Thursday, September 23, 2004

Alan Wolfe in the Boston Globe on the Democrats' much-reported "God problem," which has made latent believers of Howard Dean and John Kerry:

Secularism has its greatest appeal among upper-middle-class liberals and professionals, while poorer Americans tend to be more religious. Democrats simply cannot win elections based on the votes of the former. For one thing, there are not enough of them. For another, significant numbers of upper-middle-class professionals, however strong their identification with the left on cultural issues, are Republicans on economic ones -- and frequently vote that way.

I think this is one of those issues that will continue to fragment people in the years ahead, particularly among college-educated voters: Republicans are going to invest a lot of capital in presenting the right/left debate as one between God versus the Devil, Jerry Falwell and Richard Dawkins -- and the Democrats will do nothing but lose. Politics thrives on common ground, and I'm not altogether certain the Democrats haven't gambled too much of it away. Wolfe and The Nation and others have issued these wake-up calls about not alienating religious believers, but they may be too little, too late -- and when you cede religious belief to the Republicans, you cede the country as well. People will go where they feel welcome, simple as that.

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