When they were fund-raising, the Democratic candidates for president all claimed to be Jewish. Now that they are headed for Super Tuesday down South, they've become Jesus freaks. Listening to Democrats talk about Jesus is a little like listening to them on national security: They don't seem terribly comfortable with either subject.
To ease Democrats into the Jesus thing, the Democratic Leadership Council is holding briefings for Democratic candidates teaching them how to talk about religion. The participants were warned that millions of Americans worship a supreme being whose name is not Bill Clinton. As has been widely reported, the DLC gingerly suggests that Democrats start referring to "God's green earth."
Democrats never talk about believing in something; they talk about simulating belief in something. Americans believe in this crazy God crap that we don't, so how do we hoodwink them into believing we believe in God? It's part of the casual contempt Democrats have for the views of normal people.
What is arresting is the Democrats' fantastic habit of openly talking about how they plan to fake out the American people. The Democrats candidly say: How do we make sure the Americans don't know what we're really thinking? Let's get a Southerner, let's talk about Jesus, let's talk about NASCAR ? white Southern guys seem to like that. Let's see ... If we could get a general on the ticket, Americans will forget how much we hate the military and long to see America humiliated.
Never has a major political party talked so openly about their plans to fool the voters. It's the damnedest thing I've ever seen. They seem not to realize the people they are talking about are listening and might not be fooled.
In the current New Republic magazine, Peter Beinart points out that the capture of Saddam has hurt the anti-war cause and left the Democrats with nothing to say. He proposes that Democrats pretend to support the war on terrorism by calling for a massive campaign to catch Osama. Yeah, let's try that. That'll fool 'em.
In the debate this week, John Kerry responded to a question about how he would appeal to Southerners by saying he could put a Southerner on his ticket. As Howard Dean has explained, they're stupid enough: It's just a bunch of white guys in pickup trucks with Confederate flags.
Dean himself has recently made the fascinating discovery that a lot of Americans believe in God. Hold the phones ? the Democrats have a soothsayer in their midst! Next, Dean will be announcing that he's just discovered how important this sex thing is.
Before the poll numbers came out on religious belief in America, Dean said: "We have got to stop having our elections in the South based on race, guns, God and gays." Higher taxes, gay marriage, abortion on demand and surrender in Iraq ? that'll do the trick in Mississippi!
Then about a month ago, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released a poll showing that people who regularly attend religious services supported Bush 63 percent to 37 percent, and those who never attend religious services opposed him 62 percent to 38 percent. When you exclude blacks (as they do in Vermont), who are overwhelmingly Baptist and overwhelmingly Democratic, and rerun the numbers, basically any white person who believes in God is a Republican.
The only Democrats who go to church regularly are the ones who plan to run for president someday and are preparing in advance to fake a belief in God.
Though Dean is pursuing the Jesus thing with a vengeance, the results so far have been mixed. In Iowa last week, Dean said, "Let's get into a little religion here," and then began denouncing Christian minister Jerry Falwell. "Don't you think Jerry Falwell reminds you a lot more of the Pharisees than he does of the teachings of Jesus?" I don't even know what Dean means by that. I am sure his audience doesn't.
Rapping with reporters about God on the campaign plane, Dean said, "[I]f you know much about the Bible, which I do" ? and then proceeded to confuse the Old Testament with the New Testament.
Dean illiterately claimed his favorite book of the New Testament was the Book of Job. (He said his least favorite was the Book of Numbers and then explained how he planned to balance the budget.) Having already complained to DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe about other Democrats attacking him, Dean recently said: "I'm feeling a little more Job-like recently." That's comforting. A few snippy remarks from the likes of Dick Gephardt and Dean thinks it's the wrath of the God of Abraham. Yeah, that's definitely the guy we want leading the nation in perilous times.
Dean's epiphanic religious awakening occurred over a bike path ? and that's his version of what happened. He was baptized Catholic and raised an Episcopalian, but left the Episcopal Church in a huff when he finally found his true religion: environmentally friendly exercise.
The Episcopalians don't demand much in the way of actual religious belief. They have girl priests, gay priests, gay bishops, gay marriages ? it's much like the New York Times editorial board. They acknowledge the Ten Commandments ? or "Moses' talking points" ? but hasten to add that they're not exactly "carved in stone." After Bush said that the most important philosopher to him was Jesus Christ, the Episcopal bishop in Des Moines, Iowa, C. Christopher Epting, pronounced the answer "a turnoff." So there isn't a lot of hair-shirt-wearing and sacrifice for the Episcopalians.
But the bike path incident was too much for Dean. A key tenet of the Druidical religion of liberals is non-fossil-fuel travel. So Dean left the Church of the Proper Fork because the Episcopal Church in Montpelier hesitated before ceding some of its land for a bike path.
On CNN, Judy Woodruff asked in amazement, "Was it just over a bike path that you left the Episcopal Church?"
Dean: "Yes, as a matter of fact it was."
Dean waxed expansive on the theological implications of bike paths, saying: "I didn't think that was very public-spirited."
But recently, Dean has leapt even beyond the DLC-recommended "God's green earth" and begun talking about Jesus, saying, "He was a person who set an extraordinary example that has lasted 2,000 years, which is pretty inspiring when you think about it." Gosh, Jesus is giving Oprah a run for her money. Also, Christ died for our sins, but let's not get into the hocus-pocus part of Christianity. The gist of the New Testament is about bike paths.
Dean's relationship with Jesus is a little like David Lloyd George's relationship with the Slovaks. At the Treaty of Versailles conference, the British prime minister was heard to whisper: "Who are the Slovaks again? I can never place them."