Plight of the Religious Left

The Politico‘s Ben Smith reports that John Edwards’ response to complaints from segments of the “religious right” about insensitive language used by bloggers on his staff has “some members of the ‘religious left’ say they feel — again — shoved to the margins of the Democratic Party.”

“We’re completely invisible to this debate,” said Eduardo Penalver, a Cornell University law professor who writes for the liberal Catholic journal Commonweal. He said he was dissatisfied with the Edwards campaign’s response. “As a constituency, the Christian left isn’t taken all that seriously,” Penalver said.

Democrats — and Edwards in particular — have embraced the language of faith and the imperative of competing with Republicans for the support of religious voters. His wife, Elizabeth Edwards, even sits on the board of the leading organization of the religious left, Call to Renewal. But in private conversations and careful public statements today, religious Democrats said they felt sidelined by Edwards’ decision to stand by his aides.

“We have gone so far to rebuild that coalition [between Democrats and religious Christians] and something like this sets it back,” said Brian O’Dwyer, a New York lawyer and Irish-American leader who chairs the National Democratic Ethnic Leadership Council, a Democratic Party group. O’Dwyer said Edwards should have fired the bloggers. “It’s not only wrong morally — it’s stupid politically.”

O’Dwyer e-mailed a statement to reporters saying: “Senator Edwards is condoning bigotry by keeping the two bloggers on his staff. Playing to the cheap seats with anti-Catholic bigotry has no place in the Democratic Party.” In a comment that several Catholic Democrats told The Politico they found particularly offensive, Edwards aide Amanda Marcotte asked, in a posting to her personal blog, “What if Mary had taken Plan B after the Lord filled her with his hot, white, sticky Holy Spirit?” The other Edwards blogger, Melissa McEwan, has come under fire for referring to Christian conservatives as “Christofascists” in her personal blog.

[…]

“I thought his explanation was not satisfying,” said Cornell’s Penalver. “It’s obvious that they did mean to give offense.” “You imagine a similar kind of comment directed at the Jewish community or at the gay community — something at this level of intentional offensiveness — and I have a hard time believing it gets resolved in the same way,” he said.

That much is true, I think. Clearly, insensitivity directed at the majority is more acceptable than that directed at minorities. Perhaps that’s as it should be; the majority is in a stronger position.

As Politico commenter dester23 observes, “There isn’t a single atheist running on the Democratic side. People are taking the religious left plenty seriously. It’s secular humanists like me who are left without a candidate.” Michael Kinsley has been making a similar argument for years.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kent G. Budge says:

    “Playing to the cheap seats with anti-Catholic bigotry has no place in the Democratic Party.”

    On the evidence, this is not so.

  2. Cernig says:

    Hi James,

    “You imagine a similar kind of comment directed at the Jewish community or at the gay community — something at this level of intentional offensiveness — and I have a hard time believing it gets resolved in the same way,” he said.

    Oh yeah, it’s resolved at an entirely different level. The uber-right acclaims the speaker as their spokesperson on whether two bloggers are anti-Catholic.

    Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. It’s not a secret, okay? And I’m not afraid to say it. … Hollywood likes anal sex. They like to see the public square without nativity scenes. I like families. I like children. They like abortions. I believe in traditional values and restraint. They believe in libertinism. We have nothing in common. But you know what? The culture war has been ongoing for a long time. Their side has lost. [Bill Donahue on MSNBC, Scarborough Country, 12/8/04]

    and

    This same guy [Dean Hamer] came up with this idea of the gay gene. I remember when that conversation was going on. Gays were all of a sudden worrying if people would start aborting kids when they found out the DNA suggested the kid might be gay or God forbid, we’d run out of little gay kids, so all of a sudden, they became pro-life. [Bill Donahue on MSNBC, Scarborough Country, 12/14/04]

    Regards, C

  3. Cernig says:

    Kent G. Budge,

    It would appear, from their lionization of Donahue, that “Playing to the cheap seats” with anti-semitic and anti-gay bigotry has plenty of room at the Catholic League and among far-right bloggers.

    Regards, C

  4. There’s always a mass audience for outrage, real or generated.

  5. Bithead says:

    Imagine someone on the right, sounding as those two did. Does anyone seriously consider that the left wouldn’t be screaming bloody murder?

    And look, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen are right in line with what constitutes the Democratic party today. I’ll say this again; their anti religious attitudes, their bigotry, are center line for the Democratic party today. Which is precisely why they have jobs with Edwards, again… and why I’ve been wondering about the phrase “Religious left “, wondering how their can be such a thing, given what leftism has become these last 30 or so years, as regards religion in general, and the Judeo-Christian ethic in particular.

  6. Ugh says:

    given what leftism has become these last 30 or so years, as regards religion in general, and the Judeo-Christian ethic in particular.

    yes, as opposed to the right, which has pushed the whole “love the sin, not the sinner, turn the other cheek, do onto others” etc. etc. etc. non-stop the last 30 or so years. Not.

  7. Ugh says:

    oops, make that “hate the sin”.

  8. Bithead says:

    Heh. Irony abounds.

  9. Cernig says:

    Rightwing hypocrisy 101, for Bithead.

    From Think Progress:

    During the 2004 presidential campaign, George Bush’s Catholic outreach coordinator, 54-year-old Deal Hudson, was outed as a sexual predator for taking advantage of a drunken 18-year old while he was a professor. The National Catholic Reporter reported:

    According to documents obtained by NCR, Hudson invited a vulnerable freshman undergraduate, Cara Poppas, to join a group of older students for a pre-Lenten “Fat Tuesday” night of partying at a Greenwich Village bar. The night concluded after midnight in Hudson’s Fordham office, where he and the drunken 18-year-old exchanged sexual favors. The fallout would force his resignation from a tenured position at the Jesuit school, cost him $30,000, and derail a promising academic career.

    Following the report, Hudson resigned from the Bush campaign, withdrew as a White House adviser, and was forced to step down as publisher of Crisis magazine, a D.C.-based conservative Catholic monthly.

    Yet at least one prominent right-wing figure came to Hudson’s defense: the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue, who has spent the last several days calling for the heads of two John Edwards bloggers. Donohue ardently defended Hudson in a statement, even invoking the Virgin Mary in downplaying his sexual assault:

    In a press release, Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League, minimized the charges against Hudson and attempted a joke at the Virgin Mary’s expense. “Effective today,” Donohue wrote, his organization had “a new requirement for all future employees: all candidates must show proof of being immaculately conceived, that is, they must demonstrate that they were conceived without sin.”

    The American Spectator reported later, “Responding to complaints, the Catholic League has removed the press release from its website.”

    Regards, C

  10. Bithead says:

    As DavidL said earlier today:

    Earth to Edwards, when a blogger makes reference to Jeebus over a hundred times, their intent is to malign. Anybody who fails to either recognize or admit Marcotte’s malicious intent, is either too stupid or too dishonest to be president.