Tuesday, March 14, 2006

There are some good posts up right now about Democrats and religion -- from Scott Lemieux, Avedon Carol, Atrios, among others. But I want to go to back to the Steve Waldman post that helped get Scott, Avedon, and Atrios riled up:

...I had been making a narrower point -- that many liberals carry an elitist attitude toward evangelical Christians.... I think a distinction should be made between the elites and the rank and file on this. The fact is that most Democrats are religious. But secular liberals, who made up about 16% of the Kerry vote (more stats here) seem to have a disproportionate impact on the party's image and approach.

The key words here, I think, are "elites" and "elitist."

Let's never forget that the discussion of Democrats and religion is very much a discussion of class and sociocultural status. The people who now respond to the message of the GOP are the spiritual (and sometimes literal) descendants of people who responded to the economic populism and elite-bashing of politicians like Huey Long decades ago -- but we've replaced the Wall Street tycoons as their big-city villains. They think all Democrats are effete cultural elitists who sneer at ordinary citizens. They think we think they're trash.

And, of course, a lot of elite Republicans (and their Democratic apologists, such as Waldman) wrap themselves in the mantle of regular-Americanness, regardless of how many movers and shakers they consort with. They help keep this sociocultural resentment alive.

Red-staters are thus primed to anticipate contempt from us -- and so yokel-bashing by individuals is said to represent every liberal or Democrat's point of view; a politician's unfamiliarity with NASCAR or newly purchased hunting camo is said to be a slap in the face at regular folks. The religion-bashing they claim to detect is just part of this.

I don't know what will help us persuade religious conservatives that we don't resent their faith but do resent attempts to compel us to live our lives according to religious beliefs we don't share. But I try to leave style differences out of the discussion -- I have no desire to mock NASCAR or megachurches or country music or Southern accents, though I will criticize what's said in a megachurch or in a Southern accent if it threatens people's liberties. I know, though, that that's not going to spare me -- I'm still going to be branded a religion-hating East Coast snob, because non-coastal people have a long history of feeling disrespected, and because Democrat-haters know very well how to use that feeling of disrespect.

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