Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Religious Left Wannabe Power Brokers

Here are some excerpts from that article by Mithras that Digby referred to in my last post. Good stuff that needs saying.
It's one thing to say that your religious values tell you that the goals of the Democratic Party are good and right, and so you support them. There's absolutely nothing wrong with saying that the morally desirable policies of the Democratic Party have not been effectively communicated to a group of voters. It's quite different to imply that your religious values are morally superior to those of other people, and that the goals of the Democratic Party must be religiously redirected to be good and right.


Again, really? That means someone like me, a lifelong atheist, who admires the hell out of an evangelical Christian like Fred Clark - a guy, by the way, pretty frequently quoted by Duncan - is just faking it. All of us secular liberals don't mean it when we say that what enrages us is someone citing God as the justification to, say, take away women's constitutional rights. In fact, we really hate Christians who behave like they really believe in peace and justice. It must have something to do with us also loving terrorists. Perhaps Kleiman can consult Ann Althouse to figure out what makes us so wacky.

The real reason the "megachurch as it currently stands is one of the props of the God-and-Mammon Coalition" is not, as Kleiman thinks, because Democrats shun religion. It's because the religious left as a group has not gotten off its collective ass and done anything. They let their denominations be taken over by conservatives who used hardball tactics.


Get that? [Kleiman believes that t]he anti-abortion movement, dominated by bigoted conservatives, could be infiltrated by the crafty operatives of the Religious Left, if only we hugged them and told them how smart they are. It's naive in the extreme to think the cultural right and the Republican party would allow itself to lose control of the anti-abortion movement. Liberal Christians have no traction on such issues because we're insufficiently encouraging? As someone else has said, it's a fight, no one is handing out invitations, so if you want to participate get in there and start swinging. Land a few solid punches for the side of right and then you'll get a pat on the back - you earn respect by doing what's difficult and right.

As it is, the Christian Left as a group is in the position of having had its ass handed to it by the conservatives, and now they're trying to pull those of us who have been fighting long and hard against the evil pricks off them. And what do they tell us to do? Be nicer. Agree with them that abortion is morally wrong and God approves only of heterosexuality. Give them the right to say how the Democratic Party should handle "moral" issues. Basically, give them power that they haven't earned, and abandon principled, moral positions to do so.


The question for Vanderslice, as it was for Nader and MoveOn, is: Will adopting your positions gain us more votes than it loses? It's indisputable that Nader cost Gore the election, but if Gore had bought Nader off by adopting some of his policies, it's just as sure that moderates who otherwise would have supported Gore would have bolted. Gore loses either way. On the other hand, MoveOn and liberal blogs energized a Democratic base that was sick and tired of Democratic candidates wimping out, without driving away anyone who wasn't probably going to vote Republican already. Dean championed this approach and won the DNC chair, which led to the 2006 midterms; John Kerry failed to embrace it and lost. Accepting Ms. Vanderslice as the "soul and conscience" of the party means adopting positions that implicitly undermine the political rationale for the civil rights of women and gay and lesbian people. Kleiman just assumes, based on nothing I can see, that we'll pick up more votes among evangelicals than we'll lose elsewhere. Does that strike you as realistic?


First, note her statement that Democrats need to work to convince religious people that it is possible they can be "people of moral values" and "Democrats." Kleiman argues that the generous reading of this to Vanderslice is that we need to do a better sales job. Duncan says that you would have had to have been asleep for the past six years to believe that the Republican Party - which tortures people, jails others without charge, allows American cities to be destroyed by natural disasters, and starts wars on a pretext - are the moral ones. If they haven't been asleep, what Vanderslice must be saying is that evangelicals have real, substantive concerns that Democrats are less moral than Republicans.

The leaves us with only two possible conclusions: That evangelicals who don't vote Democrat are stupid and uninformed, or they're stupid and unable to make good moral decisions. Either way, I am not in favor of catering to them.

Second, do we really need "a more thoughtful debate on the abortion issue in this country"? I thought the discussion for the past 35 years has been full of thought, as well as spittle, invective, threats and the whiff of gunpowder. I don't recall avoiding the "painful and divisive issue" as I was doing clinic defense and patient escort during attempts to blockade the clinic by anti-abortion zealots. I do recall wondering if I was going to get shot. If by "thoughtful" Vanderslice means "Evangelical anti-abortion people need to tone down the murder rhetoric", well, count me as on board that ship. Not that long ago, there was a guy who was blowing up abortion clinics, and he hid out in the woods where he got help from good, God-fearing Christians


She thought the Catholic League was going to say nice things about her. Similarly, she thinks if we just sit down and listen seriously to anti-abortion evangelicals, they'll come over to our side. I am sure the anti-abortion folks she talks to don't want to hurt this sweet lady's feelings, so they say things like, "I support you [and] everything you are doing on every other issue except for this one." Of course, what they really mean is, "You work for babykillers." You want to give these people a seat at the table? The price they will exact is that certain other people lose their place at the table. They are not interested in compromise to reduce the number of abortions; that's been on the table for years. They don't want to fund sex ed and contraception. They want to ban abortion. Then they want to ban sex ed. Then they want to ban contraception.

nicest thing you can say about Vanderslice is that she is in over her head. Kleiman too.

As Atrios says:
Indeed. The real issue, as I keep saying, is that "people believe different stuff." Faith and morality are lovely words, but their meanings vary greatly depending on who is mouthing them. Appeals to morality, with or without associated religious appeals, are fine but let's not pretend there is some universal agreed on morality.

White evangelicals
and regular churchgoers are the most supportive of the Bush administration's Iraq policies. Their moral priorities are apparently different than mine.


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