they simply do not understand how Republican strategists use religious issues—and every other sort of issue—to win the only campaign that matters: the Image Campaign.

    Republican strategists pulled off yet another big victory because they understand something that their Democratic counterparts do not: the state of mind of The Swing Voter. The typical Swing Voter knows that he does not understand the subtle details of the issues well enough to make a wise decision, so he relies on his “impressions” of the candidates. Is this candidate someone I can trust to rule over me? Understanding this, the Republicans focus all of their efforts on defining Democrats in the minds of the Swing Voter in a negative, vaguely threatening way. They do this by relying primarily on negative campaigning.

    Republicans know that accusations and insinuations are persuasive to Swing Voters primarily because they are typically headline-readers and sound-byte-nibblers who do not seek out in-depth explanations of complex issues. If the media reports that a Republican has accused a Democrat of having a character flaw, the average Swing Voter will tend to believe it unless it is successfully answered. These attacks not only create a negative image of their opponents; they also implicitly suggest that Republicans are devoid of the character flaws they are attacking. It enables them to indirectly claim that they are noble & virtuous before the electorate.

    Republicans understand precisely what they are doing when they speak disparagingly of “those Democrats.” It’s a variation of the “us vs. them” social comparisons that are so common among high school students. Throughout October, Swing Voters constantly saw video clips of George Bush standing in front of his adoring supporters, ridiculing John Kerry with his smirky smile. People do not tend—on a natural level—to want to be associated with those who are being ridiculed.

    Average Americans who put Republican candidates into office with their votes do so because they are identifying with those whom they intuitively perceive to be social “winners.” They don’t understand all of the nuances of the issues, but they do have this impression that there is something “defective” with The Democrats. Once they’ve become invested in their identity with the Republican Party, they instinctively defend Republican policies even when those policies are likely to harm them. In order for the Democratic Party to win these Average Americans back, they must begin to fight fire with fire.

    If they want to again become the majority party, Democrats need to define The Republican Politician as a DECEIVING, MANIPULATIVE, SCHEMING, MEAN-SPIRITED, CON-ARTIST who willfully and gleefully assassinates the character of any innocent victim that stands in the way of his rabid lust for power. They need to create an image of The Republican Politician in the minds of the Average American that is instinctively feared. In defining The Republican Politician as essentially manipulative, Democrats will also indirectly be defining themselves as The Protectors of the Average American.

    Democrats tend not to want to participate in “character attacks” because they maintain an idealistic hope that a respectful debate of the issues of the day is possible in a civilized society, but they really have no choice. The Republicans have no such inhibitions re: the use of scorched earth tactics and character assassination. Every attack and accusation made by the Republicans must be used to define them as smiling, disingenuous weasels. In doing so, they must express both derision and wisdom and show an eagerness to explain what the Republicans are up to. They need to take the time to point out and explain in television commercials the misrepresentations, the deceptions, the intent, and the strategy of the Republican attacks.

    It will also be important for Democrats to spend more and more time ridiculing the stupidity of Republican policies and—implicitly—those who embrace/defend them. This is necessary in order to socially isolate those who belong to the Republican Party (or to at least counteract the social pressure on Swing Voters that is created when Republicans ridicule Democrats). If the Democrats fail to do this, the Average American will not even listen to what they have to say re: “the issues.” If their image of Democrats is sufficiently negative, they won’t want to be persuaded because they’d want to protect an identity that had become very important to them.

    James J. Kroeger
    http://www.taxwisdom.org

    52

    james 11.03.04 at 11:15 pm

    Donald – Your statement makes the assumption that your high priority moral issue should be the highest priority moral issue for everyone. For many during the era of Reagan, countering the Soviet Union was the high priority moral issue.

    53

    james 11.03.04 at 11:28 pm

    The fact that the words “rule over me” was chosen instead of “represent me”, signifies you just don’t get it.

    54

    Hiram MacCarroll 11.03.04 at 11:40 pm

    Religion is not just private prayers and a list of do’s and don’t’s. Religion is about ultimate values and one’s understanding about the nature of reality — including a conviction, for Christians, at least, that there is a God who created us for a purpose.

    Politics is about enacting values. Where do those values come from? Ultimately, values come from one’s view of reality. “Progressives” are often unclear about where their values come from — and it often sounds to me as if they believed that their views were inherently obvious — and they are not.

    55

    robbo 11.04.04 at 12:26 am

    Harry, I think you make some good points. Of course, the sexual harrassment case you referred to was the Paula Jones case, in which Jones waited several years to bring her suit against the president. Lewinsky originally denied her affair with Clinton, but of course Linda Tripp had illegally recorded phone conversations that revealed the lies. It was all transparently political, but you write as though politics was but a sidelight. Actually, it came after Ken Starr spent three fruitless years investigating the Clintons in the Whitewater case. It amounted to a massive fishing expedition by Starr and the Republicans.

    Had the Dems had rolled over on Clinton, no matter how much he may have deserved it for lying under oath, it would have mainly shown that the right can play hardball/sleazeball all day long while holding the left to an entirely different standard. Maybe everyone should be held to that standard, but until we start seeing anything close to actual morality from the Right I won’t be demainding saintliness from the Left.

    Again, you can be pure and virginal and non-hypocritical to your heart’s content, but that’s not a standard that most humans even pretend to aspire to (unless they’re on a witch-hunt against their enemies). If you think that people who don’t care that Iraq had no WMD, and who wrote off Abu-Ghraib as the equivalent of “fraternity pranks,” gives a serious crap about your morality and consistency I believe you’re mistaken.

    56

    harry 11.04.04 at 12:54 am

    I don’t think that Bush or his advisers give a crap, no. I don’t even think that 50% of the people who voted for Bush care. I don’t need to. I only need to think that 5%-6% of those who voted for Bush might be susceptible to the kind of ill-willed nonsense they get served up by politico-religious entreprenuers partly because that nonsense has resonance as a result of the willingness of liberals to sound as if they think there are no consequences for anything. I do think that. Maybe I’m wrong. If I am wrong, then I suspect there is nothing the Dems can do to win another Presidency. Either way, I see no harm in calling a spade a spade when we see one.

    Yes the politics around the Clinton impeachment were disgusting. So was Clinton. Don’t you, politics aside, agree? If you do, could you find a way of conveying that to the people you know with whom you argued about whether impeachment was warranted?

    57

    Laura 11.04.04 at 1:15 am

    I have to admit that this all took me by surprise. I knew that morality and elitism for the Democratic leadership was a problem and even wrote a post or two about it. But mostly I thought that Bush voters were motivated by the war and tax issues.

    I’m not sure why I was so dense. I should have looked at the Bush voters in my own family. They voted for him because they are bigtime Catholics, and they hated Kerry’s record on late term abortions, stem cell research, gay marriage. On all others issues, they side with the Democrats. My dad is still a registered Democrat, but hasn’t voted with his party since 1980. He once wrote that pro-lifers should be more at home with the Democratic party.

    Should we fear the mandate that this election gave religious conservatives? I am hopeful that our Madisonian government can prevent any hasty action from taking place and that there will be much variation of law between the states. But maybe by making some inroads with the religious, like my folks, we can find some common ground. Like on health care and higher minimum raise.

    58

    harry 11.04.04 at 1:18 am

    I’ve thought a bit more about it, robbo, and I think you are the one ignoring the politics around the Clinton case. The Republicans played hardball. Clinton lost when he lied. And then he lied to us. And even after THAT lie was known to everyone, the left didn’t say ‘Fuck you!’, as it should have. Instead it chose to go down with him.

    59

    jet 11.04.04 at 1:26 am

    Heard something on the radio today that gave me pause. It was that in 2000 some 4,000 thousand super conservatives didn’t vote in 2000 but showed up at the polls in 2004 for the anti-gay marriage. And that while they were there, they went ahead and voted for that “liberal” Bush.

    Scary stuff, anyone have a source?

    60

    Temperance 11.04.04 at 2:01 am

    Yes the politics around the Clinton impeachment were disgusting. So was Clinton. Don’t you, politics aside, agree? Posted by harry

    No. Politics has nothing to do with it. If you think that a middle-aged man committing adultery and lying about it was more “disgusting” than a seven-year smear campaign on the part of the Rabid Right, or more “disgusting” than being responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11, your values and priorities are deeply twisted and wrong.

    61

    harry 11.04.04 at 2:20 am

    Temperance,
    he lied under oath in a sexual harrasment suit. He was President. He used his freinds. He used his political allies. Some of them seem not even to mind.

    Of course its not as disgusting as killing thousands of people without a good reason. I don’t even think its as disgusting as using the death of Ricky Ray Rector to get himself elected. I didn’t say it was. If you think I did you have a very serious reading deficit. If you think that in order to find something disgusting nothing else can be more disgusting, then you cannot judge anything as bad, except, perhaps, the holocaust. No wonder religious consevratives think liberals are know-nothing relativists. That’s certainly how you have come off here.

    62

    Anthony 11.04.04 at 4:05 am

    I may have been wrong when I said that “moral issues” boils down to abortion in most cases. Y’all go read William Saletan’s piece Democratic Values, which says a lot about what religious believers see in the two parties, and what a lot of not-very-religious people who voted for Bush see in the Democrats. Ignore his shilling for Edwards in 2008 – the rest of the piece is excellent. I think the Republicans would still generally have better policies even if the Democrats took Saletan’s advice, but I’m pretty sure the Democrats would win more if they did.

    63

    Russell Arben Fox 11.04.04 at 5:14 am

    For what it’s worth, getting caught up in all these CT threads, plus reading Timothy Burke’s deep and powerful thoughts on the subject, got me fired up to put down some of my own here. Much too long and no doubt insufferably pedantic, but perhaps worth reading just the same.

    Incidentally Harry, I like how you’re coming down on Clinton here. I praise him in my blog post, but whatever the value of his example, his legacy is more poisonous than beneficial insofar as creating a liberalism which can serve both of this country’s contenting cultures is concerned.

    64

    Detached Observer 11.04.04 at 5:46 am

    Here is something I’ve been wondering about that perhaps someone here with a degree in sociology can shed a light on:

    Its clear that high church attendance has a lot to do with U.S politics generally and John Kerry’s defeat specifically. My question is, why are Americans so much more religious, in terms of church attendance, than, say, the Canadians or the English?

    65

    robbo 11.04.04 at 7:14 am

    Do I consider Bill Clinton to be “disgusting” because he had an affair and lied about it? The wording of your question appears to be purposefully vague, but I’ll give it a shot.

    Do I consider his actions in this respect to be disgusting and reprehensible? Yes. I wouldn’t do them myself, and I wouldn’t recommend them as a model for others to follow.

    Do I consider Bill Clinton as a human being and as a political leader disgusting? No. I consider him to be obviously flawed — like most of us are — and I simultaneously consider him to be the most successful and competent president in my 39 years. By far. He generally governed to the right of where I’d have preferred him to be, and I feel that he suffered from a well-founded perception on the right that the more they hammered him the more he caved in their direction. But in the end I believe his policies were the best and most effective to be put forth since Nixon’s(!) landmark environmental laws of the early seventies. He took care of business, he spoke in complex, coherent sentences, and he greatly elevated America’s standing in the world community with statesmanship that was second to none in my lifetime.

    The real answer to your question is that I do wish he had measured up to your impeccable standards, so that the infinitely moral Republicans would have loved and accepted him and saintly Democrats like you could have proudly stood beside him. Ah, Utopia…

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    dsquared 11.04.04 at 10:44 am

    more “disgusting” than being responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11

    I liked Ol’ Bill, but he did bomb that Sudanese pharmaceuticals factory, and a lot of other things too. The Iraqi sanctions disaster happened on his watch too.

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    SqueakyRat 11.04.04 at 11:51 am

    Well, there’s this little thing, Thiere is no God. Are we just supposed to ignore that?

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    harry 11.04.04 at 12:49 pm

    robbo,
    I can take your sneering tone. I think it gets in the way of your arguments. But not accusing me of being a Democrat. I’m not that.

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    Nate Oman 11.04.04 at 2:59 pm

    “And really, its a trope of Federalist Society federalism that the states are supposed to be differing experiments in governance, so we should have their theoretical support”

    Actually, the original author was Brandies, as good a progressive as you could hope for.

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    lth 11.04.04 at 3:02 pm

    Harry: Godwin’s Law. You lose…

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    Jimmy T 11.04.04 at 5:08 pm

    Read an interesting article re. why secular progressives need to reach out to believers on a British website: Love thine enemy (New Humanist)

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    robbo 11.04.04 at 5:45 pm

    Whoops, sorry Harry. Assumptions, you know…so you must be Libertarian, then?

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    harry 11.04.04 at 9:12 pm

    Robbo — no, I’m a socialist, or an old-style social-democrat, or something like that. Reasonably liberal about so-called social issues; but issue-by-issue. You’ll get a sense by reading some of my posts on CT. I tend to support progressive Dems, in particular races. I have a Kerry/Edwards sticker on my car and yard sign in my yard. But had no enthusiasm for him; whereas I do for my Senator, Feingold (who went furether than any other Demcrat against Clinton in the impeachment process, and not coincidentally is one of the most left in the Senate). Interesting, isn’t it, that it is hard to ‘read’ people’s politics in these post-election debates.

    What’s Godwin’s Law? I ought to know, no doubt.

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    Joshua W. Burton 11.04.04 at 9:14 pm

    Anthony writes:

    _Clinton’s “safe, legal, and rare” really resonated with voters, even though Clinton didn’t actually do anything which might have made abortion more rare._

    During Mr. Clinton’s eight years in office, legal induced abortions per 1000 women per year fell from 24 to 16, and the rate per 1000 live births went from about 330 to 245. See

    http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/surv_abort.htm

    for more detailed numbers and breakdowns by state.

    After the NASDAQ and the violent crime rate, this is one of the most impressive of the “bubble” numbers. While what the _Onion_ so aptly calls “our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity” lasted, about 300,000 human lives were being saved per year.

    Obviously, though, the 1990s economic boom and its virtuous social fallout was merely a delayed consequence of the Coolidge administration’s fiscal policies.

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    harry 11.04.04 at 9:15 pm

    OK, I looked it up.

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    robbo 11.04.04 at 10:01 pm

    Harry, I guess we’re all better at perceiving a “sneering tone” in others than in ourselves. I know that I surely do, and I do sincerely apologize for letting fly with a “freaking idiot” swipe. That’s truly uncalled for and it does get in the way of the discussion. Again, I do sincerely apologize.

    Still, when you accuse others of having a “reading deficit” and suggest that we all should have said “Fuck You!” to President Clinton that also contributes to an unpleasant tone.

    I’ll also take care not to confuse social-democrats with Democrats in the future — I’d just always assumed that, in our effectively two-party system, the social-democrats considered themselves to be more-or-less Democrats. For my part, I’m registered Green, but for all practical electoral purposes I’m a Dem.

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    harry 11.04.04 at 10:39 pm

    robbo, I was getting increasingly impatient, and none of it was helped by the fact that I had received a seriously abusive anonymous email from one of my students early in the discussion; which contained the assumption among other things that I had supported Bush. So I was in a lousy mood (for different reasons from everyone else) and I can see re-reading all that how it comes through. Apology accepted, and reciprocated (as it were).

    So, one of the things that unnerves me about a lot of what I read here yesterday, and also from a lot of what I have heard from people today, is how few people I know seem to have on-going personal relationships with the kinds of people who voted for Bush on ‘moral values’ grounds. I do know several of these people, very well, in fact (ironically, most of them live in Ohio). I don’t think they are wicked, or out for world domination. The people I know are in the grip of a deeply misleading worldview which is not captured by looking at their moral values, but by seriosuly misleading information they are fed and which is not challeneged by anyone they ever talk to or hear except me. They are motivated much more by fear than by the desire to dominate, and the fears they have are fuelled partly by genuinely wicked entreprenuers (including Bush and co), who portray everyone to the left of, I don’t know, Colin Powell, as libertines, relativists, people with no values. My worry is that this portrayal gets purchase by the public response I observe liberal making to many moral issues; even though I know most of them, in fact, have entirely senisble and right-thinking views about them. I think if I lived nearer to my Republican relatives I could persuade them to vote for a socialist party, even if that socialist party had a shot at winning. I suspect the same is true of you, and others on this thread…. anyway, you get the idea.

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    Anthony 11.04.04 at 11:54 pm

    Joshua –

    Correlation does not equal causation. What is the mechanism by which Clinton encouraged fewer women to have abortions?

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    Joshua W. Burton 11.05.04 at 2:25 am

    _Correlation does not equal causation. What is the mechanism by which Clinton encouraged fewer women to have abortions?_

    Well, I alluded to “the 1990s economic boom and its virtuous social fallout.” The canonical answer would be that Clinton pushed through his tax increase (in a squeaker, without a single vote from the other side of the aisle), and that this resulted in between one and two trillion dollars of averted federal debt, lower interest rates, a better investment climate, twenty million jobs, and a lot of women (in high schools and junior colleges, in better-than-minimum-wage jobs, in relationships with gainfully employed partners, in the know about their contraceptive options) making better life choices.

    But, as I also noted, a lot of people will read the tea leaves differently. Success has many fathers, they say. (Failure, on the other hand, has driven the abortion rate right back up to where his own father left it.)

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    jc 11.05.04 at 4:36 am

    Am I an idealist or am I just plain ignorant…do we or don’t we provide for the separation of church and state within our constituion? Granted, the realities of the situation are such that an individual’s vote will be cast based on their personal beliefs but pandering to the religious beliefs of the nation in order to secure votes seems to really muddy the separation waters. Truly, this election was not decided over issues of “moral” values – not by any definition of the word moral. No, this was an election based strictly upon religious values – that is different. Dramatically so. Until we come to grips with the reality that the religious right (and all of those too afraid to not jump on that “life” raft) are swinging a very large ax directly at the heart of the consitutional rights of the American people, then we, as a democratic nation (though I have my doubts that we are now, or ever have been), are doomed to demoralizing defeat.

    To counter such a swing in sentiment, it will require the same type of disgust, anguish and activism seen during the protests of the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War. Once our country begins drafting young men (and women) into the military in order to feed fresh bodies into our under-prepared, over-burdened and under-staffed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan (and dare I say, Iran, North Korea, Sudan…Pakistan?) then, maybe, we will begin to see the return of a real voter revolt. And a return to a more centrist government. But, of course, like history dictates, we will go too far – overliberalizing and thus alienating the right again – and the ax will swing right back (so to speak) favoring the safe-haven of religion (for who would ever question God in a time personal dis-ease?) and putting at risk the rights of the individual once again.

    This is such a silly game…Bill Clinton was a brief breath of fresh air in the middle of a right-ward swing that began with the election of Richard Nixon (who, by today’s standards, would be considered a moderate DEMOCRAT). Sadly, we have traveled soooo far to the right since the 1970s that today we are discussing HOW TO TALK EVANGELIC-ESE in order bring the right into a rational discussion. Puh-lease, the answer is not in learning to “speak” their language. It is not about finding “common” ground. Have you been to their chuches and heard their weekly indoctrinations? Have you ever tried to have a nonreligion-based conversation with these people? They are not even capable of it! This doesn’t make them wrong or bad…they just have conviction. Or faith. Or maybe they are just too scared, too ignorant, too simple or just too plain comfortable with not having to take charge of their own life situation. George Bush is not their President…George Bush is their Ayatollah – their spiritual and political leader. Their support of Bush puts them closer to their God. This is a very radical departure from partisanship…one God, one way and only one point of view – theirs.

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    No Preference 11.05.04 at 11:28 am

    This thread is probably expired, but I wanted to thank “a visitor” for stopping by and sharing her views. I am a Massacgusetts liberal, and we tend to think of people who voted for George Bush as an undifferentiated, sinister, inscrutable mass. (Having right wing Christian family in Kansas, I know that this goes both ways). It was refreshing to hear from an actual person. Please drop by again.

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    rhodeymark 11.05.04 at 2:00 pm

    Hey “no preference” – you don’t have to go to Kansas, pal/dear – we’re right here if you care to look around. It was funny, I was listening to WEEI (that would be the Boston sports affiliate for the rest of you) and it was party central the day after. Even the few Kerry supporting hosts reluctantly admitted their disappointment was tinged with varying amounts of disdain for their candidate. It isn’t just the religious right that you need to win over – but if you need to go there, have at it.

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    No Preference 11.05.04 at 4:54 pm

    rhodeymark, good point. 39% of Massachusetts did vote for Bush.

    Why were the people at WEEI so happy about the Bush win?

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    RattlerGator 11.06.04 at 2:21 pm

    Regarding Massachusetts: it’s not simply that Bush got that percentage of votes. No, no, no. It’s that he INCREASED his percentage in Massachusetts over 2000 against a native son.

    Many of you are seriously, seriously deluded. Harry, I feel for you my man. I finally fled the Democratic Party this year and, as a black man, have had two-hour discussions with friends passionately trying to turn me back.

    No way, and this thread certainly affirms that decision. Harry, you do make some good points but there are fewer and fewer of you in and of the left. The responses to this election by many have been nothing short of shameful, not to mention juvenile and unserious.

    I mean, secession? SECESSION?

    I’d never voted for a Republican before but I couldn’t be more proud of voting for George W. Bush. And switching to the Republican Party. The CERTAINTY that people of faith are unthinking is the greatest liability of the Democratic Party.

    How long before the Amy Sullivan’s of the world just give the hell up on all of y’all too? And will any of you ever stop to think of the consequences of FORCING her out?

    Just last night I had another conversation with a friend about Judge Pickering. The blatant lies told by the Democrats about this man still resonate with black people in the South. But then you hit them with the facts — and the reasonableness of his action in the cross-burning case, especially given the dispensation of the case for the two other defendants — and immediately the issue changes to some OTHER trumped up reason why this guy is just another evil Cracker.

    Sad. Really sad. The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party has been allowed to live a lie for decades. Those days are ending. In actual fact, it is only because of rock-solid black support that the Howard Dean’s and John Kerry’s of America even have a national presence.

    Zell Miller is right and you folks still in the Democratic Party have no clue just how tenuous your national position is.

    You haven’t hit rock bottom yet but this thread clearly tells me that you are well on your way.

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    John 11.06.04 at 3:51 pm

    I think both sides should remember that about 45% of Kerry votes came from so-called “Red States”, while 35-40% of Bush votes came from “Blue States”. The trashing of “Red States” by depressed liberals in the past few days only serves to alienate even more voters.

    I myself voted for President Bush. Why? Briefly put, I did not trust the Democrats with the war on terror, their views on morality, nor was I appreciative of the Michael Moore-wing of their party. Dems would be wise to eject the extremists, moderate their tone on defense, and find some way of moving moral issues off the front-burner. May I suggest Federalism? This would appeal to moderate and conservative Bush-voters without sacrificing liberal ideals. Take abortion for example. It is clear that neither side will completely win over the views of the other on the national level. Fine. Remove it as an issue in national elections by throwing it back to the States. Liberal states will be permissive of abortion, while more conservative ones will restrict it. I understand purists from both sides don’t want the ardor of 50 protracted fights to have their views prevail, but it would be wise politically. Look at the consequences for this purist mentality, particularly for national Democrats. Would Senator Daschle have been defeated if abortion was an issue in South Dakota state politics and not on the national level? I doubt it.

    It might behoove Democrats to consider Federalism with regards to these morality issues, or they will continue to face stiff resistance and lose voters who otherwise might normally consider their party. They have a choice: change or wither away.

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