TIME's lead story right now is "Leveling the Praying Field: How the Democrats Got Religion." The article explores what is happening as devout Christians start looking elsewhere for political leadership as the Republican strongholds no longer measure up:
The Democrats are so fired up, you could call them the new Moral Majority. This time, however, the emphasis is as much on the majority as on the morality as they try to frame a message in terms of broadly shared values that don't alarm members of minority religions or secular voters. It has become an article of faith among party leaders that it was sheer strategic stupidity to cede the values debate to Republicans for so long; that most people want to reduce abortion but not criminalize it, protect the earth instead of the auto industry, raise up the least among us; and that a lot of voters care as much about the candidates' principles as about their policies. "What we're seeing," says strategist Mike McCurry, "is a Great Awakening in the Democratic Party."
The revival comes at a time when the entire religious-political landscape is changing shape. A new generation of evangelical leaders is rejecting old labels; now an alliance of religious activists that runs from the crunchy left across to the National Association of Evangelicals has called for action to address global warming, citing the biblical imperative of caring for creation. Mainline, evangelical and Roman Catholic organizations have united to push for immigration reform. The possibility that there is common ground to be colonized by those willing to look for it offers a tantalizing prospect of alliances to come, but only if Democrats can overcome concerns within their party. "One-third gets it," says a Democratic values pioneer, talking about the rank and file. "A second third understands that this can help us win. And another third is positively terrified."
Among the assertions:
- When you wipe abortion from the values debate, a landscape of other issues opens up that Democrats are most poised to address, such as environmental stewardship, social justice and racial equality.
- 40 percent of Evangelicals now identify as Independent voters, a number that's grown rapidly in just three years even as they stop identifying as Republicans at an even faster clip.
- The Kerry campaign discovered how it was resonating with religious voters totally by accident and way too late.
- Several figures are helping influence how this plays out for 2008, including Mara Vanderslice, Randy Brinson, Jim Wallis, and others—and this isn't sitting well with organizations with more, shall we say, traditionally leftist positions.