Karl Rove did it. He was able to coble together a slight majority in this country by appeals to the base and in this particular election one of the most important components of that base was the evangelical protestant community. I don't have any criticism of Kerry and the moblization of the left in this country was the most impressive I've ever seen. That's probably why I had some level of optimism going into this election. But the problem is that evangelical protestants are so large a voting block that surmounting it in a national election is going to be an a daunting task for democrats in many states.
An example was in Ohio, whose anti-gay marriage amendment won by a lopsided margin. According to NBC news 25% of Ohio voters were evangelicals, the top issue in this and other midwest states was "moral values". Even though these regions, including Ohio had been economically devastated, the "values" issues put Bush over the top in Ohio and I'm assuming these dynamics were at work in places like Missouri and West Virginia. Using the anti-gay issue in a number of states was a calculation that paid dividends for the Bush campaign and that's a sad statement of where we are at this time in our country's history.
As Max Blumenthal noted: the focus needs to be in addressing the rise of the evangelical right. The need he says is "to strengthen coalitions with mainline Catholic and Protestant churches as well as liberal faith-based groups." I agree but this needs to be a long term process and sometimes odd issues like the fight over the mainline has political ramifications that I don't think most in the Democratic Party is aware of. So new thinking is needed. In finding ways to strengthen a liberal religious voice. And there must be a way to expand our moral language so that the war, poverty, and other issues are seen as moral ones.
Blumenthall continues "And the religious Left, if there is one, must work to build a political apparatus to match the muscle of their adversaries" Of course one of the problems which GetReligion has noted, is that we don't have the numbers. Or the resources. I was impressed by the moblization and the hard work of the religious left in this election cycle but we can't at this moment deliver the votes. Or even shape the debate in a substantive way. That needs to change. I think the decline in the mainline denominations has made this job much harder. Some look to picking off evangelical voters, but I think this election will show that they were overwhelmingly behind Bush.
I think that if we look to Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and other voters you'll see support for Kerry. A religious left needs to find a way to network, work with, incorporate a number of religious communities that are on the outs in Bush's America. The religious left organizationally is a movement of primarily mainline christian folks on the left. But I don't think that's going to be enough if there's going to be a different religious voice which affects the public discussion. This sort of work is a long term project, not something which pays off immediately in this next election.But we need to be thinking with an eye to the long term.