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Democrats Must Get Religion

Thanks to Jesus Politics for the link to this very cool conversation on TPMCafe...on why Democrats must get Religion:

"In order to win elections consistently, the Democratic Party in particular and progressives in general must learn the language of faith. The proof of this can be clearly found in Sojourners breakdown of Zogby's polling results after the 2004 election: 78.7% of respondents said that religion/spirituality was either very important or somewhat important in their lives. In that same poll, 66.1% of respondents said that faith and values were either very important or somewhat important in deciding their vote for president. And yet, throughout the 2004 campaign, the only strong statement on faith from the Democratic party came from Barak Obama at the Democratic National Convention when he declared: We worship an awesome God in the Blue States. There was no Democratic follow up to that statement and Republicans boldly and falsely claimed the mantle of the party of morality and faith and seemed to control every square inch of the religion debate outside that one statement.

Republicans should not be allowed to make those claims unchallenged. Democrats have a deep well of religious and spiritual progressives from which to draw support but they simply do not do so. Beliefnet did a story on the findings of the Pew Religious Forum on the religious groupings in American politics. Their findings were very straightforward:

The Religious Right and the Religious Left are almost exactly the same size.
The former has had a much greater impact for the past 25 years largely because of superior organization and drive.

The inability of those on the religious left to make their message heard bears this theory out. The statistics from Zogby cited by Sojourners on this could not be clearer. When asked during the campaign did you see or hear messages from only religious conservatives 34.3% answered yes. Another 37% felt they had heard from both religious conservatives and liberals. Only 0.8% had heard messages from only religious liberals. So, religious conservatives managed to reach 71% of respondents and religious liberals reached, at best, 38% of respondents. Democratic and progressive voices are not being heard on this subject.

At the same time, voters were very concerned with issues that the religious left can speak on with moral authority. The war in Iraq is an obvious one, but also important are social concerns with poverty, economic inequality and health care, all of which are areas in which the religious left has played an important role in the past. There has been some discussion on TPM café about where ideas for new progressive policies might come from; after all progressives cannot simply defend ideas and programs from the past. Religion, spirituality and faith provided the impetuous for many of the progressive policies in the nineteenth and well into the twentieth century. There is no reason to think that they could not be fertile ground for new ideas once more. Not drawing upon the religious left may have lost the Democratic party more than just the presidency."
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