dollarsign.jpgSince 2004, Democrats have been working to frame economic concerns as values issues. A good example was the wave of state ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage in 2006, in which liberal religious groups played a leading role. That campaign was a big success.

Still, God-o-Meter has been skeptical to the degree to which Democrats can convince voters that the economy is a values issue on par with the more visceral issues that have benefited the Christian Right: abortion, gay marriage, prayer in schools, etc.

That skepticism informed GOM’s reading of today’s AP article describing Barack Obama’s and other Democrats’ efforts to call the nation’s current economic woes and financial crises as values issues:

Now, with U.S. financial systems in turmoil and the government rushing to fix them, Democrats sense an opportunity to highlight the economy as a values issue and attract middle-of-the-road religious believers who were central to President Bush’s winning coalition in 2004.

For years, more liberal faith leaders have tried to elevate fighting poverty at home and abroad onto the values agenda. What’s changed is that an increasing number of voters are seeing suffering not just in the streets but in the mirror.

That’s not all that’s changed.

In previous election cycles, when Democrats cried “values!” over economic issues, lots of religious leaders and ordinary religious folks viewed its as pure window dressing on policy prescriptions that had little to do with religious convictions. It seemed that Democrats were mentioning values only when it suited their political self-interest.

What makes this electon cycle different is that the Democrats, with Obama at the helm, have spent years trying to show the American people that faith and values matter to them big time, and not just voting on the budget for food stamps and it behooves them to start calling budget requests “moral documents.”

So Democrats may have more credibility among religious voters than they did a few years ago. And now that so many of those voters are feeling such acute economic pain, voting for a Democrat might not seem as morally objectionable as it did several years ago.


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