Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Harvard Law Professor is Unseasonably Optimistic

William Stuntz is an Evangelical and a Law Professor at Harvard. In this column in Tech Central Station he argues that the Red-Blue divide might not be so very great, particularly on the question of Evangelical Christians.

He has some decent insights along the way on the substantial similarities between University rituals and Church rituals. Universities are, indeed, still a bit churchy at times. (To Stuntz's points of comparison, I would add: the religious origin of the words "Dean" and "Canon," and the pseudo-priestly get-up worn at graduation.) Stuntz reads these similarities of ethos, ritual performance, and intellectual bent as signs that Evangelicals and University Professors might one day soon be holding hands again. It's all fine -- if a little sketchy, except for one glaring puddle of lump: he just isn't convincing at all on the question of how to get over the abortion divide.

These men and women vote Republican not because they like the party's policy toward poverty -- cut taxes and hope for the best -- but because poverty isn't on the table anymore. In evangelical churches, elections are mostly about abortion. Neither party seems much concerned with giving a hand to those who most need it.
That could change. I can't prove it, but I think there is a large, latent pro-redistribution evangelical vote, ready to get behind the first politician to tap into it. (Barack Obama, are you listening?) If liberal Democratic academics believe the things they say they believe -- and I think they do -- there is an alliance here just waiting to happen.

Nice try, but I don't see it. Is he suggesting that the way for Dems. to win the hearts and minds of Evangelical Christians is to a) give up on abortion rights, and b) go all out for the redistribution of wealth?

Thanks to Tyler  for the tip.



Rob Breymaier said...

I think the key here is to reverse the trend to make the abortion issue a back burner issue and the poverty issue a front burner one. I share your pessimism if we think about moving the abortion debate to the back. I think the tick is to move poverty so far forward that the abortion issue is relatively nearer to the back.

Sorry for all the spatial metaphor but I think the possibility to merge Democratic and Christian sympathies on poverty is quite good. Especially in this economic climate. If the dollar keeps falling, our debt keeps rising, and jobs keep getting qualitatively poorer it seems it will eventually play into the hands of the party that emphasizes the wealth gap/decrease in the standard of living.

2:11 PM  
chutry said...

When I attended an evangelical college, I knew people who voted *only* on the abortion issue. I could get them to agree that the Republican policies on economic issues were "less Christian" or less humane, but when it came down to it, they were single issue candidates.

I'm certainly unwilling to give up abortion and uncofortable even toning down pro-choice statements in the Democratic platform, but making poverty a bigger camapign issue seems like an important first step.

12:38 AM  

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