Bested by a Republican campaign emphasizing Christian faith, some Democrats are scrambling to shake off their secular image, stepping up efforts to organize the "religious left" and debating changes to how they approach the cultural flashpoints of same-sex marriage and abortion.What this story suggest is that the abortion issue has taken the Democrats out of the mainstream and their rabid opposition to judges who disagree with them on the issue has hurt them at the ballot box. But, the story indirectly indicates that the Dems still do not get it when it comes to religion. As much as anything it is the Democrat constiuancies active hostility to religion that makes their new god talk ring hollow. On the day that the ACLU forced a settlement with the Defense Department to stop sponsoring Boy Scout troops on base because membership requires a belief in God, not one Democrat spoke out against the settlement. Not one suggested that if you do not believe in God, do not join the Boy Scouts, but let those who do join.
Some call the election a warning. "You can't have everybody who goes to church vote Republican; you just can't," Al From, founder of the Democratic Leadership Council, said last week at a forum on the election.
But Democrats disagree about how to establish the party's spiritual credentials. Some play down the need for changes, saying poorly framed surveys of voters leaving polls are overstating the impact of conservative Christian voters. Others argue that Democrats need to rephrase their positions in more moral and religious language. And an emboldened group of Democratic partisans and sympathetic religious leaders warn that Mr. Bush has beaten Democrats to the middle on social issues like abortion that resonate with religious traditionalists, arguing that the party should publicly welcome opponents of abortion into its ranks and perhaps even bend in its opposition to certain abortion restrictions.
"Our platform and the grass-roots strength of the party is pro-choice," said Elizabeth Cavendish, interim president of Naral Pro-Choice America. The party needs more religious language, Ms. Cavendish said, but not new positions.
"To be perfectly cynical about it,'' Father Neuhaus said, "what would a leading Democrat, even a Hillary Clinton, have to do? She could come out against partial-birth abortion, she could come out for parental notification. She could begin to represent herself as moderately pro-choice, maybe even with some linguistic sleight of hand, moderately pro-life."
Pollsters say Democrats might well find fertile ground among theological conservatives, if the party could get around those divisive social issues and its secular reputation.