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Closing the God Gap

Republicans have been hitting Democrats hard over the God Gap. A blogger for the Christian Broadcasting Network reported that the phrase God-given had appeared in a 2008 Democratic platform passage about the party’s desire that all people “make the most of their God-given potential,” but was nowhere to be found in a 2012 Democratic platform passage making the same general point. Rather than point out that (duh!) most of the other phrasing was changed, too—more notably, I think, the 2012 version de-emphasizes the role that government should play in helping people “go as far as our talent and drive take us”—the Democrats hastily shoehorned “God given” into the text, but not before Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan took the opportunity to label Democrats godless heathen.

It’s all pretty stupid, as TNR’s Amy Sullivan (who follows this issue much more closely than I do) points out. Indeed, Sullivan notes, the Christian Broadcasting Network’s blogger seems entirely uninterested in the fact that the 2012 Democratic platform also omits other 2008 language decrying the use of public funds to “proselytize or discriminate,” mainly because Obama has been cowed into allowing it, lest he be accused of religious persecution. (Obama is continuing a 2002 Bush policy that reversed a federal anti-discrimination policy in place since the administration of Franklin Roosevelt.)

Being a liberal I’m easily distracted by numerical quotas, and I can see the game is already lost on the playing field of party platforms. The Democrats now have one “God” mention in their platform while the Republicans (damn them!) have 10 in theirs, including no fewer than seven “God-given”s. According to the GOP, talents, motivation, individual rights, citizenship rights, the right to self-defense, the nation’s exploitable natural resources, and the natural beauty of said exploitable natural resources are all God-given. To the Republican platform’s authors, “God-given” is really just shorthand for “I can do whatever I please, and don’t you dare stop me,” which doesn’t sound especially pious to me. Still, on the numbers, the GOP is ahead.

But all is not lost. My two best friends these past two weeks have been the New York Times’s interactive (i.e., searchable) word clouds for speeches at the Republican and Democratic conventions. From these invaluable tools I learn that the word “God” was uttered 95 times over three days at the RNC and 66 times over two days at the DNC. That averages out to not quite 32 mentions per day for the Republicans and 33 mentions per day for the Democrats. The Democrats are already winning! All they have to do is make sure they say “God” 29 times today and they've evened it up. If they keep the pace of the last two days, they’ll be godlier than the Republicans.