Echo chamber: Democrats get religion?

UCClogo.jpgWe could have started an entire blog during the past six months on the subject of the Democratic Party and religion. Check out this package at The Dallas Morning News — in the new weekly Points section edited by Rod “friend of this blog” Dreher — on the theme “Can the Democratic Party be fixed?”

Then there is this piece by columnist Andrew Ferguson at Bloomberg. As you know, we don’t do much here with opinion columns, but, hey, don’t you think this is a snappy headline? — “Can Democrats, Like Republicans, Get Religion?”

We like the sound of that.

By the way, if you Google the words Get Religion right now, we are nearing the 100,000 mark for use of the phrase. Then there’s nearly 16,000 for GetReligion (without the space, the way we use it in the URL). Coming soon — GetReligion T-shirts, mugs and (according to young Jeremy) lunch boxes. We will pass on the Air America-style thong.

Meanwhile, here is one of the money quotes from the Ferguson column, focusing on the recent life and times of one John Podesta and the Center for American Progress:

Many Democrats have been awed by the success of the conservative movement within the Republican party. So over the last two years, Democratic activists have created a series of mirror-image institutions and initiatives — their own talk radio network, quasi-academic think tanks (Podesta’s center is the most prominent), media watchdog groups, ideologically motivated lobbying firms. It worked for conservatives, why not liberals?

Podesta’s faith initiative shows the delusion at the heart of this mimicry. There’s no doubting that religious conservatives have been one of the great engines of Republican electoral success. Yet this part of the conservative movement has been what a progressive might call “organic,” a spontaneous coming-together of like-minded people in the face of intolerable offenses (so conservatives believed) from the larger secular culture.

The religious right, in other words, is a bottom-up movement, bound together by a sense of grievance. Podesta’s initiative, on the other hand, looks like an attempt to gin up an artificial movement that otherwise shows no independent signs of viability.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • William Harris

    Ferguson may actually be behind the wave on this one, or perhaps he’s only looking at the Inside the Beltway varieties.

    If our community in west Michigan is any indication, Dems are in fact organizing at the grass roots levels. Both the Dean organization (now Democracy for America) and MoveOn continue to function; and of course their grievances with current stewardship of the government in D.C. haven’t exactly disappeared. What is true is that the idea organizations — the think tanks etc. — are still largely a top down item; the authentic ones will emerge soon enough.

    For those Democrats such as myself who seek a more responsive party, this ferment carries some real possibilities. That one form of politicized religion seems triumphant does not mean that other forms of religious engagement in politics are ruled out. After all, a generation ago it was the mainline liberal church that held sway, with the evangelicals scurrying in the corners. Movements to the extreme, or to the idiosycnratic (what DOES faith have to do with filibusters?) create openings for more centrist views. Like I said, an opportunity.

    Democrats and the Democratic Party are moving toward a new defnition, as indeed they must. That redefinition creates the possibility for a clearer, more productive engagement with faith that rejects the fundamentalisms of the Religious Right and of the Cultural Left.

  • Kensho Godchaser

    It’s an interesting development. Certainly a Democratic embrace of religion would be more open-minded and modern than the corresponding conservative embrace. And it would shut up the Republican bluster about how the Democrats are “against religion”.

    On the other hand, I believe the strength of the religious right in politics is vastly overrated. The movement is in overdrive because it’s losing the broader cultural war. We’re witnessing a bunker mentality. Americans are becoming more tolerant, not less. We’re becoming more willing to experiment with individual faith-systems, not less. We’re more willing to support marriage equality today, not less.

    The RR is working overtime to make its voice heard because it knows that, at the current rate, nobody will be listening in another 50 years.

  • jjayson

    Podestra is wrong in the Bloomberg piece. You cannot defend universal health care on moral grounds. It is at its essence a policy question, not a moral question. Just because somebody wants to help the poor get medical care, that doesn’t mean that any plan they think up will magically work.

    These ideas, such as universal care, keep getting shot down at the state and national level. The lefties like those at CAP have had their ideas defeated even in the most liberal of states, and now they are putting a religious vaneer over them hoping that the problems magically disappear. The American public isn’t as easily fooled though.

  • Brad

    You can easily defend ensuring everyone has the basic right to healthcare on moral grounds.

    You can call it by the name “universal healthcare” or by some other name, but the idea that some should be able to get often life-saving care and others shouldn’t, based on income, is quite suspect from a moral point of view.


  • Walter

    On a much lighter note, I think my wife would be happy to wear a “GetReligion” thong.