September 9, 2012

How the Democratic Party Could Have Handled the God Issue

No godsI want to follow up on this post a bit by explaining what I think the Democratic Party should have done with regard to the god language in their platform. I am making the choice to set aside the Jerusalem question, which I regard as far less relevant, to focus on the god language. I'm also not going to revisit the manner in which the multiple votes were handled.

As I see it, there are two viable approaches for the Democratic Party when it comes to how they approach religion.
  1. Omit any mention of gods from the party platform, speeches, and party documents; or
  2. Use inclusive language to make it clear that the party welcomes persons of diverse faiths and no faith at all.
I think we could probably argue quite a bit over #1 without reaching any consensus. I would prefer this option because I don't think that superstition has any place in politics and should be the business of individuals in their private lives. But I recognize that many people would not agree with this, and I have no interest in attempting to purge them. I readily concede that pushing this option to the exclusion of other considerations would probably not be in the best interests of the party's political goals.

And this brings me to option #2. This seems to be the ideal compromise position because I suspect nearly everyone, religious believers and atheists alike, can live with it. Until this convention, I thought that this was where the party was heading. I thought this was what President Obama was trying to signal when he included atheists as one of the groups when referring to religious diversity.

If the Democratic Party wants to retain a key part of their base (i.e., the atheist community), they need to return to option #2. It allows them to be the "big tent" party they claim they want to be. Atheists will be happy, and religious believers will be happy. This can continue to be a strength of the party. On the other hand, if the Democratic Party refuses to do this and keeps trying to compete with the Republicans on how godly they can be, atheists are not going to stick around. The activists will be the first to leave, but others will almost certainly follow. This would be a disaster for the party.

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