The Democratic Party risks religious voters in a wild appeal to the unaffiliated. Is this really the right strategy to defeat Donald Trump?

Flag waving at the DNC Convention 2016. (photo: Lorie Shaull)

As the battle for the Democratic nomination for president heats up, and opposition research firms retained by the ten remaining candidates turn their attention to newly-rising and potential front-runner Sen. Elizabeth Warren, another battle between good and evil is brewing.

A battle for the soul of the Democratic Party.

More particularly, it is a battle for the future of the Democratic Party and whether or not that party can continue to accommodate people of devout faith. And whether it even cares to.

That the Democratic Party has had an increasingly difficult time with the religious in its ranks is not exactly a secret.

From the woeful anti-Semitism resonating in the upper echelons of the House of Representatives, as espoused by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.); to the shouted-down objections to the termination of third-trimester pre-term babies from Catholic Democrats: Religious beliefs have fallen further and further from their once holy status in the electorate.

It is therefore no surprise that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) voted unanimously for an August 24, 2019 resolution to embrace the religiously unaffiliated wholeheartedly. In the process, rejecting the religious in Democratic ranks, denouncing them as nothing more than repressors of civil liberties.

“…those most loudly claiming that morals, values, and patriotism must be defined by their religious views, [have] used those religious views with misplaced claims of ‘religious liberty,’ to justify public policy that has threatened the civil rights and liberties of many Americans, including by not limited to the LGBT community, women and others.” — from August 24, 2019 DNC Resolution

While secular organizations have lauded the landmark move, the first time a major political party has ever openly embraced non-religious voters, and have called it long overdue, others have wondered if the timing will hurt Democrats in the polls come Election Day 2020.

Is now really the time to break new ground with the religiously unaffiliated at the expense of Americans who identify as religious or devout?

With Donald Trump in the White House?

More than a few Democrats have been quick to pan the move, criticizing it as unlikely to draw new voters at best and likely to drive away religious Democratic voters at worst.

Former faith advisor to President Obama, Michael Wear called the resolution “stupid on a fundamental level that transcends electoral politics.”

Wear took special exception to the resolution’s claim that “the religiously unaffiliated demographic represents the largest religious group within the Democratic Party,” pointing out that such a “group” lacks cohesiveness and is therefor not really a large demographic at all, but a bunch of smaller disparate demographics who will vote as such.

Perhaps worst of all, especially for Blue Dog and Southern Democrats, anyone running in a swing state in 2020, or any Democrat barely hanging on to a purple seat, is that this resolution casts the ideals of today’s Democratic Party as antithetical to those of religious voters.

Not only is this incorrect, it does not draw a good comparison. Religious voters consider their God the good guy; the political party that sets themselves at odds with that God will be cast as the bad guy.

In passing such a resolution, Democrats are opening themselves up to criticism that will have no trouble finding its feet in the current electorate.

Democrats hoping the DNC would turn its attention to soundly beating Donald Trump in 2020 may be bitterly disappointed at this new distraction. This move has instead left the party newly vulnerable, a mistake that is likely to cost Democrats dearly.

A mistake Trump will have no trouble turning to his advantage.

“Would have hoped folks would hold off at least until the guy who wants to nuke hurricanes was out of The White House. Trump is absolutely going to run this into the ground, and not just with white evangelicals.” — Michael Wear, Twitter.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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