Democrats Need To Learn Something From The 2014 Election And Evangelicals May Be Their Best Teachers

I know Democrats are still stunned and angered by last Tuesday’s election results. Over the weekend I heard a lot of talk about what went wrong and why it went wrong. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion, including me.

Beyond the unfavorable mathematics of the situation—so many Senate Democratic seats to defend in so many indefensible places—and beyond the problems with voter ID laws that right-wingers used to make it more difficult for Democrats to cast votes, there was the troubling notion that voters, who said they were dissatisfied with the economy and believed the country was on the wrong track, looked to Republicans to help fix things. That in itself is enough to tempt a rational person into abandoning all hope that there is in fact any rationality in our electoral process.

We all saw the news last Friday that 214,000 more jobs were created in October, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.8%, the best it has been since 2008. Amazingly, it was 7.2% just a year ago. We now have seen nine consecutive months in which more than 200,000 jobs were created—the strongest job growth since 1998—and in just over four and a half years 10.6 million private-sector jobs have been added to the economy. The stock market has soared beyond anyone’s wildest expectations. More people have health insurance now. We’ve come a helluva long way since Barack Hussein Obama’s first few months in office.

Yep, all that makes one wonder what people were thinking on Tuesday. And it makes one wonder what Democratic candidates were thinking before Tuesday when most of them didn’t bother to run on the progress that has been made—progress made despite Republicans sabotaging the economy with shutdowns, threats of shutdowns, threats of defaulting on our debt, not to mention their strategic legislative obstruction in Congress. You gotta scratch your head.

But the biggest head-scratching fact of the election was, of course, the problems our side has with turnout. Hispanics, a strong Democratic Party constituency, constituted 11% of eligible voters this year yet only represented 8% of actual voters. And although Democrats won a significant share of the overall Hispanic vote nationally, in places like Texas, where Hispanics represent 17% of the electorate and where Democrats expect to become competitive in the near future, Hispanics gave Nugent-loving Greg Abbott 44% of their share. Texas Senator John Cornyn actually outperformed his Democratic opponent among Hispanics, 48% to 47%, as did reactionary Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, who won his race with only 49.96% of the vote but managed to win the Latino vote 47% to 46%. (I should point out that there are some analysts who believe the exit polling showing these results was skewed and that Republicans didn’t do so well.)

Democrats, as usual, won the 18- to 29-year old vote, this year by 11 points. Problem is that they only represented 13% of the electorate on Tuesday, down from 19% in 2012. Turnout among single women, another stronghold for the Democrats for many important reasons, was also down and those who showed up only favored Democrats this time by a 60-38 margin. Women overall only favored Dems by five points, compared to +11 just two years ago. African-American turnout was down slightly from 2012, even though they remain a reliable voting block for Democrats.

I can’t explain to you why all those groups, groups that have so much to lose if Republicans have their way, don’t bother to show up in droves for the mid-term elections. It boggles my brain. The folks that Democrats help the most aren’t very good at helping Democrats when they need the most help. I just don’t know why that is. I don’t know why such folks need to be energized by a presidential campaign. Makes no sense to me. And I don’t know how long the country can continue progressing with what essentially are two distinct electorates, a younger and darker and more liberal one for presidential years and an older and whiter and more conservative one for off years.

But as a former evangelical Christian, something I do know and understand is this:

White Evangelicals turned up at the polls in large numbers on Tuesday, playing a key role placing Congress in the hands of the Republican Party.

That’s from a HuffPo article on “the religious landscape” of the 2014 election. The fact that conservative Christians showed up and voted, and voted in large numbers like they always do, doesn’t surprise me a bit. Those folks, even though they sometimes get frustrated with politics, nevertheless play the long game. They organize at the local level, move on to control their state’s GOP, and have a big say in who gets on the ballot. They then volunteer in campaigns and make sure to get out their vote, no matter what the election is. They are largely responsible for what we have seen since 2009. Barack Obama scared the devil out of them, or somewhat more accurately from their point of view, Barack Hussein Obama is the devil.

Take my next-door neighbor, Arkansas:

52 percent of the electorate was composed of self-identified white evangelicals or born-again Christians. About 73 percent voted for Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, which helped unseat two-term Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor.

Now, Mark Pryor was no atheist. In fact, he was co-chair of the National Prayer Breakfast—where Republicans take time out from demonizing Democrats in order to assert their Christian values—four times. He was as sincere a Christian as one can find in politics (don’t laugh). But that didn’t stop the National Republican Senatorial Committee from attacking Pryor’s faith in December of last year, an attack that Tom Cotton even criticized, that is, just before Cotton attacked Pyror’s faith himself in July:

Barack Obama and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings. That’s when we worship, but faith is what we live every single day.

Cotton, who apparently has more ambition in his bones than Christian charity in his heart, didn’t know in July whether he would beat Mark Pryor. Polls showed the race was fairly tight. But he had good reason to believe a whole lot of evangelical Christians would turn out to vote in November—turnout was actually up in Arkansas over what it was in 2010. So, why not take a shot at Pryor in Jesus’ name? And it was a nice touch putting Barack Obama’s name in that statement, don’t you think? What most evangelicals in Arkansas heard was, “The Devil and Mark Pryor think that faith is something that only happens at 11 o’clock on Sunday mornings.” Pryor, who didn’t want anything to ralph reed and faith and freedom coalitiondo with The Scary Negro because he is so unpopular in Arkansas, didn’t even get 40% of the vote last Tuesday. He lost by 17 points—in a state that saw 168,000 people, out of a population of only three million, benefit from ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion (the state had, until Tuesday, a Democratic governor).

But I can’t really blame Tom Cotton—who once called for the prosecution and imprisonment of three New York Times’ journalists—for such tactics, given the nature of electoral politics in Arkansas and across the Deep South (where, if Mary Landrieu loses in December, there will be no white Democrats in Congress). It isn’t as though we should expect that Cotton, being an “every single day” Christian, has any better manners or morals than your average beer-slamming blogger (don’t judge me too harshly). But he and his handlers understand his base. They know what buttons to push. They know what will get even more evangelicals than usual to the polls on Tuesdays in any November when there is an election going on. Cotton doesn’t care that he slandered a fellow Christian (actually, two fellow Christians, if you count that crypto-Muslim in the White’s House) in order to score points with white evangelicals in Arkansas. He wants to be a senator for God’s sake!

All of which gets me back to Democratic constituencies and our problems with turnout. It is simply a stubborn fact that we have to cobble together enough votes to win by appealing to a more diverse collection of people. We can’t rely on an overwhelming number of white voters (whose electoral strength is slowly dissipating), who this election made up 75% of the electorate, compared to 72% in 2012, and who gave the GOP 60% of their vote. Or, I hate to say it, we can’t rely on 65-year-old and older voters, who this time made up 22% of the electorate and, although most of them are living off Democratic programs like Social Security and Medicare, nevertheless voted Republican 57-42 .

We continue to heavily rely on the under-45 vote, the female vote, the union vote, and the minority vote, while getting significant shares of those between the ages of 45 and 64—they make up 43% of the electorate and we got 45% of their vote (yes, I know, these groups overlap). And as noted we continue to fail to get out our voters in sufficient numbers in off-year elections. As I said, beats me as to why that is or what we can do about it. I suggest, for a starter, not running away from our leader or our accomplishments.

But beyond that Monday-morning analysis, maybe we need to stop underestimating the power and influence of  white conservative evangelicals, who make up about one-fourth of the national electorate and a much higher percentage in states like Arkansas. There is no other group in American politics quite like these evangelicals. I think this explains a lot about why Republicans have a habit of winning mid-term elections. These folks don’t quit. They don’t tend to stay at home out of frustration. They don’t tend to let anything stand in their way, including voting for a Mormon in 2012, even though many evangelicals consider Mormonism to be a cult. They seem to have an immunity to apathy. Most of them believe every election, every vote, is crucial to fighting the tides of secularism that they are certain threaten their faith, perhaps their very existence. It is a good-versus-evil choice for them each and every time a national election is held.

Democrats, especially liberal Democrats, don’t seem to understand this reality. For some reason, instead of attempting to match or exceed evangelicals’ electoral enthusiasm—if that’s even possible—liberals keep wanting to wish it away. ThinkProgress published a piece two years ago, after Obama’s victory over Romney, that ended with this:

The 2012 election season appears to have been an ominous one for the Religious Right, and – if the trend continues – may very well signal the end of their traditional dominance of Republican politics…the Religious Right looks to have already lost persuasive power with many American voters.

Nope. Just ask Tom Cotton, uh, I mean, Senator-elect Tom Cotton.

Finally, I want to say that as a former evangelical I have spent a lot of time over the past several years writing about the influence of conservative Christians, whom I consider to be the most reactionary force in American society, especially in our politics. And I want to end this rather sad blog post by noting just how powerful the evangelical movement has been in terms of restricting reproductive freedom for women. Anyone who thinks that conservative Christians are losing their political clout, anyone who wants to ignore their influence over what happened last Tuesday in evangelical-rich Arkansas or Iowa or Colorado or Georgia or North Carolina or elsewhere, need only look at this headline:

Anti-Choice Group Moving Into Planned Parenthood Clinic Closed By Texas Abortion Restrictions 

Let that sink in for a moment or two. Now read this:

BRYAN/COLLEGE STATION, Texas, Nov. 6, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ — The worldwide 40 Days for Life movement is moving its headquarters into a former Planned Parenthood abortion center in Bryan/College Station, Texas. The pro-life initiative began outside that same facility ten years ago.

“This news shows what God can accomplish when His people pray,” said Shawn Carney, campaign director of 40 Days for Life. “More than 6,400 children lost their lives in this building, but God is making ‘all things new.’ What was once a place of death and despair is now going to be a place of life and hope. We are excited to start using this location to aid the rapid worldwide growth of 40 Days for Life, and to help other cities become abortion-free.”

Instead of ignoring or writing off right-wing Christians in America, Democrats have to find a way to stir up the same passion and commitment that evangelicals attach to their theocratic vision of a better society. If we don’t, then not only will the on-again, off-again electoral cycle we have seen continue, but in more places than Texas we will see liberal values diminish or disappear.


UPDATE: A commenter directed me to the following video, which captures much of the frustration on our side but also demonstrates the passion necessary for us to win again (for you folks who don’t like profanity, there are a few naughty words toward the end):



  1. ansonburlingame

     /  November 10, 2014


    I understand your frustration, stated time and again over the years. I share your frustration but from the opposite direction, why more people don’t vote for conservatives (not the radical ones either).

    I am “red” and you are “blue”, no question about it. But at least we base our respective views on deep reading, thinking, evaluating, etc., etc. Our positions are not JUST “good vs. evil”. They are far more nuanced than such a simple approach to politics.

    Now go round up all your supporters, the young, minorities, single women, academics, etc. I will round up mine, white men, business owners and executive level employees, military men and women, and of course the ever present evangelicals and “rednecks”.

    Then just give a test, a quiz on how government is supposed to work, the history of disputes in American politics, reading some political philosophy, etc. My guess is the majority, a large majority on each side would flunk the quiz. Our respective “masses” (yours bigger than mine for sure) are “good vs. evil” voters by and large, sound bite voters, swayed by repeated ads on TV, talk radio discussions, Fox News vs MSNBC News, neither being news of any sort on most of their shows.

    You and I fight an intellectual fight based on thinking, reasoning, arguing, etc. Of course you supporters herein think I am an idiot and could not think my way out of a paper bag. You used to tangle with my supporters and just quit as you weren’t going to change the mind of most of them, just like I won’t change your mind or those of your supporters either.

    I think it is safe to say that neither my blog nor yours does much at all to influence how Jasper County people vote. Locally my “rednecks” hold the majority over your “minorities, etc.) We aren’t going to change that by much at all in Jasper County.

    But neither of us will stop arguing for our respective positions, either. Stubborness, ego, a Don Quioti (spl?) quest, I don’t know and don’t care. But at least we both throw out considered ideas, more indepth that we will find anywhere else locally.

    More than anything else in terms of voting, I want to see people vote with firm conviction based on reasoning, thinking, reading, writing, etc. I don’t call for withholding the privilege to vote from anyone, but I sure don’t like “mass voting” based on ……….. from either side.



  2. King Beauregard

     /  November 10, 2014

    I like what this guy has to say:


  3. I like MacCloud’s soliloquy as well, but I see something more sinister at work in the political trend to the right. Anson feels it is simply a matter of opinion, two different approaches to the problems affecting society in the post-Cold-war global-economy world, but I see it as more complex than that. It is the difference between science and superstition, between reason, a.k.a. education, and blind belief, a.k.a., faith.

    Ironically, the trend is enabled by historically-cheap goods coming through automation and cheap third-world labor, and I believe this is fundamental to Democrat voting apathy. Whether through Great Society programs, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or through charity, people know that one way or another their day-to-day needs will be filled. With rare exception, nobody in America starves or goes in rags. Hell, we won’t even let most people die peacefully, we hook ’em up to feeding tubes and draw out the process.

    The right-wing demagogues are having their way with dishonest tactics like gerrymandering, poll suppression, subtle bigotry, and scare tactics like linking ebola to immigration fears. They have no shame. There are powerful, disingenuous memes at work here. Off the top of my head, some things widely believed that are not true:

    Ebola is a menace to the nation as a whole.
    Immigrant children are bringing terrible diseases into our country.
    Immigrants are taking away jobs Americans need and want.
    Everyone in the military is a hero.
    The mortality rate for cops is as great as that for soldiers.
    Background checks endanger Americans’ gun rights.
    The federal government is untrustworthy.
    It’s OK to pay a CEO 350 times as much as an average worker because he earned it.
    There must be something wrong with anyone who works for minimum wage.
    A fertilized human egg is a person. (Is an acorn a tree?)
    Humans are not responsible for climate change.

    I’m sorry to come to this conclusion, but I have. Nothing will reverse this trend until the Republicans get completely in charge of all three branches and screw up so badly that it will be obvious to everyone. I just hope the nation and the world survive it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • KABE

       /  November 11, 2014

      Jim, I couldn’t agree with you more on the subject of voter suppression issues as well as the gerrymandering. If anyone thinks this is not true, just look at a map of Austin, Texas, the supposed Democratic stronghold of Texas. It contains 6 districts, one reaching as far as Dallas and another towards Houston. And now there are rumors that Republicans plan to take it a step further by changing the electoral college system. I used to think of myself as a fairly independent voter, but I will probably never vote for another Republican again over this issue alone. I can accept results of any election, as long as they are fair. For anyone to say what is happening now is fair is beyond comprehension to me. It feels more like tribal fear to me.
      Also, I often think of labor unions and churches having a lot in common, but I cannot ever imagine that Democrats would go as far as Republicans to inflict financial damage to churches as has been done to unions. Free markets are not free if labor has no voice. Sadly, the union I belong to has a majority of people that support anti-labor candidates to the point that I no longer want to represent them. (which I do not at this time) I am afraid you are correct that only when the pendulum has swung as far right as possible will anyone notice.


      PS Happy Veterans Day to all Vets here!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Anonymous

     /  November 10, 2014

    Thank the SC!


    • King Beauregard

       /  November 11, 2014

      I’d like to, but the only way it’s on the SC is for people who went down to the voting booth but had to leave without voting due to new regulations. Everyone else, it’s just sloth.


  5. Ben Field

     /  November 11, 2014

    I don’t know how any deep reader, thinker, or reasoner could vote for politicians like OBL and consider themselves as such. The reason is apathy from citizens that do not support big business that actually control our country’s policies. Republicans have picked the “favored” horse in this dilemna, but thinking that this is the best course has been repudiated by Washington, Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy, throughout history. Read the attached link to see where the Republican Party is unwittingly leading us.


    • I stand second to no one in my belief that moneyed interests do their damnedest to control much of the world’s politics, including here in the U.S. via the Republican Party and, way too often, by compromising members of the Democratic Party, too. But I don’t buy into the notion that there is this vast New World Order conspiracy that involves the Federal Reserve and the Council on Foreign Relations and other “elites.”

      I happen to think that attributing what we see to a vast conscious conspiracy undermines our ability to wrestle control of our politics from those with the most dough. It discourages us and makes us believe unbelievable things and gives us an excuse for apathy. It allows what I will call an unconscious conspiracy to continue, which is nothing more than the collective results of individuals and small groups of rich people trying to buy the system or control it with their money for their own personal reasons.

      Those collective results we see are things like the increasing inequality throughout the world. Such results didn’t materialize because certain people got together to purposely increase the disparity between rich people and everyone else, but they materialized because lots of rich people tend to pursue their own interests through politics and other avenues of power, which when their actions are added together, make it hard for the working class to thrive.

      Take health insurance for instance. Prior to ObamaCare, there were millions upon millions of Americans who didn’t have access to health insurance (millions now have the theoretical access, but can’t get it due to Republican efforts to stop them). But that wasn’t because a bunch of New World Order folks got together in the offices of the CFR and decided it should be that way. It was the result of a lot of money thrown into our political system for a lot of different reasons, all adding up to the miserable health insurance system we had, one that made it hard for some people to afford insurance. ObamaCare attempted to address that basic problem, whatever one thinks of the law.

      I said all that to say that we can make this a fairer country, if we will simply get enough ordinary folks to buy into the notion that no one controls their destiny except them. And if we can get enough collective action on the part of those ordinary folks, things will absolutely change. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and ObamaCare are examples of what can happen, if we will not look to unimaginably complex conspiracies to explain the inequities we see all around us, but look to ourselves and the power of our collective votes.



  6. ansonburlingame

     /  November 11, 2014

    Jim and Duane,

    Jim’s list above is relatively accurate if one only considers the radical right’s proclivities. But don’t you know I could construct the same type list coming from a lot a “radical” liberals. I won’t bother for sure, but you know it is there if you think about it.

    Permit me to point out something in error on Jim’s list, the first item regarding Ebola.

    I don’t believe Ebola IS a threat to America today on a grand scale. But of course America goes “nuts” when one case is revealed. As well I believe Ebola COULD become a threat to America if just Ebola waste from Africa got spread around various population centers in America. My only concern with Ebola for now is that American government has not taken firm command and control of a potentially dangerous situation. I would prefer safety over convience with such a threat and that is not fear mongering on my part.

    The key element on Jim’s list, one that I agree with 100%, is the need for better voting by all Americans based on reasoning (education) on their part. I don’t like irrational “mass” voting by anyone, red or blue. But we are submerged in such voting instincts it seems to me from both sides of the aisle. Dem nor GOP has a lock on “dumb voters”.

    Duane has been unrelenting is showing evangelicals as “dumb voters”. If I tried to write a similar blog but “picked on” minority voters from ghettos in a similar vein, well ……. Duane disparges “rednecks”. Is there a politically correct term that I can use to disparge Dem voters using the same “instincts” (from an opposite point of political view)?



    • Anson,

      When you say you don’t believe ebola is “ . . . a threat to America on a grand scale . . .”, you are agreeing with me, so I don’t see how that is an “error”. Ebola happens to be unique in that, unlike many other diseases, it is not contagious until symptoms appear and it is not airborne. Those facts have been pointed out since the beginning of the problem, but they have shamefully been ignored by politicians, mostly Republican but including one Democrat governor, Cuomo of NY who consequently is on my bad-guy list. That is pandering to fear, not leadership. I will also observe, however, that social media and entertainment programs posing as news sources promote fear-pandering.

      I would agree that the majority of voters in this country appear to vote with their guts and not their heads, but it is in the leadership of the two parties that I find the distinction of most significance, not the comparative intelligence of the two kinds of voters. The Democrat leadership (Cuomo excepted in the case of ebola) promotes big-tent nationalism and science while the GOP leadership is primarily into negativism, subtle bigotry, and religiosity.


  7. ansonburlingame

     /  November 12, 2014

    Well Jim,

    Again we can disagree without throwing “stuff” around.

    Your list started with “Ebola is a menace to the nation as a whole”. It is not such for sure, but without carefully handling of that deadly disease, well …….? Prudence in the face of convience is not fear mongering either, it is called safety against deadly things.

    You close above with a “Duane-like” rant saying the GOP leadership is into negativism, subtle bigorty and religiosity. You and yours tried to paint Romney as that sort of man. He was NOT that sort of man in any way in my view, but so what, you won!!

    Seems like a little reverse bigotry was in play with how ACA was passed as well and it wasn’t so subtle it seems to me. I actually think that guy told the truth based on his view of the truth, surprising as that is in American politics. Sure beats “You can keep your …..”.

    Needless to say, with a new GOP Congress come Jan I am still waiting to hear the truth abut Benghazi. That whole mess sure looked to me at least, at the time, as political maneuvering to minimize its effect on the 2012 election. Again, you won that round, but ……… As Hillary infamously said “Why worry about that, now”. Well some still worry about it, apolitically, like how can the National Command Authority better function in a real crisis?

    I wonder if the NCA is now ready to deal with 10 American soldiers captured by ISIL and …….? Hoping it won’t happen is one thing. But what to do if it happens is a whole different set of concerns. If that happens I hope to hell we don’t say “the video made them do it” and sit back to watch ………!!



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