Ok, I admit it. I didn't watch Clinton's and Obama's little town meeting on faith that aired tonight on CNN. I know. It would've made a great post, but I just couldn't bring myself to sit through it. I couldn't bring myself to endure what I suspected would be a blatantly obvious political ploy to win over religiously conservative voters, a ploy Dems have been using for a while now.
Dems have been trying hard to get religion ever since they lost the presidential election in 2004. Before then, the Democratic party had been staunchly secular. It was the party of choice for most unchurched voters, polls showed, as it supported a host of liberal causes rooted in a rejection of traditional, Judeo-Christian values. The defeat in '04, attributed to the overwhelming support "values voters" gave Republicans, forced the Dems to rediscover their collective soul. God became acceptable to them again...to a point.
While wanting to make inroads into the (conservative) faith community Democrats, especially liberal ones, didn't want to get too touchy feely with the divine. Rather than actually changing their fundamentally secular worldview Dems sought to convince the faithful that it was compatible with their God-centered one. And to a large extent they've succeeded. In the '06 midterm elections the Democrats received a larger than expected share of the White, evangelical vote and they stand to do the same in '08. The trick has been to get people of faith to "broaden" their concern from their usual hot button issues, i.e. abortion or gay marriage, to include such things as protecting the environment and caring for the poor.
I find this strategy insulting. It assumes that religious conservatives were backward, one dimensional voters until shown the way by enlightened liberals. Of course, this is garbage. Conservative people of faith have been concerned about a wide range of issues, especially helping the poor, for many years; they just haven't been inclined to view government as the solution. That's why the issues they actually voted on were rather narrowly defined. It had nothing to do with being narrow minded, ignorant, or uncaring. Religious conservatives don't need to be "enlightened" by anyone.
Still, the Dems' success in convincing a portion of the conservative faithful to rethink their political allegiance can't be denied, and tonight's forum is an attempt to solidify those gains. Will it work? Will Hillary and Obama be successful? I'm not sure. As disappointed and even disillusioned many people of faith are with the Republicans they also know that the Democrats haven't exactly been their friends. Hillary and Obama will have to walk a fine line trying to woo a lot of still skeptical "values voters" while reassuring their secular base they haven't gotten too cozy with the faithful. Watching the Dems trying to stay on that tightrope during the entire election season is going to be very funny.