The Church And The Dems

David Brooks

Clinton seems to understand, as many Democrats do not, that a politician’s faith isn’t just about litmus test issues like abortion or gay marriage. Many people just want to know that their leader, like them, is in the fellowship of believers. Their president doesn’t have to be a saint, but he does have to be a pilgrim. He does have to be engaged, as they are, in a personal voyage toward God.

Clinton made this sort of faith-based connection, at least until he sullied himself with the Lewinsky affair. He won the evangelical vote in 1992, and won it again in 1996. He understood that if Democrats are not seen as religious, they will be seen as secular Ivy League liberals, and they will lose.

John Kerry doesn’t seem to get this. Many of the people running the Democratic Party don’t get it either.

A recent Time magazine survey revealed that only 7 percent of Americans feel that Kerry is a man of strong religious faith. That’s a catastrophic number. That number should be the first thing Kerry strategists think about when they wake up in the morning and it should be the last thing on their lips when they go to sleep at night.

When I have a limited budget and limited time in which to conduct a phone survey with voters who don’t vote in primaries, I always ask how regular their church attendence is. If it is several times a month, I know they’ll lean Republican.