Monday, April 9, 2007

Dan Gilgoff

Dan Gilgoff, author of The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War, was interviewed on "Fresh Air" last month.

One exchange from the interview:

NPR: A lot of people think that the Democratic victory in the House and the Senate in 2006 signalled that the Christian Right had lost power. Do you see it that way or do you see it differently?

DG: I would actually draw the exact opposite lesson. Everyone after the 2004 election talked about that election as being a "values election." A lot of it, for the Christian Right, was a response to the legalization of gay marriage in Massachusetts. And the birth of the amendment to the Constitution to ban gay marriages, a real issue in the evangelical movement. But if you look at the exit polls for 2006, that was also a values election. Only the values this time were about Republican corruption in Congress. And in talking to the pollsters for the Democratic National Committee, for instance, when they saw the numbers shift in the two years leading up to the 2006 midterm elections -- they were tracking values and evangelical voters very closely -- when they saw those numbers start to break for them, it was basically after revelations that the former House speaker, Tom DeLay, and accusations and charges against him and corruption -- and after the Mark Foley scandal which occurred just a month or two before the 2006 elections. So in a way, the 2006 midterms and the shift of evangelical and religious votes were a testament to the power of values in churchgoers in elections. It's also important to point out that John Kerry's religious outreach in 2004 was abysmal. Particularly when compared to the machine that Ralph Reed, the former executive director of the Christian Coalition, was able to build for President Bush in his reelection in 2004. But John Kerry's religious outreach direction in 2004 spent the next couple of years founding a consulting firm that would help Democratic candidates reach out to evangelical and faith voters. She was signed up by so many of the successful campaigns in 2006, by the successful Democrats, whether it be the Ohio success if the Democrat for governor or the senate, or for Casey in Pennsylvania. So I think the Democrats applied a lot of the lessons of 2004 and the failure of religious outreach that year to 2006. In the places where this new consulting firm -- called "Common Good Strategies" run by Kerry's former outreach director -- was active, those were the states and the races where the Democrats saw the sharpest uptick in evangelical votes and in the votes of religious Americans. I think it's no mistake that right now each of the three Democratic frontrunners for president have serious religious outreach operations up and running at this early stage.

This snippet from the interview is drawn from the transcript at "The Scribe."

Listen to the interview at NPR.

--Marshal Zeringue