The Stew Reporting on government and politics

Losing faith

Politics | The Democratic Party makes an appeal to nonreligious voters
by Harvest Prude
Posted 9/05/19, 05:22 pm

After 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election, Democrats are courting the votes of the decidedly unreligious. The Democratic National Committee passed a resolution at its annual summer meeting in late August celebrating the values of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans, praising nonbelievers for supporting “rational public policy based on sound science and universal humanistic values.”

But when it comes to religious voters, the resolution exposes a weakness for Democrats. To regain the ground the party lost in 2016, some Democratic presidential candidates are seeking to woo religious voters on the left by talking about their faith on the campaign trail and hiring faith outreach staff.

People who identify as atheists, agnostics, and “nothing in particular” made up about 35 percent of Democratic primary voters in 2016, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study. Out of the remaining 65 percent who reported having some kind of religious affiliation, 31 percent identified as white Christians, 22 percent as nonwhite Christians, and 12 percent said they were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or “something else.”

“Democrats are in a really tough spot,” Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University, told me. “Democrats are stuck between trying to appeal to the old Christian base but [with a] growing number of ‘nones.’”

The number of “nones,” or Americans with no religious affiliation, has grown from less than 1 in 10 in the 1970s to about a quarter of the population today, according to the Pew Research Center.

According to the Secular Coalition for America, no major political party has explicitly embraced nonbelievers until now. But the Democratic Party’s resolution seems to go a step further, taking a shot at religious conservatives. It says some religious demographics have used “misplaced claims of ‘religious liberty’ to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans, including but not limited to the LGBT community.”

Ken Blackwell, a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, told me the effort shows “the DNC is continuing its longstanding effort to run God and faith out of the public square and to create new constitutional rights whole cloth.”

And the move could cost Democrats in the long run.

“If you’re a Democratic religious none … the fact you’re getting acknowledged is a good thing,” Burge said. “If you’re an old school Catholic or mainline Protestant, this might be the opposite for you. This actually might turn you off as another example of, ‘Oh these liberals don’t care about Christian values anymore but are catering to the fringe of the party.’”

Burge gave the example of Democratic front-runner Joe Biden rescinding his yearslong support for the Hyde Amendment, which prevents taxpayer dollars from going toward abortion, as a clear sign that Democrats are not trying to court the moderate Christian vote. Burge noted the shift could win over liberal primary voters but might end up hurting the party in the general election: “You can’t go back on it now … when you spent the last year trying to appeal to activists on your side.”

YouTube/CNN YouTube/CNN Sen. Bernie Sanders (left) participates in a CNN town hall Wednesday night hosted by Anderson Cooper.

Candidates vie for climate lead

Ten 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls appeared back-to-back in a seven-hour CNN town hall Wednesday night to discuss their plans to address climate change.

Nearly all of the candidates proposed some version of a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the United States by 2050. Everyone endorsed rejoining the Paris climate accord, putting millions of dollars toward researching clean energy, developing carbon-capturing technologies, and supporting public transportation. Some also endorsed a carbon tax.

While the candidates universally demonized fossil fuels, they diverged at times on how to discourage their use. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., endorsed a full ban on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for natural gas production, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., opposed outlawing natural gas because it is “better than oil.”

Front-runner Joe Biden found himself on defense when confronted about his plans to attend a fundraiser the next day hosted by Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of a natural gas company. Biden said Goldman is “not a fossil fuel executive.”

CNN and the Human Rights Campaign announced Thursday they will co-host another marathon town hall on Oct. 10 with Democratic candidates on LGBT issues. Ahead of that is the third Democratic debate, scheduled for Sept. 12 on ABC and Univision. —H.P.

Associated Press/Photo by Ted S. Warren (file) Associated Press/Photo by Ted S. Warren (file) Container ships in the Port of Tacoma, Wash.

Growing gap

The U.S. trade deficit with its overseas partners has grown since President Donald Trump took office in 2016 despite his promise to address the issue.

The gap between what the United States sells to and buys from other countries hit a record high in December 2018. Despite some month-to-month dips, data from the U.S. Department of Commerce shows that from 2016 to 2018, the trade deficit grew from $503 billion to $628 billion. A report released Tuesday by Axios found that the United States has increasingly purchased more than it has sold among 10 of its 15 biggest trading partners since 2016. In China, the deficit has grown by 23.3 percent. The report notes the gap has shrunk between the United States and some countries, such as India and South Korea.

The president recently announced an additional round of tariffs on Chinese imports worth $300 billion. China retaliated by slapping tariffs on U.S. goods worth about $75 billion.

Chinese authorities announced Thursday that trade talks with the United States will resume in October. The Trump administration has said for months it is working to reach a trade deal with China that will lead to more equitable market exchanges. —H.P.

Trump shifts military money to border wall

The Pentagon plans to delay or suspend 127 military construction projects to free up $3.6 billion to build a wall along the U.S. southern border, the U.S. Department of Defense announced on Tuesday. Defense officials said they would only delay the construction projects, not cancel them. About half of the money would come from projects abroad and the other half from domestic plans.

In February, President Donald Trump issued a national emergency declaration to fund the border wall after he failed to convince Congress to allocate money for it. The fight caused a partial government shutdown. The president used executive action to appropriate $8 billion total for the wall and earmarked $3.6 billion from military construction funds.

Earlier this year, some states challenged whether national security justified Trump’s executive action, but the Supreme Court ruled he had the right to proceed. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted Monday that the reallocation of funds “is a slap in the face” to those in the military. —H.P.

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Harvest Prude

Harvest is a political reporter for WORLD's Washington Bureau. She is a World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College graduate. Harvest resides in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @HarvestPrude.

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  • JerryM
    Posted: Thu, 09/05/2019 08:13 pm

    Re: Trump shifts money...

    If you listen to NPRs reporting of this, it would seem a significant travesty is being perpetrated.  Then again, unfortunately, this is to be expected with NPR as it remains much more ideologically aligned with the left.

  •  phillipW's picture
    Posted: Fri, 09/06/2019 08:06 am

    You cannot be a Bible believing Christian and a Democrat anymore.  Those of you reading this who object to that sort of black and white talk are only fooling yourselves.  Just go back to the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where they held a floor vote, and God and Israel were booed off of the stage.

    I also believe we've reached a crossroads with our faith in America.  I am no longer going to censor my speech with regards to Jesus Christ, just because I am worried that I might be around someone that might be sensitive to talking about Jesus Christ.  I've truly got nothing to lose, talking about Jesus in public, at the very least.  I am prepared to lose anything and everything in this life to stand firm in my faith.

    Just as Democrats like to dance around religious issues, and bash those who hold to a traditional Biblical worldview, I'll not stop spreading the Gospel in the hopes I'll keep the peace with those that honestly want nothing then to vanquish Jesus Christ from the face of the earth.

    There is no "separation of Church and state" in the Constitution, and there is nothing but cowardice in not speaking up about my faith in Christ.  I will no longer be ashamed to speak of such things.

  • not silent
    Posted: Fri, 09/06/2019 10:33 am

    Respectfully, I think there are Christians in both major political parties.  For one thing, I KNOW people who are Christians who belong to both parties.  For another, I can't see that either party has a lock on biblical values. 

    It's true that the Republican Party is more likely to protect unborn life, to support Israel, and to protect religious freedom.  That's awesome.  But I know many Republicans who think the government should not help the poor, prisoners, or the sick.  I have had many discussions with them about it, and they say that only individuals should do those things.  Then these same people will then give me all sorts of reasons why they don't personally need to help the poor, and most of these reasons either deny that there ARE any poor people or insist that the poor are only poor because they refuse to work.  (Okay, I realize that there are people who refuse to work; but I know a lot of people who are poor because of reasons outside their control-getting sick, being laid off, etc.) 

    The Bible talks REPEATEDLY about helping the poor, and not just about individuals doing it.  For example:

    "A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops." (Proverbs 28:3 NIV)

    "Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters were fat, overfed, and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." (Ezekiel 16:49 NIV)

    I've said this before, but Jesus' disciples covered a very wide political spectrum.  They ranged from Matthew, who was a tax collector and thus a collaborator with the Roman governement, to Simon the Zealot, who belonged to a group which advocated the military overthrow of Rome. That would be at least as extreme as anything we have in politics today.   This tells me that Jesus didn't think you had to have certain political views to be his disciple.  I think one reason for that was that he didn't come to save the world through politics.  The Bible certainly acknowledges that politics were important and serverd a purpose: Jesus said to give to Caesar what was Caesar's and Paul said to pay taxes because the governing authorities were put in place by God to keep order (Romans 13).  We should obviously be INVOLVED with our government, but our main mission is to go and make disciples. 

    One big way Christians have been able to win people to faith throughout history was by helping the poor and needy.  Political parties can obviously do what they wish; but, if a certain party claims to represent Christianity and then refuses to help the poor and needy, what is that saying to the world about our faith and our Lord?  I don't trust either party, to be honest.  I pray and vote my conscience regarding individuals.


  • Hawkdriver
    Posted: Fri, 09/06/2019 12:59 pm

    To Senator Schumer:  I've been in the miltary for over 22 years and am still serving.  I do not consider the reallocation of defense funds to the building up of our southern border for the end goal of legal, orderly immagration as a "slap in the face."  I also don't know anyone in the military that does.  I also realize that by engaging in this conversation I could get in trouble but...someone has to speak up.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Fri, 09/06/2019 02:47 pm

    I don’t believe anyone can seriously claim either the Republicans or the Democrats are a “Christian” party. Possibly more Christians are Republicans than Democrats but I’m not really sure that means a lot.  

    I’m an independent, but personally, for just one reason, I would find it almost impossible to vote for a Democrat, and that reason is the Democratic Party’s long-time support for abortion. 

    I do know at least one Christian couple who voted for Hillary in 2016 because they absolutely could not stand Donald Trump. I might question their judgment but I can’t question that they are Christians. 

    Looking at my own life I can see numerous glaring examples of poor judgment  since I became a Christian. So probably poor judgment is part of our sin nature, which we still have to turn over to the Lord daily even after accepting Him. 

    Every person I know sins, Christian or not. I know Christians who committed what we might consider “really bad” sins: adultery, armed robbery, etc.; and know of the total repentance of some of those, and in a few instances know of God’s discipline on them. As we are still fighting against our sin nature and still sinning after becoming followers of Jesus, it is understandable some of us might vote “wrong” or support the “wrong” party. 

    We are all in the same situation, that of needing to deny ourselves daily and take up our crosses.  If we believe Romans 13:1, how we vote may be one of the least of the things we get wrong. 

  • Big Jim
    Posted: Fri, 09/06/2019 05:27 pm

    I can understand why a Christian would not like the Republican Party but for the life of me I cannot understand why a Christian would like the Democrat Party. If you remove the politicians and just examine the Party platforms (policies) I do think that the Republican Party platform is more closely aligned with Christian values than the Democrat Party platform.

    Posted: Mon, 09/09/2019 12:06 pm

    A foundational contradiction in terms: nonreligious and universal humanistic values... when the individual can decide what defines truth, where does the universal part come in...?