Politicos and reporters: Democrats’ hopes for 2018 and '20 face religious tripwires

The biblical preacher laments that “much study is a weariness of the flesh,” which can be said about commentaries without end on why oh why so many white evangelicals back President Donald Trump and his Republicans.

Current examples come from the scornful Slate.com and, on the right, David French, with vigorous National Review jeremiads here and also here. A prominent Catholic journalist, Newsweek veteran Kenneth Woodward, offered his perspective here.

Yet The Religion Guy, and other GetReligionistas, keep reminding everybody not to neglect other religious and racial groups and the dynamics within America’s other party. The Democrats have high hopes for 2020 and for a Nov. 6 rebound, perhaps of historic proportions.  Before pols order the champagne, however, they (and reporters who cover them) should recognize potential religious tripwires.

There’s a disjuncture between liberal whites who pretty much control Democratic machinations and the African-American and Hispanic voters they need in order to win. As GetReligion has noted, Yale Law Professor Stephen L. Carter warns about contempt for traditional Christianity typified by that New Yorker attack upon “creepy” Chick-fil-A, analyzed here by our own tmatt.

Carter, an African-American and Episcopalian, has bemoaned elite blinders  since “The Culture of Disbelief: How American Law and Politics Trivialize Religious Devotion” (1993). In this round, he highlights Pew Research data showing Americans of color are notably more devout, more religiously active and more conservative in belief than whites. His bottom line: “If you find Christian traditionalism creepy, it’s black people you’re talking about.”

The Guy adds that you’re also targeting scads of white Catholics and Latinos.   

As The Guy and other GetReligionistas keep noting, and many media keep ignoring, the Democrats’ religion problem shapes their prospects. Which brings us to “The Democrats’ God Gap,” a must-read by the aforementioned French. (French is a prominent #NeverTrump conservative but also a behind-scenes evangelical hero as an attorney defending the right of campus groups like InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to be led by like-minded Christians.)    

Like Carter, French mines Pew data on the yawning God gap within the Democratic Party: “Only 32 percent of white Democrats believe in the God of the Bible,” compared with 61 percent of nonwhite Democrats, also 72 percent of white Republicans. Drilling down, French cites specifics about belief in God as all-powerful, all-knowing, or all-loving. White Democrats’ belief scale falls 20 to 30 points below that for nonwhite Democrats, for nonwhite Republicans, and for white Republicans.

Remarkable. Is it any wonder white Catholics have floated Republican and helped put the morally problematic Mr. Trump into the White House? The alienation of white elites and liberals from the West’s religious heritage is an exponential -- and The Guy would think, unhealthy -- change for American culture and thus politics.

French is not surprised by this significant development. He again echoes Carter in citing New Yorker fast-food fears. “Sneering, anti-Christian elitism” is “fundamentally at odds with the lived experience” of minority Democrats, he asserts.  

What does The Religion Guy say? Black and Hispanic fealty toward the Democratic Party (also with Jews) is so automatic that change could occur only on the margins. Nonetheless, white liberals would be wise to at least suppress hostility and ham-handedness toward religion lest they shave Democratic enthusiasm, turnout, and vote margins.

That leads to French’s chief point about the Trump epoch.

“When so many Republicans and conservatives radiate either contempt or indifference” toward minorities, the Democrats will readily control their votes via dominant “identity politics.”  Thus, “America’s cultural and spiritual divide will remain.”  As secular culture grows more hostile toward all people of faith, he thinks, they are “in desperate need of a unity that transcends politics.”

Much here for all religious, political and racial factions to contemplate. You can also see veteran pollster John C. Green of the University of Akron making the same point -- several years ago -- by clicking on this look at a fine point in that famous "Nones" study.

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