Can Democratic Candidates Win Evangelical Voters?

My friend Samir Selmanović put most of this together to help Democratic candidates who have sizable evangelic communities in their districts. Neither of us, nor any of our VoteCommonGood colleagues think these communities should just be ceded to Republicans-- especially not when the head Republican is Donald Trump, anathema in too many ways to count to the people who are actual followers of Jesus. As we've been discussing for months, VoteCommonGood is getting ready to set off on a bus tour of America. Not all the dates are confirmed yet, but these are:

October 2- Allentown, PA with Susan Wild
October 3- Lancaster, PA with Jess King
October 7- Morgantown, WV with Kendra Fershee
October 9- Racine, WI with Randy Bryce
October 10- Bloomington, MN with Angie Craig and Dean Phillips
October 11- Sioux City, IA with JD Scholten
October 12- Des Moines, IA with Cindy Axne
October 13- Omaha, NE with Kara Eastman
October 16- Wichita, KS with James Thompson
October 18- Dallas, TX with Collin Allred and Linsey Fagan
October 19- Cypress, TX with Mike Siegel
October 20- Harris County, TX with Dayna Steele and Adrienne Bell
October 21- Houston, TX with Lizzie Fletcher
October 22- San Antonio, TX with Gina Ortiz Jones and Joseph Kopser
October 23- El Paso, TX with Veronica Escobar
October 24- Las Cruces, NM with Xochitl Torres Small
October 26- Escondido, CA with Ammar Campa-Najjar
October 27- Carlsbad, CA with Mike Levin
October 28- Huntington Beach, CA with Harley Rouda
October 29- Irvine, CA with Katie Porter
October 30- Brea, CA with Gil Cisneros
October 31- Simi Valley with Katie Hill
November 1- Bakersfield with TJ Cox
November 2- Visalia with Andrew Janz

Democrats and Religion? Yes!

If you are a Democrat running for office in the Fall of 2018, you can reach religious and values voters in a grounded, confident, and impactful way.

Vote Common Good is here to help you turn your perceived weakness into real strength.

Vote Common Good team members have worked as pastors, coaches, activists, and spiritual directors for decades, and we are equipped with “insider” knowledge, empathy, and the best practices of religious communication. As a part of our overall strategy, we want to help you tap into your authentic self when you communicate to religious voters.

In front of any religious audience, your authenticity can become more compelling than the lingo, posturing, or hubris of your opponents.

Our Goals This Fall

Help Democratic candidates become more confident talking about religion in a way that is both authentic and persuasive to religious voters, particularly Evangelicals who are ready for your message. Many of them are on the brink of turning their vote to the left in order to follow their conscience, be faithful to their religious experience and story, and cross the line (in the booth or in public) to recover their personal integrity.

We do this through coaching and advising, helping you as a candidate be in touch with your spiritual experience (for what it already is, nothing more), broaden your story, learn to articulate it in public, and connect with the religious sensibilities of the electorate.
You can be you. And you will know how to “turn the table” of faith on Republican religionists so to speak. This is more simple to do and more powerful in its impact than most Democrats can imagine.
We will help you ground and deepen your “presence” (presence eats arguments for breakfast) and tell a bigger story in which others can find themselves.

As a result, some previously Republican voters will flip their vote, some will stay home and not vote Republican, while some will double down their commitment against you and progressive values you hold. We are focused only on the first two groups. Offending (or often scaring) some in the third group is an inevitable byproduct of doing this right.

The voters we want to reach have already begun to change on the inside. They only need to acknowledge what is already true for them and cross a threshold with their actions. Voting is that action.
Many voters are not willing to take on more and more of the incremental fear dispensed by Republicans and much of the Evangelical establishment. Instead of trying to convince these voters with arguments on issues (level of mere reason), you will learn how to speak in a way that invites them drop into their formative faith (level of emotion, values, and social connections) and embody their faith in their political choices (level of behavior).
You will learn how to help them cross the line by naming what they are right about, not what they are wrong about. We are asking them to manifest deeper loyalty to the religious/spiritual path they are already on. In their heart of heart, they can’t wait to migrate from fear to faith.

Importantly, in our experience, the voter impact for Democratic candidates working on this is vastly underestimated by most candidates. The margin for growth is huge. Teachings and values of religion in general, and example of Jesus in particular, now overlap with Democratic platform and values more than with the Republican. In other words, this effort provides a small lever to open a large door for Democratic candidates.

To start, all you need is one hour.


We will spend an hour with the candidate on Zoom (an online video platform) and can follow up as needed. We can also support the candidate in other ways, such as help him/her write an op-ed for a newspaper in his/her district addressing the religious/values audience.

Other Info:

This is a pro bono service of Vote Common Good. We would request brief feedback and an optional testimonial after the coaching/consultation call.

Next Step:

If you are an organizer, activist, or are supporting a Democratic candidate running for office in November 2018 in some way, forward this information to the candidate or candidate’s campaign manager.

If you are a candidate or a campaign manager, send an email to Samir Selmanović to set up an initial one-hour session.

This morning, Elizabeth Dias broke the Vote Common Good story-- Christian Group Takes Aim at a Republican Stronghold; Evangelicals. "For years," she wrote, "Republicans have enjoyed the support of a powerful constituency: conservative evangelical Christians, whose passion on issues like opposition to abortion and support for Israel has aligned them with the party’s agenda. It has been an almost impenetrable voting bloc in recent years, and growing stronger, with more than 80 percent of evangelical voters supporting President Trump in 2016. Democrats have largely stood on the sidelines as Republicans forged this alliance. But now a group is moving more aggressively to bring evangelical voters and the Democratic Party together as the midterm elections approach. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, a group of progressive Christians-- largely Democrats who are also evangelicals-- are organizing small rallies in some 20 battleground House districts across the country. Their goal is to urge Christians to vote for Democrats and counter Trump administration policies that oppose their religious beliefs-- especially on immigration, health care and poverty."

These are the guys we've been talking about, ever since Ted Lieu and I met with them a few months ago to talk aims and strategy, Vote Common Good. This is their website. And they feel they can make a difference at the polls. I agree-- and they're working with some of the Blue America candidates, like Randy Bryce (WI), Kara Eastman (NE), Jess King (PA), Kendra Fershee (WV), JD Scholten (IA), James Thompson (KS), Mike Siegel (TX), Dayna Steele (TX), Katie Porter (CA) and Ammar Capa-Najjar (CA).

“We think they are movable,” said Doug Pagitt, a pastor from Minnesota who is leading the effort. “In the privacy of the voting booth, they might do something.”

The Democratic Party does not have significant resources devoted nationwide to targeted religious outreach, but this effort has support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and many Democratic candidates trying to flip Republican seats are participating.

“More Democratic elected officials should be talking about God, and their own personal religious beliefs,” said Representative Ted Lieu of California, a vice chairman for the D.C.C.C. who has informally advised Vote Common Good.

“America has always been a country where faith has played an important role,” Mr. Lieu said. “It’s not a good idea for Democrats to ignore that.”

The rallies, styled as “traveling salvation show tent revivals,” will be held in church parking lots and parks, with beer trucks, musicians and preachers in a bid to encourage evangelicals who have felt alienated from the Republican Party, Mr. Pagitt said.

The challenge is daunting. The initiative is small compared with the formidable ground operation of religious conservatives championing Mr. Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Those field operations enjoy millions of dollars of financing in battleground states.

The budget for entire Vote Common Good tour is about $1 million. By comparison, each rally held when the evangelist Franklin Graham barnstormed California this spring to drum up the conservative evangelical vote cost nearly as much.

“The progressive left habitually rediscovers the strength of the evangelical vote and tries to counter it,” said Ralph Reed, the chairman of the conservative Faith and Freedom Coalition, which has field teams in 19 states and plans to knock on two million doors by Election Day.

“To be sure, imitation is the highest form of flattery,” he said. “But this effort will fall short because the religious left lacks the intensity, resources and infrastructure built over the years in the evangelical community.”

That isn’t stopping Democrats from trying.

“You are going to have a percentage of evangelicals who realize that the president’s behavior and policies are inconsistent with the teachings of Christ,” said Mr. Lieu, who is Catholic. “The Democratic Party is a very big tent party. You can have lots of different views. We are very accommodating.”

But the party has struggled to connect with white, socially conservative voters, many of whom have views outside the Democratic platform. A year after white evangelicals helped send Mr. Trump to the White House, the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, called on the Democratic Party to make room for anti-abortion voters.

...Progressive religious leaders have been increasingly getting involved in politics since Mr. Trump’s election, protesting a range of administration policies, including the separation of migrant families and the ban on travel from citizens of several Muslim-majority countries. In a bus tour before the midterms, a group of Catholic nuns from across the country is driving to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s Florida residence, to mobilize voters around opposition to the Republican tax law.

...Democratic candidates participating in the project say they hope to shift the conversation about values in America, which they believe Mr. Trump has betrayed.

“As a child, my family taught me the importance of following the Golden Rule,” said Katie Hill, a first-time Democratic candidate seeking to flip California’s 25th district, outside Los Angeles. She will be attending one of the Vote Common Good rallies.

Republicans, she said, “have shown time and again that they do not follow this most basic value.”

“They have separated families at the border, repeatedly attempted to slash the social safety net and have waged an outright assault on women’s health and early childhood education,” she said.

Gina Ortiz Jones, an Iraq war veteran in southwest Texas who is running to replace Representative Will Hurd, will speak at the group’s event for her district.

“It’s important for people to know that being religious doesn’t always equal being conservative,” she said in an email. “So many people are in favor of Democratic platforms like affordable health care and comprehensive immigration reform specifically because their religion tells them to be kind, compassionate and deliberate in the way they treat others.”

UPDATE: Samir just reminded me to tell our candidates...

As you promote this conversation, you, us, all of us, will have a pushback from people who hate all religion, or are too hurt to consider any facts like where did the inspiration come from to MLK, etc. For some of them, if you are religious, you are either dumb or evil. These people need to be resisted by educating the majority of Democrats that religion is here to stay, diverse, good and bad like everything else. It's the way people organize their lives around a shared story. Democrats need to learn to let people be, and seek unity on shared values instead.

 I just want to encourage you to keep going with speaking up. And also creating more space for those of us who can help Democrats feel safe and be challenged at the same time.  There are great people you can inject into Democratic leadership gatherings to help tool (and school!) Democrats in religion. Republicans have fumbled so badly, there is a huge opportunity here for Dems, and it should not be hard.

The Level 2 Progressive Religion Ninja is all about having enough confidence, presence, and wisdom to start speaking about Republicans, religion, and politics in a way that take out the judgment. Those we judge we cannot change.  It is counter-intuitive, but it is generosity of heart that will open the floodgates of migration from red to blue by Christians. We are not there yet though. Ultimately, in the future, we need to get to a place where we don't respond to problematic religious people and groups with one trick, one tool, one voice, but can do all of it, as needed:  confront with fire, converse in peace, celebrate, even support, or withdraw support, criticize, praise, etc.


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