Washington Post: Democrats scaling back faith-based political outreach

Remember the 2008 election, when then-Sen. Barack Obama talked a lot about his religious faith and the Democratic Party seemed determined to show voters it could do religion as well as the Republicans?

According to an item in the Washington Post’s “On Faith,” those days are over.

“These days, the Democratic National Committee’s faith staff of more than a half-dozen has dwindled to one part-time slot,” the Post reports. “Its faith issues Web site led this week with greetings for Passover (which was in March) and Rosh Hashanah (which was in September)…With Democratic control of Congress at stake in this fall’s general elections, some party religious activists are dismayed by the loss of momentum.”

What the story does not address: how much of a difference did the Democrats’ faith outreach actually make in 2008? I haven’t seen any data, but I’m guessing not a lot, at least not nearly as much as the impact of an imploding economy, the cumulative impact of two wars and frustration with the George W. Bush years.

And I’m guessing the Democrats have concluded that their base in the religious community is too diverse for effective faith-based political outreach. It’s easier for the Republicans; their base is top heavy with conservative Christians who, for all there differences, have a pretty unified world view. The Democrats appeal to liberal Jews, to progressive evangelicals and Catholics, to Unitarians, to secular humanists, and so on; bringing religion onto the campaign trail may entail more costs than benefits with these groups.

How will a pullback from God politics affect Jewish voters?

Probably not too much. Many Jews who see church-state separation as a national priority were uncomfortable with the Democrats’ faith outreach in the first place, political observers say. Many Orthodox Jews welcomed the religious tone struck by Obama and other Democrats – but they are trending Republican, anyway.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.