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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Religious Prattle May Hurt Candidates

Kos has a thought-provoking post “Religion, Values and Politics,” offering a cogent argument that political candidates rarely gain much by talking about their religion. He nails it nicely in this nut graph:

Here’s the deal — Republicans have claimed god as their own and perverted religious texts to justify some of the most divisive and hateful policies and discourse in our politics today. And while Corporate Cons, Neocons, and Paleocons have tolerated the Theocons in order to tap into their activist network (none of those other conservative factions have significant boots to help them win elections), fact is it’s created an ugly party that is unelectable in entire regions of the country. No one likes to have their morality dictated by others. And that doesn’t just mean the Religious Right, but those on our side as well.

Kos believes Dems who think Harold Ford’s losing Senate campaign provides a model for emulation are sorely mistaken. He notes that Jim Webb and John Tester won in conservative states “without cheap pandering to the religious set.” He explains further:

They didn’t shoot commercials in churches, embrace hatred of gays, or demand school prayer (all of which Harold Ford did). They didn’t prattle on about “god” at every campaign stop. Yet somehow they were able to win.

Voters do want to know about candidates’ personal values, Kos explains. But candidates who equate values with parroting religious doctrines may be courting defeat. Kos’s article riffs on a discussion underway at Atrios, and both merit a thoughtful read. Nation-wide, there may, indeed be more voters who wish candidates would just shut up about their religion than those who want to hear about it. And just once, wouldn’t it be great to hear some leading politician say “Religion is a deeply personal matter, and I’m just not going to exploit it to jockey for votes.”