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.
“Liar, Krugman of NYT, blasts McCain With the Truth”
Republicans Hijacked 911, by Keith Olberman, Courage to Speak Truth!
How many more Journalists & Reporters will show courage and begin to do their duty and Inform the public as to truth and falsity? We should never again be lied into a False & Phony war by a President you want to have a beer with! Republicans strong on National Security? I don’t think so, after all 911 happened on their watch, but they have been allowed to distort the facts and public perception that it is the Democrats who are weak on national security! They have failed to properly enact the 911 Commissions recommendations which would make us a lot safer! Politicans who willfully and intentionally lie to the public are engaged in a betrayal of the public trust and such distortion should be deemed unethical and in some cases, criminal! We need a Media to be the third-wheel of democracy again and not a parrot of those who are corrupt, unless they are corrupt too!
Republicans are just as dismal on economics. It is an outrage or should be that the government can give millions of dollars to CEO’s from the failed Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac and yet, cannot give a second stimulus check to American citizens in these hard economic times? Republicans say No to a second stimulus while the Democrats say Yes to a second stimulus! Is the Republican Congress working for CEO’s or are they working for you, the people? We need a Government and a Congress to work for the People, not lie to the people, not bail out their own special interest groups and leave the people hanging. We need a government to put the burden of taxes on the rich where they belong and stop putting the tax burdens on the middle class and poor, those who can least afford it. We need a government who will put money into education and make that a national priority again, both lower and higher education and give more Pell Grants and less loans so that young people can once again achieve a higher education, get a good job and lift everybody up out of poverty. We need action and not more spin, talk and lies. We need a Congress who will vote Yes to bridges, roads, schools, health care. Who will invest in America and not in Iraq and in themselves and their special interest groups. America is dying. We need Change!
And we need to play just as dirty in order to win, or we will fall back into out usual form..that of losers.
The moment McCain clearly pulled into the lead in the Republican primaries last winter there were three predictions that could be made with absolute certainty.
1. That McCain’s unique biography would have tremendous appeal for those voters who didn’t know his history and choose their candidate based on personality rather than positions on major issues.
2. That, if a “high road” campaign did not seem to be doing the job by summer, Bush-Rove operatives would be called in to run a nasty, “swift-boat” style media campaign for the fall.
3. That religious and cultural conservatives would be extremely unhappy and unenthusiastic with McCain as the candidate but – recognizing the huge threat posed by Democratic victory – – would somehow rationalize a way to actively support him after the conventions.
Seen in this light, the only real surprises in this campaign have been (1) that Obama actually proved himself to be extraordinarily compelling and attractive as a candidate and orator – much more than anyone anticipated last February – and (2) that John McCain found a Vice-Presidential choice who is every bit as “rock star” mediagenic and attractive to her natural conservative audience as Obama is to his.
Now sure, it would have been lovely if McCain had continued to run a lackluster campaign, chose a conventional and very boring vice-president, refused to go nasty and negative and continued to reject the religious and cultural conservatives as “agents of intolerance” – but was there really any reason to think this would actually happen?
Not a chance. After a very slow start, the Republicans are just reverting back to form – avoiding the issues, blatantly lying about their opponents, appealing to “Us vs. Them” rhetoric and stereotypes.
Let’s face it, aren’t these the tactics and isn’t this the battle we knew we’d be in from the very beginning.
Yeah it’s ugly, but it isn’t a surprise.