Sunday, February 10, 2008

The "History" Of Democratic Assaults On Faith: There Is No There There

I've written quite often on this blog about the constantly-repeated statement that Democrats treat religion, especially Christianity, with disdain and contempt, and that this contempt has driven Christians into the arms of the Republicans. As I've pointed out, this assertion is virtually never accompanied by any evidence. In particular, no one ever cites examples of prominent Democrats saying something contemptuous about faith because, in fact, this really doesn't happen.

The reality is that Republicans encourage conservative Christians to imagine attacks everywhere as a way of strengthening the Republican grip on their votes. Hence notions like "The War on Christmas," in which saying "Happy Holidays" somehow becomes an "insult" to Christians.

In today's Times Book Review, in a review of two books about the Democrats and religion, R. Scott Appleby makes a valiant effort to lend substance to the old myth:
The leadership of the Democratic Party, to its misfortune, has tended to confuse the religious right with religion, period. As a result, they can now look back at a long campaign of successful efforts to alienate white Christians, who make up two-thirds of the American electorate.

At the 1972 national convention in Miami, for example, when party progressives banished the Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley and his 58 handpicked delegates, most of them ethnic Catholics, in order to lend greater gender and racial balance to the Illinois delegation. At the failure, during the Carter years, to prevent the loss of jobs by blue-collar Catholics in the Rust Belt. At the elevation of abortion rights to canonical status and the silencing of Democratic voices in opposition, like that of the Pennsylvania governor and pro-life Catholic Robert Casey, a convinced liberal on universal health care, poverty reduction, education and the like, who was denied the podium at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. (However, many alienated Democrats came home to vote for religiously literate Bill Clinton in 1992, whose pro-choice mantra promised that abortions during his administration would be "safe, legal and rare.")

Nor were the party elites terribly distraught when their 2004 presidential nominee, John Kerry, a serious Catholic who mumbled and stumbled around that potentially appealing fact early in the campaign, landed in hot water with a handful of ultra-aggressive Catholic bishops. Although this minority's heavy-handed threats to deny Communion to a pro-choice Catholic candidate were met with quiet disdain--episcopal omerta--by a majority of their fellow bishops, who hate abortion but resist politicizing the Eucharist, the Kerry campaign mounted no effective response.
Wow--so this is Appleby's list of "successful efforts to alienate white Christians" by the Democratic party:

(1) The party insisted on seating a multiracial delegation from Illinois at their convention back in 1972, rather than Boss Daley's hand-picked cronies. This apparently constituted a religious insult to Daley's Polish and Irish buddies.

(2) They didn't do enough to fend off economic problems for the auto industry in the 1970s--which, again, somehow has a religious significance. (I never realized Toyota was out to victimize the guys in Flint, Michigan, because they were Roman Catholics.)

(3) They supposedly prevented an anti-abortion politician from speaking at their 1992 convention. (Actually the story behind this event is more complicated than the simplistic version used ever since to beat Democrats over the head. But one would think that the idea that the Democrats are intolerant toward pro-lifers is undermined, to say the least, by the fact that their Senate leader Harry Reid is pro-life.)

(4) They didn't effectively rebut a religiously-based attack against their candidate John Kerry in 2004.

Is that it? Two events that obviously had absolutely nothing to do with religion; one that has been overblown by propagandists; and one in which Democrats were victims of religious bias rather than pepetrators. That constitutes the Democrats' supposedly horrific record of "efforts to alienate white Christians."

If this is the best evidence that prosecutor Appleby can cite to demonstrate the Democratic party's disrespect for religion, I don't think there's much need for me or anyone else to mount a defense.

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