Is Secularism Harming Democrats, and Does it Matter?

Photo via Wikipedia Commons under Creative Common license

Photo via Wikipedia Commons under Creative Common license

Raina Carfaro, Scarlet Staff

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The Democrats are godless. At least that’s the opinion of New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, concerning the lack of religion in the 2020 debates. It’s true, the Democratic candidates running for president are unprecedentedly secular in their campaigns and during the debates. Bruni argues that this extreme secularism is a bad thing and is weakening their chances of nabbing midwestern swing votes and more religious moderates. He notes that secularism also provides an opening for Trump and other conservatives to attack the left for being anti-religion and for ignoring the integral nature of religion in the US. “President Trump and his Republican allies are poised to paint Democrats as unhinged lefties not only in terms of health care and taxes but also in terms of cultural issues, including abortion and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.”

Religion has always been a part of politics to some degree. People whose morals and ethics are guided by religious principles will be more likely to vote for someone who exhibits those same values. 78% of United States citizens have a religious affiliation and the majority who live in rural areas, especially in the south and the west.

Candidates are going to lose some votes in more central states if they continue on this path, but will it make all that huge of an impact? President Trump’s election was one of the most divisive elections in American history and the number of Democratic candidates running against him is evidence of the dissatisfaction brewing in the country. Trump has an extremely low approval rate and as of October 13th, he is clocking in at only 39% eligible voter approval. The impeachment proceedings are definitely not helping his numbers as well as his controversial decision to pull troops out of Syria. Even with religious voters, he is failing in the polls because he doesn’t represent the pinnacle of family values. Trump is an embarrassment to the American political system and people from all walks of life despise him and his administration. But is this hatred stronger than the extreme partisanship that we see in America? We already know that Trump will get votes from the far right, including a strong evangelical body. Most of the right will vote with him because even if they dislike him as a person, they might not mind his trade or immigration policy.

 But what about these ever so important moderates? Presidential candidates are basically camped out in swing states during most of the election season begging for their votes. Religion most definitely won’t be a selling point for Bernie Sanders or Beto O’Rourke, but Biden, a more centrist candidate, has been ignoring religion and pulling in a more moderate supporter base. Secularism would only be truly damaging to already very progressive candidates who have no other pull to moderate candidates. If candidates like Warren or Sanders want to pull more from the center they would benefit greatly from some public spiritual contemplation. This, of course, isn’t ideal. Most of these candidates have been so secular because of their strict beliefs in the separation of church and state. Democratic candidates want to prove that they won’t let religion guide the politics of the spiritually diverse United States. Democrats want to gather support from a number of diverse voter groups and talking about their religion might isolate voters from another faith. Democrats need to brace themselves for the attack coming from  religious conservatives. In the end, moderate votes come down to individuals and their priorities. Religious moderates must discern when choosing a candidate whether their values are being represented, and if not, consider if they are willing to sacrifice this to get Trump out of office.