The Rise Of The Non-Christian Coalition

The very interesting comments in the previous post on generational demographics planted an idea in my brain: how long will it be before the pro-Democratic non-Christian coalition is larger than the pro-Republican Christian coalition? In my estimation, one or two cycles at the most.
Five weeks before the election, I wrote the following: With Muslim voters now overwhelming opposing Bush (a sharp contrast from 2000), with "Secular Warriors" also swinging heavily against Bush, and with Jewish voters overwhelming opposed to Bush, two equally sized religious blocks have formed in this country. On the one hand, representing just under 20% of the voting public, are white, evangelical and born again Protestants that support Bush roughly three to one. On the other hand, there is a diverse group of the religious and the irreligious, connected only by the common thread that they do not consider themselves Christian. This group also makes up just under 20% of the voting population, but opposes Bush roughly three to one. What happened was slightly different. White Evangelical / Born-Again Protestants ended up being 23% of the electorate, while the non-Christian percentage of the electorate was slightly smaller at 20%. Further, Bush won the larger group 78-21, while Kerry won the smaller group by a 71-27 count. Overall, this meant that instead of these two bases canceling each other out, Bush won by just over five million votes within this 43% of the electorate (53 million voters), a margin Kerry was unable to make up in the remaining 57% of the electorate.

That the two coalitions did not end up canceling each other out is why Bush won the election. As I have argued in the past, along with droves of other pundits, Bush won in 2004 with huge base turnout, especially among evangelicals concerned with "moral values." However, considering demographic trends that will soon cause the white born again / evangelical vote to be swamped by the non-Christian coalition, the success of such a strategy is fleeting and possibly specific to 2004.

In the 2000 election, 18% of the electorate self-identified as some form of non-Christian (Jewish 4%, other 5%, none 9%). Gore won this 18% of the electorate by a margin of 61-30, with Nader mopping up a surprisingly large 7% of this vote. In 2004, Kerry won this group 71-27, with the group as a whole now forming 20% of the electorate (Jewish 3%, Other 7%, none 10%). Overall, in 2000 this group represented 22.9% of Gore's total vote, while in 2004 it made up 29.4% of Kerry's total vote. In terms of total votes, 11.7 million voted for Gore in 2000, while 17.3 million voted for Kerry in 2004. For Bush, 5.7 million voted for him in 2000, while 6.6 million voted for him in 2004. Kerry won 86% of the new voters in this category. The total Democratic margin among this group of voters increased by a whopping 4.7 million in 2004, in an election where the overall Democratic margin dropped by 3.6 million. Overall, roughly 70% of new Democratic voters fit into this group.

Non-Christians, as a group, are growing much faster than Latinos. Hell, this demographic is growing at a rate that would put most third-world countries to shame. According to the American Religious Identification Survey study by CUNY, in 1990, 24.215 million adult Americans were estimated to be in the "non-Christian" group. In 2001, 48.467 million adult Americans were estimated to be in this group. Not only did this group double in size over that eleven-year period, it actually represented 75% of the total increase in the adult population over those eleven years. And I repeat: Kerry won 86% of the new voters in this demographic in 2004.

Further, this group isn't going away. In the comments of the previous post, discussing the already linked CUNY survey, fwiffo wrote this summary of the situation (emphasis mine):

One significant finding is switching of individuals between religious groups. The most common sorts of switches are between various Christian groups (e.g. people who change from one protestant denomination to another, or most commonly, from a specific denomination to non-denominational and/or evangelical), or people dropping out of religion altogether. People switching into religion from being non-religious (e.g. atheist) is relatively rare. The survey might even over-count that group, since it probably includes quite a few "born-agains". I've met a fair share that claim that they used to be "godless" but "found Jesus" in their couch one day. In reality, most of them identified with one Christian group or another prior to becoming hyper-religious, but they just became much more vigorous about it.

So, we are becoming less religious as a whole, and the secular folks, as a demographic, is growing and doesn't easily lose members. A subset of people who remain religious are becoming somewhat more fanatical and outspoken. The Republicans have allied themselves with the larger, shrinking, and increasingly noisy ultra-religious group, and the secular have aligned themselves with the Democrats (not the other way around - Democrats haven't aligned themselves with anything or anyone in particular).

I think is exactly right. After the election, even I told Democrats repeatedly that we needed to do a better job of expressing their faith, because the values voters had delivered the election to Bush. However, a closer look at demographic figures in the country might reveal the folly, even the rank insanity, of such a strategy. For two consecutive elections, Democrats have won a huge majority of the rapidly rising non-Christian vote, and we are supposed to try and appeal to Christian fundamentalists who, as a demographic, are comparatively static, even shrinking? This strategy gets even worse when you consider this comment from thirdestate: Speaking as a political scientist....

Generally speaking, the "you get more conservative as you get older" myth really is a myth. People's ideological/partisan identification don't change much after the age of 30. If someone votes for the same party three times in a row, they're hooked for life. It takes some earth-shattering to change after that.

People don't get more conservative as they get older, but they do get more rigid. What happens is that ideology acts as an informational screen - people shield out stuff that is inconsistent with their predispositions (which is why FOX News works). So as we get older, our attitudes get reinforced.

So liberals should NOT get happy if people who are under 30 are on the left, because the young are very volatile. But after thirty, it's smooth sailing.

Considering their fondness for Nader, I have little doubt that non-Christians went huge for Perot both in 1992 and 1996. Thus, considering Democratic success among non-Christians in 2000 and 2004, we are on the brink of winning this group for life. Republicans are not going to try for them in 2008, they simply do not have the option considering the current power of the evangelicals within the Republican party. However, if Democrats were to choose a candidate based on his or her perceived electability, related to his or her ability to talk to evangelicals, it would probably be the dumbest, most myopic, bandwagon jumping, self-eviscerating maneuver we have made as a party in decades. We are on the brink of winning the long-term support of easily the fastest growing demographic in America, and the best strategic advice we can think of is to alienate them? No pun intended, but Mother of God is that a bad idea.

We need to embrace the non-Christian coalition with open arms, and even try to press our advantage among them. At the latest, they will have easily surpassed the "values voters" in size and voting power by 2012, the time of the next great Congressional realignment. If we blow this one, we won't even sniff the reigns of power for another generation. If we win this segment of the electorate, the future will be ours.

Tags: Demographics (all tags)

Comments

65 Comments

The Two America's
Greenberg had a lot of interesting stats on this group, the Secular Warriors, which is basically the netroots basis driving the D's right now.
by Jerome Armstrong 2005-04-12 08:33AM | 0 recs
We will win the Clone Wars
We can recruit our supporters but they have to give birth to theirs. Unfortunately for them they don't have the rapid development ability of the Star Wars clones. Maybe this is why they are so desparate to paint people who don't marry and raise lots of Christian kids as Unamerican. Reproduction is what they are good at but it doesn't work on electoral time scales. Also, this is the first time I have heard of Democrats doing well in a growing demographic. It seems to be more important than Republican's success in the fast growing suburbs. Suburban Republican growth seems to be at least in part a matter of allready conservative people moving to the burbs (a geographic realignment) whereas non-Christian Democratic growth appears to result from expansion of the non-Christian category.  
by TJonBergman 2005-04-12 08:47AM | 0 recs
Re: We will win the Clone Wars
I firmly disagree with your statement, "We can recruit our supporters but they have to give birth to theirs."  They are very good at recruiting new people.  Missionaries and other good evangelicals "witness" to people, bringing them into the fold.  If you are an evangelical, you will be taught how to do this sort of thing.  Not doing it is sinful.
by nanoboy 2005-04-12 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: We will win the Clone Wars
I agree that missionaries can be very successful. It is just that the trends show America becoming less and less Christian. Within America, I think there may be a trend among those who are already Christian to be more vocal/extreme Christians. I don't know how succesful missionaries are at recruiting completely non-religious people into Christianity but they appear to be losing to those who drift away from Christianity. I was mostly trying a silly summary of the data.
by TJonBergman 2005-04-12 10:47AM | 0 recs
always trying to turn me
And never succeeding.  It's funny to me to have them try.  I've had enough of them try to convert me, including a roommate in college who'd refuse to be quite when I'd meditate or attempt wiccan rituals.  She'd usually throw on lights and stomp around the room like a child.  That really sin't the way to get me to see your faith as a positive when you can't even begin to simply tolerate mine.

Today, I choose to be quite about my faith.  Although, I've given up sugar for the Solstice.  From Ostara to Solstice.  4 weeks this coming Sunday.

by bendygirl 2005-04-12 11:59AM | 0 recs
Too much data
Put it in a nutshell.

In your therory though their are some potential flaws.  While people may not always become more consrvative as they grow older, though a portion of them do, people do tend to become more religious as they grow older.  Most demographics show that people who are in their twenties are far less likly to be regular church attenders then they will be in their forties.  Various reason but the main one is they are more likly to attend church as family than as a single.

AS for the non chirstian religions, Jews, Islam they may well fall into the Democratic party, I do not know, but it was a generation ago that Catholics were considerd a safe Democratic group and that is no longer the case.

So in a nutshell you assume that A. people will stay in their current religious or non reigious setting, which is not a given. and B. that a religious or non religious setting will be commited to one party forever which is also not a given.

by THE MODERATE 2005-04-12 08:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
Those ideas that people become more religious as they get older are relative new and have only been tracked over a generation or so.  I think its probably a bit of an unwarranted assumption to make that claim about future generations.
by descrates 2005-04-12 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
"people do tend to become more religious as they grow older."

No. The study clearly shows that is not the case.

And I'm not talking about gnerations from now. I'm tlaking less than a decade.

by Chris Bowers 2005-04-12 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
"No. The study clearly shows that is not the case."

While I said I had data overload here if this is what your study shows then I put little value in your sutdy because I seen my share of data showing that a person is far more likly to be a church attending church in their thirties and forties than they are in their twenties.  But if you wish to believe different go ahead.

by THE MODERATE 2005-04-12 09:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
Data, or anecdotes?  The CUNY study is both large and comprehensive.  If you have data that conflicts with that, please share it.
by fwiffo 2005-04-12 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
I actually would encourage you to see it for yourself.  My church has done an extensive study on the very question of what age group are we not reaching, this study has been about a forty year old study done on an annual basis.  Each year they study shows the same thing it those in their twenties are the lowest by far.  Other churches in our Presbytery and our Synod show's the same thing.  Go to your church and ask the outreach committee, go to any church and ask the committee it will show the same thing.  I served on our church outreach committee and saw the data myself but all I had to do was look out at the congregation and it was thier.  Next time you are in worship service just look, the children are there the thirties and above are there but not the twenties see for yourself.
by THE MODERATE 2005-04-12 10:24AM | 0 recs
Couldn't that be a cross sectional thing?
If more old people than young people go to church, that could mean that either:
1) The same people who are now old were less religious when they were young so that people get more religious as they age.
or
2) Current older people have always been more religious than current younger people. This would indicate that society is getting less religious and most of the change is between
generations rather than changes within peoples lifetime.

To separate these explanations you would ideally want longitudinal data following the same people through their lifetime (as opposed to the cross sectional data you describe). However, the trend inherent within the cross-sectional data collected at different times support explanation 2.  This makes sense to me. I know loads of people who are less religious then their parents. I know many people who have stopped going to church as they have gotten older. I know nobody that has increased their own church attendence in their lifetime above what it was as a child.

by TJonBergman 2005-04-12 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Couldn't that be a cross sectional thing?
As I have said earlier it is not the young people, the children are there, but those in thier twenties churches have done these studies for years and it is always that age that is lacking but the people who were in their twenties when the studies began are now in their fifties and sixties, and those age groups have always been good attenders.
by THE MODERATE 2005-04-12 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Couldn't that be a cross sectional thing?
I think you're confusing attendance and religious affiliation.  A lot of young people are nominally religious, but don't attend church often.  Getting poor attending individuals into church more often as they get older isn't the same as converting atheists.
by fwiffo 2005-04-12 11:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Couldn't that be a cross sectional thing?
Its is always hard to put a group of people into a neat little category so in that aspect you may have a point.  However I have seen that their is not only one group of people who come back to the church and some are not really sure of their state of religious views when them return.  I have found in many occasions that we are getting people who were raised in a different demoniation and when they left it usually in their twenties they were not just nominal but turned off by the whole religious experience believing that all churches are the same they fall out.  Usally it is not until marriage or through friends that they find that churches are not a monolithic group.
by THE MODERATE 2005-04-12 11:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
There may me a little delay... due to certain Democratic politicians who were born spineless
by Parker 2005-04-12 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Too much data
I think you are making a good observation but are talking about something different than what Chris and the CUNY study are talking about. The study shows that those who describe themselves as having "no religion" are very unlikely to "switch out" of that religious identity. Yet I agree that as people get older and especially as they have children they are more likely to attend church. The point I would make, though, is that while these people may not have attended church in their twenties they would have still described themselves as having a religion. The 50 million Catholics identified in the survey are self-identifiers and no distinction is made at that point as to how often they go to church if ever. I am in my twenties and do not go to church but having been raised Catholic it would be tough for me not to answer with that as my religious identity.
by Bothwell 2005-04-12 01:31PM | 0 recs
Its true--I think we stand a very good chance
of gaining an electoral majority in the coming years based sheerly on demographics and in the changing attitudes and ideas of American culture toward a moderate form of progressivism--a progressivism that makes a serious effort to include the white working class in its benefits.

What could derail this of course would be a major terrist attack or a series of them.  Should that happen, I would expect to see the Bush administration become very draconian and even fascist in its domestic response--with very little opposition from the Democrats.  Immagration would seriously be cut back, money and even personel would flow to security efforts, and intense racism would ensue.  I can definitely imagine a big movement toward deportation emerging.  Bottom line: if bin Laden pulls off a major terrorist attack in the next four years, expect hard shift toward fascism and xenophobia for a while, with its accompanying alienation of liberal voices from the public debate.

by descrates 2005-04-12 08:58AM | 0 recs
Do not count me out
I am Democrat because I am a Christian.  Christ was a liberal.  So true believers of Christ teachings are liberal.

I am sick and tried of so called Christians of the Christian Right speaking for me.  They do not follow the teachings of Christ.

by SRconbio 2005-04-12 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Do not count me out
I am with you. Christian moral principles--love thy neighbor--demand progressive politics.

Anyway, even if Democrats now have an advantage with the secular, don't you think that the Republicans, being a thousand times more nimble than the Democrats, will figure out a way to coopt this demographic trend, as well, and redefine themselves in 15 years as defenders of secular values?

by mysteve 2005-04-12 09:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Do not count me out
Appealing to non-Christians does not equate to counting out liberal and mainstream Christians. It almost certainly does count out the fundamentalist Christians, but like you said, they don't share your values.
by fwiffo 2005-04-12 10:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Do not count me out
Thanks for your kind words.  But I guess my point is: If you do not follow the teachings of Christ, then no matter how many times you go to church you are not a Christian.  You are just a Church Attender.  If you never go to church, but you follow the teachings of Christ, then you are a true Christian.  Please do not confuse Church Attenders with Christians.  I believe the Repubs represent the Church Attenders not the Christians.  Christians must be liberal because Christ was a Liberal.  So I say Democrats need to a Non-Church Attender Coalition
by SRconbio 2005-04-12 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Do not count me out
I am sorry I meant to say: So I say Democrats need to form a Non-Church Attender Coalition.
by SRconbio 2005-04-12 02:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Do not count me out
"Non-Church Attender" doesn't have a great ring to it.

The premillennial dispensationalists, dominionists and other promoters of biblical worldviews are pretty much trying to impose their own little sharia.

So how about "Christianists" ? To Christians same as Islamists are to Muslims.

by Fifi 2005-04-13 04:27AM | 0 recs
the problem isn't religion
the problem is passion.  Rep are turning into professional voters.  Every election counts.  Every vote matters.  Today's councilman is tomorrow's congressman is next week's president.  They understand it and dems and inds don't.  I don't care who my state rep is, but i do care who my national rep is.  Chances are the two vying for the position already hold state level offices.  We must convince people every vote and every election counts.
by demiowa 2005-04-12 09:49AM | 0 recs
Chris, heres a question for you
Are you a christian?
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-04-12 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Chris, heres a question for you
Are you? And what significance do you give that question?

FTR, I am not. I'm a Buddhist.

So this trending is very interesting to me, and indeed similar to my own experience (with a much smaller sample size, of course.)

by boadicea 2005-04-12 11:00AM | 0 recs
"Non-Christian" coalition?
Geez.  Are we arguing that Dems need never change?  Because that seems to be the crux of several of the recent posts by Chris.

I'm not crazy on this notion.  I think America is a libertarian nation, and any move toward those values, like the Big Sky Democrats are now doing, is a damn good thing for this country.

While I'd like to see a more just tax system, and I don't believe there is a Superhighway Fairy, I do believe the far left overstepped its bounds when in power.

Ironically, I think the far left did much the same of what the far right is doing today: pandering to social issues that amuse their and failing to deliver concrete issues.  Look at the failed War on Poverty!  While the ACLU gained influence under the Dems, the unions were driven into obscurity.  

I think Democrats should cut the shit about just trying to get back into power.

It's not worth talking about if all we're going to do is repeated the same mistakes.

And, casting ourselves as inherently non-Christian (and therefore anti-Christian) is not the trick.  The war between religion and non-religion is stupid anyhow, given that if we want to actually do anything, fix anything, the work itself is relatively common ground between Christians and non-Christians.

I don't think you have to be a non-Christian to save SOcial Security (or else, Evan Bayh is really fucking up).

And, I say these things as someone who is not too keen on the historic role Christianity has played.

by jcjcjc 2005-04-12 10:44AM | 0 recs
Re: "Non-Christian" coalition?
Your presenting a false choice. Appealing to pluralism, and recognizing that it includes the non-religiuos, doesn't equate to being anti-religious.
by fwiffo 2005-04-12 11:19AM | 0 recs
But, it will be cast that way
Politics is hardly a vacuum.  When you make a statement using a phrase like "non-Christian" you have to consider how folks are going to respond.

Politics is not the domain of thoughtful interaction, and you should anticipate that sort of Swift Boat Vets response to everything you say.

by jcjcjc 2005-04-12 07:33PM | 0 recs
Re: But, it will be cast that way
The swift boat vets would have be shut up and get to the back of the bus. You'll forgive me if I don't give a damn what they've got to say.

Or do you think there's some message that they won't distort and lie about?

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 08:58PM | 0 recs
Re: But, it will be cast that way
Ah, if you want to run around calling Democrats non-Christian, you go for it.

As I said before, I say this as a person who isn't crazy about Christianity.

I just also happen to realize that Christians play a dominant role in American politics, and have since the mid-1800s or so.

by jcjcjc 2005-04-13 06:52AM | 0 recs
Re: "Non-Christian" coalition?
Of course Dems have to hcange. But we don't have to change for white envangelicals. That is the crux of my argument.
by Chris Bowers 2005-04-12 11:21AM | 0 recs
Re: "Non-Christian" coalition?
I'm still not crazy about anything that could entrench the status quo.  

The Democratic Party has been insane in its resistance to change.  The Dems should have been getting their act together after the 1994 election, not the 2004 election.

Sometimes I think this patient may need shock therapy worse than the Bushies before it turns around.

I keep betting on Harry Reid and Co getting things done.  I think the tack toward an aggressive, yet relatively moderate position has been a major boon, especially alongside the GOP tack so far right that the boat's going to tip.

But, we're still mixing the ingredients.  We're not going to really know what we have until this thing comes out of the oven in November 2006.

However, I worry that Dems may get back into power  just on disgust with the GOP.  

Dems need to come back to power with a new program.  The return of the Democrats shouldn't just be a return to business as usual.

by jcjcjc 2005-04-12 07:45PM | 0 recs
Another striking point...
Check out the partisan and ideological ID of the Baby Boomers vs. the common stereotype of that generation as a bunch of anti-athoritarian hippies.  The conservatives only seem to have made great gains in this group.  Looks like the minority liberals in that generation may have succeeded in converting the next generation into rough ideological parity or even into a slim plurality vis a vis conservatism.

Fun.  

by Garemko 2005-04-12 11:13AM | 0 recs
Adding to my hasty scribblings
Who knew I was so brilliant...  I refer to the CUNY study frequently, because it is large and comprehensive (50,281 participants, margin of error of less than 0.5% on data for the whole group).

I'll make a couple other observations about secular warriors (counting myself among them). Here we see political alignment (along with evangelicals for contrast).

                     Republican   Democrat   Independent
No Religion               17         30          43
Evangelical/Born Again    58         12          20

So, we secularists skew pretty strongly Democratic, but much more strongly independent than any other group except Buddhists at 48%. Muslims come close at 39%, but both of those groups are small (and have higher margins of error). We don't call ourselves freethinkers for nothin'. I hesitate to call myself a Democrat and only do so right now because the Republicans have become so repugnant that I'm afraid to be independent (which implies neturality). Democrats more or less share most of my political views at the moment, but I don't have strong allegience to the party.

Most atheists I know are explicitly independent politically, not politically apathetic. They're indpendent thinkers and will jump ship if the party they were voting for stops representing them. Many are liberal, but I think more are libertarian in their leanings. Almost none are socially conservative. A certain segment are die-hard Ayn Rand deciples. Looking at the state-by-state data in the CUNY study, you can see secularists are strong out west - states known for their libertarianism.

Incidentally, John Kerry did a very good job of appealing to me, as a secular person. He did much better (in language terms) than Al Gore did (he wobbled on freaking creationism for crying out loud.) Although he's Catholic, and frequently talked about that, he did make it explicit that he keeps his religion and politics separate and that he wanted to advance and pay respect to science (and he wasn't just talking about stem cells and global warming). Sure, I'd love to have an atheist in office to represent me, but a theist with a healthy repsect for science is plenty good enough.

Something that shows how much the politics of this have changed - even W. made a half-hearted appeal to the non-religious during the debates. His father, by contrast, thought atheists didn't even deserve to be citizens.

-------------

I think something that can give the impression that people become more conservative as they get older is that society as a whole becomes more socially liberal, but individuals are less likely to do so. A decade ago, few would even be talking gay marriage. They're only outlawing it explicitly now because it's got an actual possibility of becoming legal in more places. When Jungle Fever came out it was controversial - few think interracial sex is actually a big deal any more.

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 11:13AM | 0 recs
Even more!
Also, the non-religous tend to be higher-income and more highly-educated than the average and tend to have fewer children. I saw a survey somewhere that showed they tend to hae significantly lower divorce rates than typical religious groups, but I can't find it at the moment (I do remember that it was conducted by a religious guy who was trying to show a correlation between religiousity and morality, but didn't get the result he wanted). I suspect that it may be due to lower marriage rates (which tends to correlate with more successful marriages) among the non-religious but I don't have data handy to back that up.
by fwiffo 2005-04-12 11:24AM | 0 recs
the problem with independents
Most atheists I know are explicitly independent politically, not politically apathetic.  They're indpendent thinkers and will jump ship if the party they were voting for stops representing them.

... and there is a large part of our problem: this attitude that parties are "they" rather than "us".

Parties stop representing constituencies who are prone to "jumping ship" - for obvious reasons.  How do you expect to have a voice in what the party does, when you won't participate?  What we need are more people who, when dissatisfied with what their party is doing, join rather than jump ship.

If you're active, you should pick the party that you think is the best vehicle for achieving what you want, and participate in that party, to help shape it into the party you'd like it to be.

Independent registration is, IMO, for the in-active.  The political consumers.  Those whose involvement in electoral politics is mostly limited to learning about the options available, and picking one.  Those who want to play a role in determining what options we'll have, and do so through electoral politics, ought to participate in a party.  And most parties won't let you join their committees or have standing at their caucuses or conventions, if you don't register as that party.

P.S. there are other ways to be active and engaged in politics, though non-partisan issue-based organizations for example, or journalism.  I know that many registered independents do that.  But on the level of electoral politics - candidates, elections, votes, legislatures, party platforms, and so on - an independent is either a consumer and not an actor, or is misguided and should be registered partisan.

by cos 2005-04-29 07:41PM | 0 recs
You are playing into the Republicans' hands
Apparently you want Democrats to label themselves as the non-Christian party. This is madness. Karl Rove could wish for nothing better for the Republicans.

You are basing your whole argument on a trend: that the percentage of Christian voters is going down. But today about 75% of Americans are still Christian (76.5% in 2001 -- Christianity sinking). So when will the amount of Christians decline sufficiently so that the "non-Christian coalition" will be in the majority? Twenty years? Thirty years? If Dems don't reach out to Christians -- and you are proposing that Dems explicitly renounce Christians -- that would allow the Republicans to pursue their project of dismantling democratic institutions in America to such an extent that who is in the actual majority will not matter in the least.

This reminds me of what some Dems were saying in 2000: Dems should write the South off. But the South has a minority of electoral votes, so that it is possible to win the Electoral College without the South. You are proposing writing the majority of the population off. I cannot see how you can be proposing this seriously. I cannot help seeing this as the despair of a secular liberal who has no ability at all to empathize with someone with different religious views than he has. (Jim Wallis has called such people "secular fundamentalists". I should perhaps note here that I am an atheist myself.)

As the Pew Research Center found, a majority of both evangelical and mainline Protestants went for Bush in 2000 and 2004. But because Bush had both the "war on terror" and the incumbency propping him up in 2004, probably the voting patterns in 2000 are more indicative of how voters' religious identification affects their vote. In 2000, the Catholic vote actually went 50-47 for Gore. (In that election of course, Catholic bishops did not intervene in the election, telling Catholics that to vote against Bush is a sin, as they did in effect in 2004.) But even among mainline Protestants, Bush's advantage was not huge: ten points, 53-43 (Religion and the presidential vote).

Your proposal begins to look even more wrong-headed when one realizes that it is only white Christians that have any kind of pattern of voting Republican. Non-white Christians tend to vote Democrat. So, since there is also a trend that whites will eventually become a minority in the US, I could just as well make the argument that Democrats should form a non-white pro-Christian coalition, and eventually they will be in the majority. Black Protestants went for Kerry 86-13 (91-7 for Gore); Latino Catholics went for Kerry 58-39 (65-33 for Gore).

Liberals have to get over their alienation from any aspect of the Christian tradition. It is well known that in Europe at least, the roots of the welfare state lie in Christian teaching. (The architects of the West German welfare state were Christian Democrats.) It is progressives (but not pro-war Democrats) that in reality are allied with Christian thought: not the Republicans. The Republicans have hijacked the term "Christian" in the same way that they have hijacked Pope John Paul's "culture of life" idea, while they are in reality the party of death, killing 100,000 Iraqis and executing hundreds of Americans, many of the innocent; or they have hijacked patriotism itself, identifying anyone who is anti-Bush as anti-American.

And liberals play into this Republican propaganda, conceding that the Republicans have the "Christian" vote. It is as misleading and as grave a strategic error to say that Christians vote for Bush as it is to say that anti-abortion activists are "pro-life". As the progressive evangelical Jim Morris has pointed out in his book God's Politics, Bush and his supporters are not really behaving as Christians at all:

In Christian theology, it is not nations that rid the world of evil [as Bush continually repeats that the US must do]... To continue to confuse the roles of God and the church with those of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do repeatedly, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy. (p. 145)

The resulting theology is more an American civil religion than Christian faith. (p. 142)

By not directly pointing out the hypocritical, un-Christian, and in fact idolatrous nature of Bush's religious posturing, liberals allow Bush to maintain the system of lies which kept him in power in 2004. The true allies of true Christians are not BushCo, but secular progressives: because both believe that war must only be a means of last resort and that poverty is a grave injustice which it is the duty of society to set right. Since the majority of Americans are still Christians, shying away from this natural alliance prevents progressives from forming the only coalition which would be broad-based enough to be able to steer American politics into a humane direction once again.
by Alexander 2005-04-12 12:18PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
This is typical, simplistic, CW thinking. You assume that non-Christian means secular and that Christian equals fundamentalist Christian. Appealing to non-Christians and the non-Religious does not equate to writing off mainline, moderate and liberal Christians. The only people who normally claim that "Christian == fundamentalist, evangelical Christian" are the fundamentalists.

Democrats take pains to appeal to, e.g. gays, why can't they make an appeal to the non-Religious (a group which is several times larger).

Remember, it's the Republicans that are shouting that we need to appeal to the "moral values" voters and that we're too secular. Do you think we should be listening to them? I'm not saying we should automatically do the opposite (at risk of falling for reverse-psychology). We have to ignore the CW and figure out what's really going on.

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
It is not I who was assuming that "Christian equals fundamentalist Christian", but the author of the diary. If one doesn't read that diary as making that assumption, the diary makes no sense.

Of course, Chris Bowers doesn't think that all Christians are fundamentalists, but his diary was written in such a way that "Christian" refers not to American Christians in general, but to Christian fundamentalists in particular. And this is exactly the way that the Republican right wing uses the term "Christian".

We have got to start using our language in a more self-conscious manner than this. It is a huge mistake for Dems to speak of things like "Bush's Christian base". Those people are not Christians in the proper sense of the word. Mainline Christian ministers are willing to say that the doctrine of fundamentalists, known as premillennial dispensationalism, with its "end times" and rapture, is not Christian. Therefore, in the strict sense of the word, "Christian" fundamentalists are not Christian.

(You thus make a mistake, by the way, when you speak of "fundamentalist Christians". Since they are not really Christians, it makes no sense to refer to them as a kind of Christian. The correct name to call them is "Christian fundamentalists". Theirs is a variety of fundamentalism; they have more in common with Islamic and other religious fundamentalists/extremists than they have with true Christians.)

Republicans use "Christian" to refer to fundies, excluding normal Christians, who are against preemptive wars and the deliberate slaughter of civilians. So why can't Democrats use "Christian" to refer to true Christians, excluding fundamentalists? That would alienate fundies from the Dem Party, but the fundies already think that Dems and liberals do the work of the devil, so there is no love lost there.

Chris Bowers was proposing that we alienate Christians in general, by saying that we should establish "the non-Christian coalition". What I am saying is that we should use our language more precisely -- and not unreflectingly employ the terminology of the Republican propaganda machine -- and say something else, perhaps that we should work for "the non-fundamentalist coalition". (The latter would work well by the way, since Bush stands for not just religious fundamentalism, but also market fundamentalism, a.k.a. neoliberalism.)

by Alexander 2005-04-12 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
You're making a semantic argument here, and you're still missing the point. Who are you to claim that the fundamentalists aren't Christians? They say they are. I can't seen inside their head to know what they think a Christian is. It's like those who claim that Osama bin Laden isn't a Muslim because he kills people, or that Christians throughout history who commited horrible atrocities aren't really Christians, because killing people isn't Christian. I might as well claim that Mao Zedong or Joseph Stalin weren't atheists because atheists shouldn't be so evil.

Chris's "Non-Christian Coalition" is clearly a play on Falwell's "Christian Coalition".  His point is that everyone who's arguing that we need to peel off part of Bush's fundamentalist base is wrong. The Democratic appeal among non-Christians catches nearly as many votes as the fundamentalists and has the benefit of being a faster growing, younger group with more upside.

Appealing to non-Christians and ignoring fundamentalists in no way implies alienating mainstream Christians.

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 04:41PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
If I were a mainstream Christian (and in a sense I am), I would be offended by the term "non-Christian coalition"; it would seem obvious, judging by the name, that this coalition excludes me.

I must admit I didn't catch that this is a play on Falwell's "Christian coalition". But most Americans who are not followers of Falwell wouldn't catch it, either. So the whole idea seems directed at polling wonks, as opposed to ordinary Americans. That is no way to come up with a winning political strategy.

It is not just I who claim that fundamentalists aren't Christians, but also practicing Protestant ministers, as I said above. (Of course, some ministers will say that fundamentalists' getting their theology wrong does not mean that they will be bad Christians, in the sense of not following Christ's ethical teachings. On the other hand, the case has been made that fundamentalism actually frees fundamentalists from needing to follow Christ's teaching, since for them, accepting Christ as savior is the most important thing: more important than following the moral law. You are saved simply if you are "born again", even if you do nothing but sin before then and after.)

By saying that I can't claim that fundamentalists aren't Christians, you are in effect saying that I can't rationally carry on a discussion about values. This is the standard liberal position: we can rationally choose between Chevies and Toyotas, but values are something that are beyond rational deliberation. But this concedes all discussion about values to the "conservatives" -- who believe that there are objectively valid values -- and leaves Democrats with nothing to talk about but platitudes and "sound management", as was the case with Gore and Kerry. It is part of human nature to need to believe in something deep outside of oneself, but if you think that values are a free-for-all -- anyone can be a Christian just by thinking that he is -- then you won't be able to offer anything that meets this need to people, and hence will have trouble attracting people to your side. This is the problem with Democrats today.

So I am afraid that it is you who are missing the point.

by Alexander 2005-04-12 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
Well, bloggers and readers of MyDD are polling wonks. The "non-Christian coalition" isn't the message - it's an idea about demographics. Understanding demographics is important for coming up with strategies and formulating a message. This diary isn't an advertisement to potential voters - they're not going to be poking around MyDD to decide how to vote. Obviously, we're not going to run billboards saying "We're the non-Christians!"

There's no objective measure of what constitutes a Christian. Jerry Falwell would say your definition doesn't qualify. That doesn't keep you from having discussions about values or about religion - it's just that there's other people who give themselves the same label that won't agree with you about what it means. When you're polling people about their religious identification, you kinda have to take their word for it. But just because there's no consensus as to what constitutes a Christian doesn't mean understanding these demographics isn't helpful. Knowing what issues/messages/values are important to a given group can help formulate policy and message.

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 06:31PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
I am Christian and the title of this diary made me feel left out.  This is not the first time I have felt this way.  After the election, many liberals are making fun of Christians for getting Bush elected.  The Christians did not help get Bush elected, the hypocrites did.  

Democrats need to understand just because someone goes to church that does not make that person a Christian.  Only by living the teachings of Christ makes you a Christian and Christ taught people to be liberal.

If you go to Church and vote for people who are pro war, cut programs that help the poor and use "hate politics" to get elected, then you are not a Christian.  These people are nothing more than church goers or as Christ called them hypocrites.  

It is time that Christian Democrats to speak up and ask the Repugs:  If you are a Christian how come you do not live the teachings of Christ.  We need to point out that they are hypocrites.  

I do not expect other people to have the same faith as I do.  We all must find our own way.  So we should not exclude people of different faiths or people who do not believe in a god.  The test should be simple are you a liberal and do you act in a way helps your fellow man  If yes, then please help the Democrats take our country back. Let the Repugs have the hypocrites and we will take the Christians into our Christian and Non Christian Coalition.

by SRconbio 2005-04-12 07:53PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
Felt left out? Really? At first I wanted to respond in complete agreement with this post, but I honestly can't. I don't mean to be intolerant, or belittle your beliefs, because I don't think that's right. But you're reminding me about a white guy complaining about reverse discrimination.

I feel left out every time I open my damn wallet.

There isn't a single politician in office that represents me. One in seven Americans is non-religious - that's a pretty big minority to be completely shut out of national politics.

Has your religion been hijacked by wackos? Quite possibly. I'd like to think so. I don't care for the idea that the Republican party represents most Christians (and a strong majority of people who call themselves Christian did vote Republican). But I'm not qualified to judge who qualifies as a "real Christian."

There isn't even anyone who wants to hijack my beliefs.

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 08:49PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
I am Christian and I want help you take the country away from the Repugs.  Do you want my help and the help of people who believe as I do or should we go to a third party?  

By the way I vote for liberals and not for church goers.  The church goers do not represent me.

by SRconbio 2005-04-12 09:09PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
Christians (or, if you prefer, people who identify themselves as Christians) comprise the vast majority of every significant political group; Republican, Democrat, conservative, moderate or liberal. You're the ones running the party/asylum. I should be asking you that question.

I'm going to vote for liberals because I have nowhere else to go, but don't expect me to stop whining. It's the Democratic way, after all. Or maybe I'll stop after I catch up on my sleep; I tend to get pretty pissy when I'm tired.

by fwiffo 2005-04-12 09:37PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
I respect your beliefs.  For all I know you are right and there is no God.  None of us know the truth until death.  

I just think we should use phases that include people of all beliefs, including yours.   When I vote for someone, I vote for the liberal and not for the person who believes in God.  We need you and people who believe as you do in the Coalition. We need to get non-religious people elected into Government.  

by SRconbio 2005-04-12 10:00PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
Thank you for that.

Incidentally, I think a lot of people misinterpreted this diary or what Chris was getting at. Several people seemed to think he was suggesting that the "non-Christian Coalition" should be our message, when really, he was just talking about an interesting demographic trend.

by fwiffo 2005-04-13 04:31AM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
This is Great, Alexander ... >:)

seriously, Rove is not as much of a factor
as people think he is, esp. the - whats
the word - beaten democratic view of him.
Dems are looking alot like whipped dogs,
seriously - and when people reach their
hand out - they run into the shadows.

Rove is not out to energize the christians,
he's desperately hoping they'll identify
with him.

"Those whom the gods would destroy,
first they make prideful."

Are you a christian?

by turnerbroadcasting 2005-04-12 01:39PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
I was raised Russian Orthodox, but I am an atheist. I have a great deal of respect for Christian moral teaching however (as I also have for Buddhism, for example).

Recently I have been reading Jim Wallis's God's Politics, as I mentioned in my first post, and I find all of it very compelling, even though it is directed primarily at believers. Wallis sees this country as being in a great deal of trouble, and having badly lost its way. Conventional politics -- the Dems getting control of the government back from the Rethugs -- is essential for getting America off the fast lane for turning into some kind of third world country, but it will not solve our fundamental problems. For that, something like a new national awakening is required, one which will energize people around the values that they want to be realized in this country, and make them force both parties to look after their interests again, as opposed to those of corporations and empire.

Thus something like a popular movement is needed. In the past when there has been a major change in America toward an increase in justice in the country -- as with the abolition movement or the civil rights movement -- the motivating force behind these movements has been religious. I don't think that things would be any different today (despite the diary's argument that America is becoming more secular). That is why I think that it is important for secular progressives to reach out to non-fundamentalist Christians by addressing their religious beliefs: it is the only way to build a common language with them that would allow a majority to emerge in this country that would be committed to working for social justice.

by Alexander 2005-04-12 02:23PM | 0 recs
Re: You are playing into the Republicans' hands
I should have added that another reason to address the Christian values thing directly, instead of just waiting for the society to become more secular, is that, no matter how small a proportion of the US population fundamentalists may constitute, they are sufficiently organized that they have been able to hijack numerous federal and state political institutions, such as the legislative and executive branches of the US government. Also, as we see every day, the corporate media treats the religious right with much more respect than it deserves, legitimating it in the wider society.

As has now become clear beyond all doubt, the religious right does not play by the rules of a liberal democratic society, so that pursuing normal electoral politics, as liberals are conditioned to do, in order to attain a majority is not enough. The religious right needs to be confronted on its own turf, to reduce its fervor. As long as it continues in its present activist, virulent phase, it will continue to do untold damage, even if normal Americans are able to take control of the federal government away from it.

by Alexander 2005-04-12 02:54PM | 0 recs
It's not "Christians"
I think you completely missed what Chris is writing about.  It's not "Christians" compared to non-Christians - it's the extremist Christian right compared to non-Christians.

Chris explcitly took into consideration that most "Christians" - the 57% of America that don't fall into the two categories he talked about - continue to vote for both parties.  As you say, the split tends to be relatively even, in that middle majority.  But the two groups at the edges, the Christian right and the non-Christians, vote extremely differently.

Chris's argument is this: if the Democrats respond to the large Republican advantage among the Christian right by actively courting that group, the Democrats will be alienating the non-Christians where they currently have a strong advantage.  Given that the Christian right is static at about 20% and the non-Christians are a rapidly growing group that will be larger than the Christian right within two election cycles, this is a stupid strategy.  Furthermore, since people tend to pick their sides in their first decade of adulthood and then stay put, making sure not to alienate the non-Christians is a critical part of setting us up for long-term Democratic success.

None of what he's saying applies at all the the "middle" - the 57% of Americans who are not Christian right, and not non-Christian (that is, they are Christian, but not extremist).  Your entire comment is about this group - the very people Chris isn't talking about.

Of course Democrats should continue to appeal to all the mainstream Christians.  Nobody even thought of suggesting otherwise.  And doing so does not alienate non-Christians.  As we can plainly see from past elections, Democrats can appeal to mainstream Christian groups (such as Catholics) without alienating non-Christians.

So, your whole comment is just setting up a straw man and knocking it down.  It's not addressing Chris' argument at all.

(FWIW, I don't fully agree with Chris.  I want us to try to appeal to every group.  As a non-Christian myself, I do think we can have a candidate who talks to the Christian right, but still doesn't alienate the rest of us.  I do agree with Chris that appealing to the Christian right at the expense of appealing to non-Christians, is folly).

by cos 2005-04-29 07:27PM | 0 recs
There is no such thing as an atheist
in a foxhole.
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-04-12 01:41PM | 0 recs
Atheists don't renounce at deaths door
Sorry. That's a bunch of crap. Although Christians would love to believe that Atheists renounce their disbelief in God when they are dying ... that's just a Christian fantasy.

BTW, your secret identity has been compromised .... Rosie!

Show-business types have taken up blogging, from Rosie O'Donnell, who writes in verse

Verse? Well ... it's pretty clear that turnerbroadcasting can only be the one and only Rosie O'Donnell!

by Curt Matlock 2005-04-12 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: There is no such thing as an atheist
Sorry to break it to you, but there is no such thing as God...

Not now, not on my deathbed.

by phemfrog 2005-04-12 02:38PM | 0 recs
Re: There is no such thing as an atheist
Is there a god or not a god is beside the point.  Liberals believe all have the right to their own religious beliefs.  All Liberals need to be invited into the coalition.  
by SRconbio 2005-04-12 08:12PM | 0 recs
Somebody pull this thread!!
You really are playing into Republican hands,
parse it better or differently.
You will lose the liberal to moderate and all
the potential liberal and moderates that are
still out there who see there christianity
different than neo-cons.

I have said this over and over we need to
peel off the moderates who are hijacked by
the religious right...when we do that we
win.

Please put out a disclaimer on the use
of "non-christian" coalition...it sounds
so bad and so against everything.

You could parse it as true christian coalition
that would be much better or true values
coalition that is even more inclusive.

You are asking the democratic party to go
to war against christians if you ask them
to form a non-christian coalition and you would
lose liberal to moderates the very people we
need to peel off.

and it offends me personally and I would have
to leave as well.

by Aslanspal 2005-04-12 06:17PM | 0 recs
How about
an anti-theocratic coalition?
by catastrophile 2005-04-12 06:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Somebody pull this thread!!
Aslanspal

I do not think pulling this thread is something we should do.  We need to keep this thread alive as a reminder of how not to phase something.  I do not believe Chris meant to offend us.  

We had a conversation on frames earlier and I believe that Democrats still do not get the power of frames. Frames can make people feel invited or offended. This frame offends us liberal Christians.  We need to stay to educate our fellow Democrats on our desire to make this country a better place.  

The Democrats will never take the country back from the Repugs without us.  I do not care what Chris thinks the data shows.

by SRconbio 2005-04-13 08:13PM | 0 recs
Dems will continue to have the non-Christian vote
mainly because the goopers have wallowed in the  filth of fundie bigotry for too long, and cannot easily efface the memory of that even if they could somehow distance their party from it at this late stage.  Yet so far the Dems have done precious little to deserve the non-Christian support they're getting.  Quite the opposite; many national Dems have cheesed me off no end by adopting extremist Christian positions (as for example during the big hate fest in the Senate in 2002 directed against the 'damned atheist' who presumed to challege "under God" in the schools) and triangulating for the bigoted vote.  The one thing that most impressed me about Kerry, in fact, was his refusal to play the religious demagogue--and his insistence in the second debate that he does not have the right to impose his religious views upon others.  It seemed to me that that was the first time in ages a Dem told the fundies to back off.
by smintheus 2005-04-12 07:52PM | 0 recs
An analogy
When someone hits on a new popular trend, such as a new kind of movie or TV series, there is an inevitable rush to duplicate the success by the competition. This often produces a boatload of crap. Furthermore, by the time these imitiations come out, the trend has already run its course and become "so last week".

Are Democrats in danger of doing the same thing if they try to imitate the Republican appeal to the evangelicals? Could they be mistaking Republicans success with this group as the beginning of a long-term trend when really it is nothing more than a blip on the political radar?

by Chris Andersen 2005-04-12 10:17PM | 0 recs
Christian means a follower of Jesus
So you are opening yourself up to the non-follower of Jesus coalition which would be
un popular because if you take a hard look
at Jesus's life he was a liberal progressive
and innocent.

You need to come up with a much better
definition or the Republicans will take this
and run with it.

And finally everyone is born with a God gene
that sense there is something bigger than them.
I can see it now "New Democratic Party" Anti-God.

pull this blasted thread its cache because but I
fear it is already too late.

<sarcasm>
As for Athiest they can just go to hell, bunch of
constipated against everything...hermits that
will not win elections.<sarcasm>
[IMG]http://instagiber.net/smiliesdotcom/otn/angry/newburn.gif[/IMG][IMG]http://instagiber.net/smiliesdotcom/contrib/ruinkai/FIREdevil.gif[/IMG]

Chris has lost his way on this one he needs to
re think it ..quit the blasted stupid number
crunching data..doesn't mean crap...the real
world matters.[IMG]http://instagiber.net/smiliesdotcom/contrib/lilly/aha1blue.gif[/IMG]

by Aslanspal 2005-04-13 05:30AM | 0 recs
by hpvv 2005-12-19 10:09PM | 0 recs

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