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There is a belief, widely shared in the Obama camp, that there is a plethora of voters out there who are dying to vote for a Democrat if they can just be convinced that he or she is truly religious. The storyline goes that there were folks who didn’t believe Al Gore or John Kerry were serious about their faith, so these voters cast ballots for Bush (presumably because he seemed more faith saturated). In this view, these men and women will join the ranks of Democratic voters this year if the Democratic nominee talks about God a lot, or at least talks about God as much as the Republican candidate.
As I mentioned a few weeks back on Keith Obermann’s show I can’t say with absolute certainty that such people don’t exist. However, neither at that time nor since have I seen any polling data to suggest that “evangelicals” are all of a sudden rushing to embrace the Democratic ticket. Sure, there are evangelicals like Steven Mansfield who just wrote The Faith of Barack Obama who are absolutely convinced that he is an authentic and honest Christian–but who told me on my radio show that he wouldn’t be voting for the Senator because Obama is “pro choice”. Why go after voters who will say, in the end, “nice fellow, true believer, not voting for him though”?
Now comes the merchandising add-on to this story: faith merchandise announcing, for example, that you are a “Catholic for Obama”. I’m not sure how far this will go. Will we see “Presbyterians for Obama”? Or, to dig deeper, “Left Handed Methodists for Obama”? Or maybe “United Church of Christ Members Who Don’t Agree With Jeremiah Wright For Obama”?
Seriously, I think one of the great strengths of the American political system has been that it has largely avoided setting up political parties along religious lines. Many countries have chosen to do otherwise and have suffered from it. It is not a healthy direction, in my opinion, to have political parties treat members of faith communities as just one more special interest group. Religious values often motivate people to act in ways that help their communities and even give a general direction to their voting patterns. But, shouldn’t candidates be most interested in finding people of every race, religion, and ethnicity who agree with them on the merits of their positions alone? Perhaps this is too much to ask.
And, by the way, back on those shirts and other paraphernalia–does
anyone really believe that if one Scientologist or one Mormon saw some
guy wearing a “Scientologist/Mormon for Obama” tee he or she would say:
“that’s the capper for me; I’m voting Democratic this time”. If you
find that person, have him or her call me, please.