Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Well, Howard Dean came up to Ithaca today to talk about his agenda as newly-elected DNC chair. This is the second occasion on which I've heard him speak, and both times I've been struck by how much more comfortable he seems when fielding questions from (and more often than not actively arguing with) an audience member, than when he's delivering some variant on a stump speech.

On more substantive matters, I think Dean and the DNC are deceiving themselves if they think "Democrats shouldn't be afraid of an open dialogue with evangelical Christians" (thats a paraphrase, but it's pretty close to what he said at one point). Dean believes Democrats have a good shot at winning evangelical (and Catholic) votes based on the fact that the Democratic party more closely adheres to Christian nonviolence and charity on a wide range of foreign and domestic issues (readiness to go to war, capital punishment, social spending) than do the Republicans. I'll paraphrase again: "if we were to make a scorecard of all the issues the Bible tells Christians to care about, Republicans would win on gays and abortions, and we'd win on the other 25." According to this line of reasoning, religious voters' predilection for going Republican is largely based on a failure to weigh their religious obligations properly, placing too much emphasis on gays and gynecologists in the process.

I'm not sure this argument is quite apt. If I were a devout Christian (full disclosure: I'm not), I might well be rationally justified in putting the issue of abortion ahead of that laundry list of issues Dean puts in the Democrats' column. After all, for most evangelical Christians abortion isn't just an activity that leads to the death of innocents - abortion by its very nature kills those who epitomize innocence, at least in the Christian sense of absence of sin. In comparison, something like charitable obligations looks positively trivial, and even capital punishment pales in comparison (as death row inmates are generally there for pretty heinous crimes). The number of babies aborted in the United States since Roe v. Wade is a pretty astonishing 43 million - I'd be surprised if the number of criminals executed in that time span surpassed 4,000. Christian morality doesn't have too much to do with utilitarianism, but common sense tells people that 43 million deaths are a lot more serious than 4,000. This number is big enough to trivialize even the number of civilian deaths in America's post-Vietnam wars. If you do the math, I'm not at all convinced there's a rational reason for devout Christian voters to go Democratic over Republican.


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