Among the various postmortem evaluations of the November election, R. R. Reno’s at First Things (“The New Secular Moral Majority,” December 2012) caught my eye:
The Democratic party is very likely to become more and more dependent on Nones (20 percent of Americans who according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life identify with no religious affiliation) for votes, and thus more and more beholden to their claims to represent the new secular Moral Majority. We’ve already seen the Democratic party become a fully owned subsidiary of Planned Parenthood, and this in spite of the decline in support for our abortion regime in the general public. The same is happening with gay rights and the push to redefine marriage. (On this issue, polling data trend their way.) The biotechnology revolution will surely raise new issues, and in all likelihood the new secular Moral Majority will push for the freedom to remake reproduction, parenthood, and family, as well as our views about death and dying, with an aura of progressive urgency that tolerates little dissent.
Around the time that our mail person (no pandering to inclusive language here, just ignorance about whether the semi-regular guy or gal delivered the magazine that day) was putting First Things into our mailbox, I was speculating on whether the real Moral Majority, also known as social conservatives, should re-affiliate not religiously but politically in the wake of President Obama’s re-election:
Evangelicals have a public relations problem. Not only does their brand of religion, which demands belief in Christ, make them look intolerant, but their political activism places them in a party known for favoring policies that preserve the wealth and status of the nation’s one percent. (This combination of relatively unpopular demographic groups within the GOP’s base – religious zealots and rich fat cats – should have given Obama a landslide.) If journalists (minus the reporters and anchors for Fox News) and the general public associate Republicans with the most unappealing segments of the nation’s society, those same people regard the Democrats as the party of the little guy, of the underdog, or minority interests. Changing this dynamic will be hard since, in some ways, it is already over a century old.
Even so, evangelicals could dramatically alter the dynamics of current party rivalries if they simply switched parties. I am no rocket scientist, nor am I even a political scientist, but the last time I checked, the United States was a free country and its citizens could join whatever political party they desired. In other words, there are no legal barriers that would prevent evangelical Protestants from becoming card-carrying members of the Democratic Party – Jim Wallis already is. The switch would at least be entertaining, since we could witness media personalities and politicians talking about “real” Democrats the way the Sarah Palin now talks about “real” Americans.
Interlocutors at the Porch could well tell me why I am all wet to suggest a political realignment for social conservatives (though I hope they read the whole piece). But I continue to wonder why this proposal has no merit (and FPR is one “place” to entertain these thoughts since it is non-partisan in the best sense). If nones make up almost 20 percent of the American public, which according to the same polling data is about the same size as the evangelical Protestant population, then having both groups in the same political party could provoke a real debate (even argument) as opposed to the sloganeering that now characterizes most campaigns and cable news organizations’ coverage of them. Clearly, the stalemate of Republicans vs. Democrats is going nowhere except in the direction of Democratic majorities for the foreseeable future. So why not let the evangelicals do for politics what they have been good at as followers of Jesus — be missionaries; that is, take their political convictions into a foreign party and try to make converts? Since this is a democracy and candidates are never more ideological than polling data permits, evangelicals might find the Democratic party as willing to listen (and receive donations) as the GOP.