Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Keeping It Real Politik: Religion, Religiosity, & the New Culture Wars

Exit polling from the last two presidential elections tell us that the Blue State / Red State split, the liberal / conservative split, the men / women split, and a few other splits all pale in comparison to the religious split. And no, the United States isn’t about to implode along Protestant-Catholic or Christian-Islamic lines or anything like that.

But the fact is that one of the most important trends in politics is that those who regularly attend church or a house of worship prefer the Republican Party by a wide margin while those who don’t attend regularly prefer the Democrats by a similarly wide margin.

Why is this so? There are many reasons, but the fact is that this religious divide may define American political and cultural life for some time to come.

Just check the front lines… at cable news, anyway. The folks at Fox and Pat Buchanan over at Scarborough Country seem to be using the Season of Good Cheer as a political weapon of sorts against the ungodly masses. To wit:

“Last week on Scarborough Country, there was Pat Buchanan's distinctly testy-sounding ‘Merry Christmas’ in answer to a guest from the American Atheists association who wished him a happy ‘winter solstice.’”

Meanwhile, the President of all of the religions of the United States wants us to “remember the humble birth of our savior.” This was uttered during a Christmas in Washington variety special.

In this new environment and with a conservative across-the-board government, the religious right is looking to get theirs. Example: Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas will push to “oppose Supreme Court nominees friendly to abortion rights.”

So where does this leave us? I’m not entirely sure. But look for religion and religiosity to be a key wedge issue in national politics for some time to come.


The Sore Loser said...

I think that many religious types would consider voting democratic were it not for the abortion issue. If you believe that life begins at conception and that abortion is murder, it's perfectly rational to vote Republican no matter how bad the Republican party is on other matters. My sense is that a large chunk of the religious Bush voters are really single issue voters who strongly disapprove of Bush. The real question is whether the Republicans are playing these voters for suckers.

On a related matter, what I find very puzzling is how there are no clear connections between the economic and social platforms of both parties. Being anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage has nothing to do with being fiscally conservative, and being pro-choice and pro-gay rights has nothing to do with balancing the budget. It's a mystery why we don't have four political parties in this country -- one socially and economically conservative, one socially conservative but economically liberal, etc.

Eric Berlin said...

It's become one of the chief problems of the Democratic Party that they/we can't get our heads around that people choose to "vote against their economic interests."

It goes far beyond abortion rights to the whole hose of "value" or social issues: gun rights, the death penalty, gay marriage, etc.

This is why there was so much "hoopla" pounded home by the Conservative Media Machine about Kerry (a life-long hunter and gun owner) daring to wear fatigues and hunt a few weeks before the election.

The Republicans know that social issues are their trump card and a chief issue why they've solidified the South into safe GOP territory.

I think it's going to take a number of years and a great deal of effort to break the stranglehold. That's why I advocate new leadership and fresh ideas. It's time to throw out the past, roll up the sleeves, and get to work.

Your question regarding our two-party systems is very interesting. I think part of the reason why two major parties have remained in place for so long is that each has a vested interest in pounding away competition for its turf. Often you see the most heated battles and vitriol between the center-left and far-left, and so on. Another reason has to do, I think, with Americanism: we like winners and losers, none of this namby-pamby 19% crap for us.

That being said, I've always wondered why a party like the libertarians don't garner more interest. Perhaps some of it is due to voter apathy/ignorance. You've got to admit that they have an appealing platform in that you understand what they're about: libertarianism makes sense, even if you don't agree with it.

Somewhat off-topic, but I think its possible that the Republican party could eventually fracture along geographic and political lines: the South and Plain States will adhere to the current Bush Doctrine of neo-conservatism abroad and religious fervor on social and personal issues, while the Northeastern and Western remains of the moderate GOP base could reposition themselves on moderation abroad, balanced budgets, and liberal social positions.

That would be interesting, wouldn't it?