The Party Faithful
How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap
By Amy Sullivan
(Scribner, Hardcover, 9780743297868, 272pp.)
Publication Date: February 19, 2008
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As late as the 1960s, religion was a decidedly nonpartisan affair in the United States. In the past forty years, however, despite abundant evidence that Americans care about their candidates' personal faith, Democrats have beat a retreat in the competition for religious voters and the discussion of morality, effectively ceding religion to the Republicans. Elections show that voters have gotten the message: Democrats are on the wrong side of the God gap.
With unprecedented access to politicians, campaign advisers, and religious leaders, Amy Sullivan skillfully traces the Democratic Party's fall from grace among religious voters, showing how the party lost its primacy -- and maybe its soul -- in the process. It's a story that begins with the party's ineffectual response to the rise of the religious right and culminates with John Kerry's defeat in the 2004 presidential election. Sullivan documents key turning points along the way, such as the party's alienation of Catholics on the abortion issue and its failure to emulate Bill Clinton's success at reaching religious voters. She demonstrates that there was nothing inevitable about the defection of values voters to the GOP and the emergence of the God gap: it was not just a Republican achievement but the Democrats' failure to embrace their own faith and engage religious Americans on social issues.
Sullivan's story has a hopeful ending. She takes readers behind the scenes of the Democrats' recent religious turnaround. She offers insight into the ways Democrats have reoriented their campaigns to appeal to religious voters -- including their successes at framing the abortion issue in less-divisive terms and at finding common ground with evangelical leaders and communities.
Timely, informative, and immensely thought-provoking, The Party Faithful is a tough and revealing analysis of the Democratic Party's relationship to religion and an essential primer for evaluating the outcome of the 2008 presidential election.
"Amy Sullivan is an exceptional journalist who has become one of our most insightful commentators on the American religious-political landscape. The Party Faithful is filled with discerning reporting, behind-the-scenes stories, and astute analysis. Her history of the evangelical social conscience will be illuminating to many. She shows that faithful voters do not belong to only one party, but are looking to bring their moral passion to politics and are more likely now to hold both sides accountable. She understands the sea change going on in faith and politics in America." -- Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and God's Politics
"Long before most journalists or Democratic activists were paying attention, Amy Sullivan understood that what was happening in the religious world mattered enormously to the political world -- and she saw the damage being done to the Democratic Party in the name of God. With empathy, superb reporting, a sense of history, and an ear for the good story, Sullivan describes what went wrong in the party of Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, and the struggles and strategizing designed to level the religious playing field. The Party Faithful is a fascinating account, brimming with humanity -- and hope." -- E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right
"The religious vote is up for grabs in unprecedented ways in 2008, and in this thoughtful and moving book, Amy Sullivan not only explains why but suggests what liberals and Democrats can do to capture it." -- Alan Wolfe, author of Does American Democracy Still Work? and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Boston College
"Amy Sullivan is one of a small group of political journalists who understand that the phrase 'religious progressive' is not an oxymoron. Her book is the answer to my prayers." -- Paul Begala, CNN political analyst and former counselor to President Clinton
"Lots of people are writing good books on faith and politics these days -- Amy Sullivan has written a great one. The Party Faithful is an invaluable romp through the Democrats' often torturous (and regularly tortuous) journey of faith and is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the presidential race." -- David Kuo, author of Tempting Faith
"The most exciting voice on the religious left. Period. She produces the most interesting, path-breaking writing on religion and politics." -- Steven Waldman, cofounder of Beliefnet
"There is far too little great reporting and sound thinking on the perennial subject of religion and politics in America, but Amy Sullivan is changing that. With intelligence, insight, and grace, she has given us a great gift in The Party Faithful, a new book that sheds light on a question that too often simply generates heat." -- Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel and Franklin and Winston