What happened to the all the gains that the Democratic Party made in 2008 among religious voters? According to this article by Daniel Burke, whatever religious voters the Dems gained in 2008 are now gone. Here is a taste:
As Democrats conduct a grim postmortem on Tuesday’s (Nov. 2) elections, some liberal leaders say one diagnosis is already clear: the party’s outreach to religious voters was lifeless from the start.
Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 in part because they wrested Catholics and some white Protestants from Republicans’ tight grip. Gains among those voters helped elect Democrats in rural and suburban areas that had long been GOP
But in 2010, progressive leaders say, Democrats largely retreated to the same-old wonky language to explain their policies, and same-old political strategies to drum up voters — with predictable results.
“One of the ironies is that we had huge success with (faith outreach),” said Eric Sapp, a partner at Eleison Group, a consulting firm that worked on religious outreach for dozens of Democratic campaigns in 2006 and 2008 — but none this year.
“It’s part of why we are in power. It’s been rough to see us go back to that pre-2004 strategy that had kept us in the minority.”
Democrats, at least in the House, will again be in the minority, and their party’s hard-won gains among religious voters are largely gone. Sixty percent of weekly churchgoers voted for House GOP candidates on Tuesday, according to exit polls. Nearly seven in 10 white Protestants punched their ballot for the GOP, a 6-percent surge from 2008, and up eight points from 2006.
Catholics swung even harder toward the GOP, according to the exit polls, with 54 percent voting for House Republicans, compared to 42 percent in 2008, and 44 percent in 2006. Catholics and Protestants combined to make up nearly 80 percent of the electorate on Tuesday.
Lackluster commitment from party leaders, a failure to connect their policies with moral values, and the dire economy all explain Democrats’ lack of success with religious voters, according to politicos and faith leaders.
Tom Van Dyke says
Catholics are the key, 25% of the country or so.
Their vote splits 50-50, the true religious “swing vote.”
But I'm completely unconvinced that religion or faith issues has a damn thing to do with how they swing.
There are probably a third who cannot vote for the abortion party and a third like my mother, the FDR Democrats who would sooner die than ever vote for a Republican.
What is politely unstated is ethnicity, and left out of the equation, tells us nothing about these religion demographics. Hispanic Catholics and black evangelicals vote as ethnic blocs. They don't care about religion and faith issues either.
White evangelicals vote as a less-defined bloc, perhaps 70-30 or 60-40, depending on the candidate. I expect “mainline” Protestants vote similarly, but perhaps even more uniformly.
Lackluster commitment from party leaders, a failure to connect their policies with moral values, and the dire economy all explain Democrats' lack of success with religious voters, according to politicos and faith leaders.
I completely object to that analysis. The Religious Right and the ethnic left are relatively immutable blocs. The religious left [including Jews] and the cultural right also.
This election was about the president's policies and competence. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
John Fea says
I think I agree with your here, Tom.
Although the way in which the Dems and Obama have stopped talking about faith is worth noting.
Tom Van Dyke says
In that respect, I think President Obama has done fine.
Part of the Democrat coalition is the [frankly] anti-religious left, and he has thrown more inclusive rhetorical bones in their direction than any politician who comes to mind.
I think he survived the “We are not a Christian nation” thing without losing any votes, and kept his secular left flank happier than they need to be kept. 😉
My argument is—and all good American politicians understand this—don't be hostile to religion, don't be a holy roller. We have never elected one or the other.
And, to my mind, neither should we. William Jennings Bryan? Oy.
In fact, if we troll through their speeches, Obama has hit more biblical notes than Bush; FDR and Truman more than that evangelical Dubya, that “new American theocracy” guy.
And that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton hit Christianity more than Ronald Reagan, the Religious Right's FDR, I betcha.
To return to President Obama, that “brother's keeper” and “social gospel” only goes so far, those who buy it have already bought it. No swing votes in it—Catholics have heard it all before, and when it comes to religion, they already have a pope. The job is filled.