Why Can’t Liberals Get the Religious Vote?

Responding to Tiffany Stanley’s recent article in The New Republic (we blogged about it here), historian Michael Kazin offers his take on why the Democrats have failed to attract religious voters.  Here is a snippet:

Religious conservatives are having their own problems attracting young people who don’t want to be preached to about the sinfulness of their sex lives or anyone else’s. But the Christian Right remains a potent force in the Republican Party and in the larger political culture—as witnessed by the huge audiences Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin attract. Its acolytes are passionate, united, and mobilized by two political issues that nearly everyone in the country has an opinion about: opposition to abortion and to gay marriage. What similarly kindles the fervor of religious liberals? Fighting poverty, establishing a living wage, stopping capital punishment, ending the war in Afghanistan? Each of these issues appeals to a cluster of pious activists, but none stirs the sense of mission that would attract masses of new people to give up their leisure time for the cause and draw the attention of major media and leading politicians.
So it should not be a surprise that Obama and the Democrats have failed to organize a major effort to attract religious voters. If the president did “articulate the moral-religious values that permeate his policies,” as Stanley advocates, who would echo his words and what would they do about them? Alas, until there is a movement of religious Americans willing to act on the injunction in Matthew 25 (“whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me”), liberals will mostly be singing to the same, diminished choir.

2 thoughts on “Why Can’t Liberals Get the Religious Vote?

  1. You may find this of interest, a 2005 statistical analysis called 'What's the matter with What's the Matter with Kansas.”

    http://www.princeton.edu/~bartels/kansas.pdf

    If still true in 2010, and I suspect it is, all this theorizing about major shifts in voting patterns because of religion lately are just not so.

    Indeed, the thesis of “God's Own Party” holds up pretty well—conservative religious types have been voting GOP for a long while if you look up the stats.

    It could simply be that they rejected progressive politics, a painfully simple explanation that I haven't seen at places like the Paul Harvey blog. Anti-communism, acid/amnesty/abortion, redistributionism/social gospel etc. are just the manifestations of the progressive-conservative split, each side predictably adopting one position or the other.

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