"Don't Fake it"
"Don't fake it," is the clear primary message from this article from John Brummett in the Arkansa News...but there is a secondary message as well: If Dems can field candidates that can connect naturally to reglious folks, they de-fang faith as a the wedge issue often used by the Republican side.
"The only Democrat to unseat a Republican member of the U.S. Senate in the last two cycles, Mark Pryor of Arkansas told a gathering of frustrated centrist Democrats a couple of years ago that one of his out-of-state consultants did some research and concluded that Pryor ought to talk about his religious faith in every speech.
Pryor said he was wholly comfortable doing that, and pretty much did so. He also ran a television commercial showing his family with bowed heads around the dinner table.
He got 54 percent of the vote while Democrats were getting their clocks cleaned everywhere else, especially in other parts of the South.
Pryor's advantage was that he appeared not to be faking anything, most likely because he wasn't.
A serious cancer scare in early adulthood had influenced him to membership in an interdenominational and evangelical church. The preacher in that church interviewed him in a dubious and challenging way about Pryor's hairsplitting position on abortion...he thinks it's wrong, but that repeal of Roe v. Wade would be an impossible mess and published the transcript on the church Web site. The published dialogue showed that Pryor held his own with the minister on Christian theology, both in terms of Biblical passages and modern literature.
So, last week the Democracy Corps, an alliance of Democrat strategists founded by old Clintonites like James Carville and Stanley Greenberg released findings of focus group studies among disaffected George Bush supporters in Colorado and Kentucky and rural voters in Arkansas and Wisconsin.
They found that nearly all economic issues work among those rural voters to the benefit of Democrats, but that it doesn't matter because cultural issues are defining.
Particularly among noncollege rural voters, there was little awareness of differences between Democrats and Republicans on health care, prescription drugs, economic policy and retirement security. Those voters assumed that the party closest to them on cultural issues would be closest to them on other issues as well...
Unless a Democrat can connect with that fellow naturally, he'd best not try it. Howard Dean recently went to Arkansas talking about how Jesus preached more like a Democrat than a Republican, and it was fairly laughable.
Dean met in Arkansas with Tim Wooldridge, a Church of Christ lay preacher who is running as a Democrat for lieutenant governor. "I told him you have to be real, to be bona fide," Woodridge said, "because if you?re not, you're going to smack of hypocrisy and gag people."