The Religion Gap

Can Democrats bridge it?

This may well be remembered as the year of the Democratic Revival, when Democrats stopped allowing religion and God to be co-opted by the Republican Party and started to fight back. For the first time in a generation, the presidential campaign has been explicitly cast not as the party of values vs. the party of none, or the party that respects faith vs. the party that doesn’t. Instead, the choice is about which values voters align themselves with. Heading into the fall debates, both George W. Bush and John Kerry have already laid out their political theologies. Now the preaching begins in earnest.

The gauntlet was officially thrown down on day two of the Democratic Convention in Boston. “We worship an awesome God in the blue states!” Illinois state senator Barack Obama declared to an arena full of five thousand cheering delegates who roared their approval back at him. The proclamation was more than just a shot across the bow of the Bush/Cheney campaign. And it was more than just a sign that Democrats can wield religious rhetoric as skillfully and subtly as Bush and his speechwriters. It was also a salvo in the internal struggle being waged in the Democratic Party over whether and how to address the role of religion in politics. If the past few months are any guide, that debate may soon be over.

The “religion gap” has become the hot topic du jour in political polling, launching many a panel discussion...

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About the Author

Amy Sullivan is a doctoral candidate in sociology at Princeton and a frequent contributor to the Washington Monthly.