CW on the Dems

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donkey.jpgJane Lampman of the Christian Science Monitor had nice profile profile of Leah Daughtry, the Pentecostal pastor who is CEO of the Democratic National Convention, a few days ago. It does, however, trade heavily in what has now become narrative orthodoxy: that not until two years ago did the Democrats take faith-based campaigning seriously, and only this election cycle have the doubters been convinced. The only recognized exception to this formula is the longstanding habit of Democratic candidates’ appearing in black churches.
The narrative is not quite as true as it sometimes seems. (I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating.) To be sure, the Democrats have not tied their wagon to a religious cohort the way the Republicans did to white evangelicals in the 1980s. But telling the story of the party’s awkwardness with religion usually means referring to Michael Dukakis in 1988 and John Kerry in 2004–two candidates from a part of the country where religion does not play a part in political campaigning. Read out of the story are Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and Al Gore, Southern Baptists all, who had no difficulty doing the religion thing. Carter was notoriously born again and Clinton was a very churchly guy whose difficulties with religious voters had nothing to do with an inability to relate to people of faith. Presidential candidates do not, of course, constitute a whole party. But they are disproportionately the political figures whose religious stance matters to American voters.
One other thing. Reports that all Democratic insiders are now cool with religious outreach seem to be exaggerated. All campaigns are about the allocation of scarce resources, and there are plenty of power centers within both the DNC and the Obama campaign that want no truck with religion. So far as I know, the Joshua Generation is still wandering nameless in the wilderness.