Tuesday, November 09, 2004

# Posted 9:25 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

THE GOP HAS THE EVANGELICALS, THE DEMOCRATS HAVE THE BLACK VOTE: Imagine that John Kerry had prevailed in Ohio or even nation-wide. Would the experts attribute his victory to surging African-American turnout or to a widespread repudiation of Bush's foreign policy?

Hypothetical questions may not have answers, but I am struck at how far Democratic pundits are willing to go in order to demonstrate that Bush's victory has nothing to do with his foreign policy and everything to do with evangelical homophobia and ignorance.

Laura Rozen says that if you are complacent about Christian conservatives' assault on our civil rights, then you are just plain ignorant (like David Brooks). Laura approvingly cites an e-mail sent to Andrew Sullivan which argues that:
To point out that the evangelicals voted in the same proportion for Bush as they did in 2000 gets a fact right and misses the point. What matters is that the Bush vote by these folks did not erode in the face of catastrophic management of post-invasion Iraq, prisoner atrocities, transformation of the surplus into a suffocating deficit and terrible job performance. It seems to me that their religious views trump everything. You switched your vote - why didn't they? The answer is complex, but you can bet it includes homophobia deftly catalyzed by Mr. Rove et al.
Sullivan responds: "He's got a point, no?" Actually, no, no he doesn't. Leaving aside the issue of whether Kerry would've been even worse for Iraq than Bush, I think it's misleading to suggest that homophobia compensated for evangelicals' hypothetical dissatisfaction with Bush's foreign policy.

Again, think about African-Americans. How badly would a Democratic president or candidate have to perform to lose more than 15% of the black vote?
This trend in black voting doesn't provoke much concern because observers on both sides consider it to be rational.

But when it comes to evangelicals, we presume that their motives for voting Republican are misguided, illegitimate, or even undemocratic. But what if evangelicals, like African-Americans -- and as Richard Cohen points out, American Jews -- consistently vote for one party because of its basic cultural orientation, rather than because of its position on any single issue?

Matt Yglesias wants to know exactly when John Kerry or any other Democratic candidate was condescending toward evangelicals. The answer to Matt's rhetorical is "almost never". But that's not that point.

Negative attitudes towards evangelicals, justified or not, abound in the Blue State Media. Democratic candidates may avoid invoking them, but I don't think that even Matt would deny that Christians, especially evangelicals, are looked down upon by the glitterati. After all, Matt himself refers to the them as "chumps" and suggests that they are "detached from reality".

In essence, evangelicals face the same dilemma as African-Americans. They consider one major party to be anathema, thus ensuring that the other major party takes them for granted.

Steve Waldman, editor of Beliefnet.com, suggests that Christian activists may not let Bush get away with being as non-committal as he was during his first term. (Laura Rozen cites Waldman approvingly.) But how much is going to change while the underlying political dynamic remains the same?
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