Ruth Marcus' Column

In the Washington Post:

When mega-pastor Joel Osteen's Lakewood Church opened last year in its new Houston home, the city's former professional basketball arena, a most unlikely guest was on hand for the celebration: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a minister's son who chairs the House Democrats' Faith Working Group, headed to Dallas a few months later to worship with Bishop T.D. Jakes, an African American Pentecostal minister who's been called "the next Billy Graham."

This month, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean -- yes, that would be the Howard Dean who dismissed Republicans last year as "pretty much a white, Christian Party" -- went on Pat Robertson's "700 Club," asserting that Democrats "have an enormous amount in common with the Christian community, and particularly with the evangelical Christian community." Randy Brinson, founder of Redeem the Vote (think Rock the Vote meets Jesus), met last week with the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

Democrats these days are a party on a mission that might sound impossible: to persuade evangelical Christian voters to consider converting -- to the Democratic Party.
Ms. Marcus' column is a well reasoned examination of Democratic Outreach to Evangelicals. It explains that Evangelicals make up 25% of the population, a voting block to large to be ignored. It also points out that this group isn't millions of mindless clones. There are moderate and even 'modernist' (they won't use the word liberal) Evangelicals that already self identify as Democrats or Independents more often than Republican.

Ms. Marcus most valuable piece of advice is that one of the best things that Democrats can do to woo Evangelicals is show up. Megachurch services and Christian Radio are largely echo chambers for the GOP because there are no Democrats going there.

Once there, it's important that Democrats not misrepresent the party. (That means you, Gov. Dean.) Democrats have allowed themselves to be painted as the party of gays and abortion. We need to remind people that while we do support equality for all Americans and a woman's ability to have control of what happens within her own body, we're also the party that is at the forefront of reducing poverty, helping the poor and disabled and feeding the hungry. We are the party that's working to save the environment and to keep workers safe on the job.

Ms. Marcus closes with, "So, by all means, let Democrats woo Evangelicals and cast the message in a way that speaks to religious voters. But in doing so, keep in mind: What does it profit a party to gain a demographic but lose its soul?"

We must remember that pandering to Evangelicals will alienate the base. Luckily, the Party Platform already incorporates many Christian Principals. We need to engage the Evangelical community and show them that we share many of their values.

It is unlikely that Democrats can peel off many of the 'traditionalists' Evangelicals, but gains among the 'moderate' and 'modernist' portions of the Evangelical community are certainly possible. The trick is to know how much to push - and when to stop - while remaining true to our ideals.

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