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More On The God Gap

There's been a fair amount of back-and-forth on the issue of abortion and its perennially inflammatory effects on American politics. Earlier I pointed out a state senate race in a tiny corner of New York state, wherein a pro-life Democrat won against a pro-choice Republican. The impact of either of these candidates on the sanctity or administration of Roe v. Wade would be negligible at best; the key takeaway is that yesterday's victory brought Democrats in the state senate within one vote of their Republican counterparts. This is the kind of forward movement that those concerned with progressive policymaking should be ecstatic about.

What troubles me about Josh's later post--seeming to also advocate for the same Democratic majority-building--is the following:

One way to do this is going to be for Democratic politicians to emphasize their moral qualms about abortion.

I think that couldn't be more irrelevant. Democrats should actively seek to minimize the notion of abortion as a political litmus test, not "Wade" deeper into the largely intractable beliefs of millions. I understand that for many on both sides of the aisle, abortion is literally a matter or life and death--but liberal carping over an issue that is diminishing in relative importance for the average voter is a grand leap backward. The real way for the Democratic party to "broaden its appeal" is to emphasize the host of beliefs that liberals and religious moderates do share across region, race, and class in America.

As Nicholas Kristof and Sullivan herself have pointed out, the potential discussion reaches far beyond the narrow confines of the the choice debate. The Bible itself discusses poverty more than any other issue of contemporary significance, urging its adherents to treat the weak, meek, poor and disenfranchised as deserving of extra care. (See Mike Huckabee's rise for proof of this strong subcurrent among very religious Americans.) The full "culture of life" some Catholics espouse extends to traditionally liberal domains such as the death penalty, war and peace. Not only does some 94 percent of the country want a president who believes in God--and African American churchgoers are far less liberal than their strong Democratic voting preference indicates--wealthy evangelicals have been known to put large amounts of both time and money toward "bleeding heart" mission work abroad. (Rick Warren gives away 90 percent of his sizeable income--try suggesting that to the GOP powerbrokers at the McLean Bible Church outside DC.)

An activist pastor in Chicago recently told me in an interview that he views community organizing, particularly the civil rights movement, as "a perfect blueprint for ministry." That, if you follow the argument in Sullivan's book to its conclusion, is the real opportunity for a broader Democratic coalition.

--Dayo Olopade