How Democrats can acquire religious voters.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Nov. 5 2004 4:11 PM

Why Americans Hate Democrats—A Dialogue

Let's talk about faith.

(Continued from Page 1)

Yet Kerry refused to talk about this—presumably because he didn't want to offend pro-choice voters and fund-raisers. Well, Republican leaders routinely sit down with their interest groups and say, in effect, "Cut me some slack and we'll win this thing." And the interest groups do—and they win.  Democratic politicians have to say to pro-choice groups, "You got 100 percent pro-choice purity from the Democratic nominee—and Republican control of the White House, Senate, the House, and Supreme Court. Perhaps we could try a different approach?"

What about the God talk? As I've argued often in these pages in the past, the Democrats need to be able to speak about faith in a way that doesn't seem phony and alien. Perhaps the most telling moment was during the Democratic Convention when, in the midst of a very good riff on his faith, Kerry declared, "We welcome people of faith." It sounded like he was the leader of a secular party graciously opening the doors to strangers.

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Democratic politicians should never forget something simple: Most Republicans and most Democrats are religious. Using faith language is not just about sucking up to their voters, it's about talking to your own base, too—and those Catholics who abandoned the party this year.

On some level, the hardest thing that Democratic leaders, activists, and journalists have to do is honestly ask themselves this: Do you hold very religious people in contempt? If you do, religious people will sense it—and will vote against you. And there are more of them than there are of you.

Steven Waldman is the editor in chief and CEO of Beliefnet, the leading multifaith (and nonpartisan) religion and spirituality Web site.

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