Not since Bill Clinton's first run for President has there been so much talk among Democrats about fielding candidates viewed as more socially and religiously moderate than the standard-bearers of their party. In several important racesin Tennessee and Pennsylvania, for exampleconservative Republicans found themselves up against Democrats who spoke the language of faith. "I just can't help it," said U.S. Rep. Harold Ford, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Tennessee. "I love Jesus."
We dare not speculate about how many Democratic victors might share that affection. Nor can we know what difference this strategy made on the election outcome; discontent over the war in Iraq and disgust over political scandals evidently drove lots of voters into Democratic arms. But we can ask what it might mean for the future of the Democratic Party and American politics.
In a hopeful vein, the political cost to Democrats over their perception as the "godless party" may have forced political leaders to do a little soul searching. Senator Barack Obama has impressed many with his ability to speak affirmingly and fluently about the importance of morality and faith to democratic life. "To say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity," he said. "Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition." Lines like that, when uttered by Republican leaders, send many liberals intoa fear-mongering frenzy of theocracy talk.
Nevertheless, consider a few Democratic victories yesterday: In Pennsylvania, pro-life Democrat Bob Casey Jr. beat out Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, a conservative Catholic known for his social ...