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Saturday, December 6, 2003

Dean's religion problem.

Today's New York Times reports on the Democrats' (absolutely crucial) attempts to attract some of the churchgoers who left the party for the Republicans over the last two decades:

In the 1980's, Protestant voters supported Democrats and Republicans in roughly equal proportions, according to surveys of voters in general elections and a recently released study of religious voters. But that pattern shifted sharply in the 1990's as white evangelical Christians and increasing numbers of white Roman Catholics shifted their political allegiances to Republicans. . . .

Highlighting the urgency of the issue for Democrats, a random survey of 1,997 registered voters released this fall by the Pew Research Center found that 63 percent of voters who attended religious services more than once a week said they planned to vote for Mr. Bush next year. That compared with 37 percent who said they preferred a Democratic candidate. The margin is narrower among the larger group of voters who attend church once a week, with 56 percent planning to vote for Mr. Bush and 44 percent planning to vote for a Democrat. ("Democrats Try to Regain Ground on Moral Issues," Rachel L. Swarns and Diane Cardwell, New York Times 12.6.03)

Dean is notably not pursuing this particular part of the electorate. (Wesley Clark is, as the article points out in the second graf.) Amy Sullivan continues to argue that Howard Dean is too tone-deaf to American religiosity — a problem that could sink the Democrat's chances once again. Consider this:

Dean just absolutely does not get religion. His campaign, to its credit, does have someone starting religious outreach, but it's a Unitarian Universalist minister. No offense to UUs, but that's not going to play well outside of New England.

Ah, well. Maybe in 2008?

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 6 December 2003 at 8:25 PM

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December 8, 2003 08:49 PM | Permalink for this comment

I can't say that I'm enormously cheered by the idea that Dean has a UU minister on board. An awful lot of them are allergic to the very God-talk that we are trying to force from between the doctors lips.


December 8, 2003 08:58 PM | Permalink for this comment

I don't get why he hasn't understood the importance of this yet. As much as I like Clark, you've gotta admit Dean has been more on-the-ball on things like the Internet, grassroots campaigning, etc. How can he have such a giant blind spot on this issue?

Well, here's hoping for Clark/Dean in '04, or Dean/Clark at the very worst...

Rick (Independents For Clark):

December 9, 2003 10:23 AM | Permalink for this comment

Dean is Protestant and his wife is Jewish, which probably makes religion a tricky topic even within his own home.

It's not surprising that might avoid God-talk.


December 27, 2003 07:26 AM | Permalink for this comment

I think it is about time that we have a secular candidate in contention. Though I have supported Dean from the beginning for other reasons, his skepticism toward religion is very refreshing given America's embrace of spiritual superstition over the past 20 years.


December 27, 2003 10:06 AM | Permalink for this comment

But will it help or hinder Dean's campaign? Rallying the secularists - a group that leans heavily Democratic already - doesn't add anything. And if Dean's tone-deafness to the motivations and concerns of religious Americans generates negative impressions for mainstream, non-fundamentalist church-going voters, it could actively hurt the Democrats' chances.


December 27, 2003 10:16 AM | Permalink for this comment

Howard Dean told the Boston Globe: "We considered becoming Unitarian as sort of a compromise that wasn't going to respect either person's tradition. But you know, our religions mattered enough that we didn't really want to change." That is brilliant: It sets up the UUs to his theological left — Adlai Stevenson's move, too — and allows him to appear more in the center. But it's also transparently political. After all, what sense does it make for Dean to say he "practices Congregationalism but does not often attend church"? How exactly does one practice "Congregationalism" on one's own?

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