Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Media Faith Bias

Tony Snow discussed faith in the Republican presidential campaign with Bill O'Reilly on "The Factor" (12/13/07):

Snow nails it when he describes the mainstream media as "filled with people who don't go to church" and who consider religious people to be quacks. Nevertheless, the discussion misses a lot of recent history which has reminded the Democrat's that the Party was once less secular. These memories, along with the failure to overcome President Bush convinced the Democrats that the Party should attempt to regain its religion.

After the President Bush's reelection the Democrats mounted a concerted effort to close the God gap. The midterm elections demonstrate the Democrats' efforts were successful:

Democrats recaptured the Catholic vote they had lost two years ago. They sliced the GOP's advantage among weekly churchgoers to 12 percentage points, down from 18 points in 2004 congressional races and 22 points in the 2004 presidential contest. Democrats even siphoned off a portion of the Republican Party's most loyal base, white evangelical Protestants.

[. . .]

In House races in 2004, 74 percent of white evangelicals voted for Republicans and 25 percent for Democrats, a 49-point spread, according to exit polls. This year, Republicans received 70 percent of the white evangelical vote and Democrats got 28 percent, a 42-point spread.
The Democratic campaign to close the God gap continues in the Presidential race. Jonathan Turley writes that the candidates are talking so much about faith that one would think they wanted to be in the College of Cardinals rather than the Hall of Presidents:
On the Democratic side, the candidates have competed equally in the parade of the pious. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois led the way and recently proclaimed his intention to be "an instrument of God" and to create "a Kingdom right here on earth." Even the title of Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope, was taken from sermons by his controversial spiritual adviser, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.

Other Democratic candidates have responded by proselytizing on their own divine qualifications. In one debate, the Democrats held forth on the power of prayer and the role of their faith in their public lives. Hillary Clinton has described her own "faith journey," her experiencing "the presence of the Holy Spirit on many occasions," and how she is assisted by an "extended prayer family" and "faith warriors."
Barack Obama, even before his presidential campaign, complained that Democrats need to better acknowledge the power of faith:
I am not suggesting that every progressive suddenly latch on to religious terminology. Nothing is more transparent than inauthentic expressions of faith – the politician who shows up at a black church around election time and claps – off rhythm – to the gospel choir.

But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity; our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
O'Reilly does have a valid point when he calls the mainstream media out over its less than even handed treatment of the religiosity of the presidential candidates.

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