You’d think Republicans would be satisfied to stand on their merits in the Senate race in TN, where Chattanooga mayor Bob Corker is running even or ahead of Rep. Harold Ford in most polls.Instead, the Republican National Committee is running ads against Ford that range from despicable and quasi-racist smears to basic lies about his voting record.If you read a lot of blogs, you probably know about the so-called “bimbo” ad that the RNC ran and then was forced to take down. If you haven’t seen it, follow the link; it’s truly breathtaking. Nestled amidst several mischaracterizations of Harold Ford’s voting record, you see a trashy-flashy white woman who leeringly says she met Harold at “the Playboy Party,” presumably a heavy-handed allusion to Ford’s meaningless drive-by appearance at a 2000 Democratic Convention event sponsored by the Bunny Empire. And at the very end of the ad, the self-same trashy-flashy woman re-appears to wink and say: “Call me, Harold.”In case you didn’t know this, Harold Ford is a good-looking young African-American man. Thus, this ad was about as subtle as a Klan cross-burning. As a southerner, I really hate this kind of crap, and thought it had been buried decades ago. Apparently not.After pulling down the “bimbo ad,” the RNC immediately put up a new ad that avoids the overt racism, but that’s full of lies and distortions about Ford’s record, suggesting he is the champion of rampant pornography, state-sponsored teen abortions, and gay marriage.Anyone who has followed Ford’s career or his campaign understands that his voting record and his campaign message diverge from the RNC smears by about 180 degrees. Hell, my colleague The Moose, the very scourge of Democratic cultural liberalism, has suggested Harold Ford could and perhaps should become the first African-American president.I hope and pray that these attacks on Harold Ford will backfire, not just because Ford is a bright young rising star in the national Democratic constellation, but because his national and Tennessee GOP opponents have gone so far over the line to try to defeat him. Tennessee voters have an unparalleled opportunity to let the whole world know that the worst political wedge tactics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries won’t work, even in a culturally conservative red state. Personally, I’ll renounce my own Georgia-based prejudices and sing a couple of choruses of Rocky Top on Election Night if the Volunteer State sends Harold Ford to the Senate.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
June 2: Rise of Religious “Nones” a Mixed Blessing for Democrats
Since I’m always standing at the intersection of politics and religion, I’m always interested in fresh data on the subject, and wrote some up at New York:
One of the big predictions in American politics lately, of infinite comfort to embattled progressives, is that the increasing number of religiously non-affiliated Americans, particularly among younger generations, will spur a steady leftward drift. Perhaps that will mean, we are told, that Democrats will be able to build their elusive permanent majority on the grounds of abandoned houses of worship. Or perhaps, some hope, the religious roots of today’s Republican extremism will begin to wither away, allowing American conservatives to resemble their less intemperate distant cousins in other advanced democracies, ending the culture wars.
Both propositions may be true. But it’s a mistake to treat so-called nones as an undifferentiated secularist mass, as Eastern Illinois University political scientist Ryan Burge explains with some fresh data. He notes that “in 2022, 6% of folks were atheists, 6% were agnostics, and another 23% were nothing in particular.” This large bloc of “nothing in particular” voters may lean left, all other things being equal, but they tend to be as uninterested in politics as in religion, making them a less than ideal party constituency. He explains:
“To put this in context, in 2020 there were nearly as many nothing in particulars who said that they voted for Trump as there were atheists who said that they voted for Biden.
“While atheists are the most politically active group in the United States in terms of things like donating money and working for a campaign, the nothing in particulars are on another planet entirely.
“They were half as likely to donate money to a candidate compared to atheists. They were half as likely to put up a political sign. They were less than half as likely to contact a public official.
“This all points to the same conclusion: they don’t vote in high numbers. So, while there may be a whole bunch of nothing in particulars, that may not translate to electoral victories.”
As Burge mentioned, however, there is a “none” constituency that leans much more strongly left and is very engaged politically — indeed, significantly more engaged than the white evangelicals we’re always hearing about. That would be atheists. In a separate piece, he gets into the numbers:
“The group that is most likely to contact a public official? Atheists.
“The group that puts up political signs at the highest rates? Atheists.
“HALF of atheists report giving to a candidate or campaign in the 2020 presidential election cycle.
“The average atheist is about 65% more politically engaged than the average American.”
And as Thomas Edsall points out in a broader New York Times column on demographic voting patterns, atheists really are a solid Democratic constituency, supporting Biden over Trump in 2020 by an incredible 87 to 9 percent margin. It’s worth noting that the less adamant siblings of the emphatically godless, agnostics, also went for Biden by an 80 to 17 percent margin and are more engaged than “nothing in particulars” as well.
So should Democrats target and identify with atheists? It’s risky. Despite the trends, there are still three times as many white evangelicals as atheists in the voting population. And there are a lot more religious folk of different varieties, some of whom have robust Democratic voting minorities or even majorities who probably wouldn’t be too happy with their party showing disdain for religion entirely. There’s also a hunt-where-the-ducks-fly factor: If atheists and agnostics already participate in politics and lean strongly toward Democrats, how much attention do they really need? There’s a reason that politicians, whatever their actual religious beliefs or practices, overwhelmingly report some religious identity. Congress lost its one professed atheist when California representative Pete Stark lost a Democratic primary in 2012; the only professed agnostic in Congress is Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, whose political future isn’t looking great.
It’s a complicated picture. Conservative columnist Ross Douthat argues that American liberalism’s increasing identification with secularism is keeping a lot of conservative Christians from politically expressing their reservations about Donald Trump. And religious people beyond the ranks of conservative faith communities may feel cross-pressured if Democratic politicians begin to reflect the liberal intelligentsia’s general assumption that religion is little more than a reactionary habit rooted in superstition and doomed to eventual extinction.
Perhaps it makes more sense for Democratic atheists and agnostics to spend time educating and mobilizing the “nothing in particular” Americans who already outnumber white evangelicals and ought to be concerned about how they’ll be treated if a Christian-nationalist Gilead arises. Only then can “nones” become the salvation for the Democratic Party.