Windmillin'

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Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Will Faith Walk to Obama?

The news from Politico (and Gallup) is not good today. All the work of the past year has not (apparently) moved the dial when it comes to the religious voter.

The Gallup Poll now shows Obama backed by 28 percent of white voters who attend church at least once a week — a group that makes up a roughly a third of all voters — which would be no improvement from the 29 percent of these voters who, according to exit polls, backed Democrats John Kerry and Al Gore in the previous two presidential election.

There is something of a body blow to this, given the work that folks like Amy Sullivan and Mara Vanderslice have done, as well as the more explicit outreach efforts of the Democrats generally. Has nothing really changed? Pulling apart the article and looking at other recent data suggest that more be happening here than the top line numbers suggest.

Perceptions change. As the article notes

Democrats have made some gains in improving the public’s perception of their openness to religious Americans. Some 38 percent of Americans believe the Democratic Party is “generally friendly toward religion,” up from a low point of 26 percent in 2006, according to the annual August Pew Religion and Public Life Survey[.]

The true significance of such a move lies in the broader move of the Democratic party to the center out of a sectarian stance. The danger of its secularity had been that party would be seen as representing a niche in American society rather than the as a coalition of various subgroups. Ironically, the ascendency of true believers in the Republican party seems to be propelling that party into a similar sectarian stance. Too intense a religious commitment may be as dangerous as too little for a party aspiring to national leadership.

Moderate Shifts. As David Kuhn reports, occasional believers and Catholics are both showing shifts in allegiance to the Democrats. Here, the increasing Evangelical profile in the GOP works against it – groups that would otherwise share in their values nonetheless do not share the sociological identity of Evangelicals. So even if the sectarian box holds, others in the religious community seem to be abandoning it.

But the real give away in all this is the noting that the Democrats have stopped losing. The pattern of losing weekly church goers by increasingly larger margins has now flattened. This suggests again that outreach efforts have been successful at least in stopping the bleeding. The secular story is no longer seen as a self-defeating behavior that it has been where secular stances lead to rejection lead to secular stances. The bleeding has stopped.

But that’s not all the story.

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Filed under: Democratic Party, Faith, , , ,

Can Palin Move Michigan?

The post-convention bounce is well underway and recent polls underscore how much the race has tightened up. The recent poll by Public Policy Polling gave Obama a rather one point lead (47/46) – a tie given the 2.9% margin of error.

This post-convention bounce has certainly troubled Democrats nationally, but should Dems be worried here in the Great Lakes State?

A look under the “hood” and at local races is in order. Fortunately the survey breaks down the results by gender, race and age.

Gender. In a breakout of the poll subsets, Palin’s likeability among women (“does McCain’s selection of Palin make you more or less likely to vote for him”) matches their preference for McCain. Gender does not seem to be in immediate play, however with one in five remaining neutral, women will be a continuing object of GOP outreach.

Turn to race and age, however, and we can see the impact of Palin.

Race. African Americans understandably are strongly for the Democratic ticket, with only 9 percent expressing a preference for McCain. Nonetheless, 13 percent find Palin attractive. The extra four percent of this segment (worth one point in overall results) may reflect a reversion to mean for the African American vote –the breakthrough status of Palin validating a return to the GOP fold for moderate black conservatives. If so, this would

Age. Younger voters (age 18-29) also may seem to be in play. While 41% are for McCain, 45% look favorably. Other age cohorts’ enthusiasm for Palin remains proportionate to their support of McCain. This of course suggests that something like the youth/celebrity of the Alaskan governor is helping her. This may be more pop culture than electoral planning. At least so far.

The danger is likely that if youth energy decreases, then this pop identity takes over, and Obama loses a crucial edge. This is the threat.

So the first brush suggests that she has earned people’s attention, even in the minority community. For local races the issue gets a little more serious: how will she affect local races?
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Filed under: Elections, Michigan, , , , , , , ,

Old School Is Out

Tuesday’s primary brought interesting shifts in the land of the Windmill.

One big shift, was the return of Jim Talen. Twenty years ago, Jim was part of a crew that led the challenge to the hegemony of Dutch Republican politics that then dominated the region’s political life. His was a practical, election-focused approach — he was an early adapter of computers, databases and a variety of mailings. Around him gathered a team of campaign workers who in turn fanned out to other campaigns in the area. In 1992, Jim won the first of 4 terms on the County Commission.

In 2006 the election itch began again, with an unsuccessful run for the County Commission (CC16). In 2008 he emerged somewhat refashioned from his earlier days and ran a successfulcampaign to defeat long-time incumbent Paul Mayhue. Allied with radio personality Robert S, Talen positioned himself as “new school” to Mayhue’s “old school.”

But Paul Mayhue wasn’t the only one to fall.

In the far burbs, two long-time County Commissioners Fritz Wahlfield (CC-2, Algoma, Sparta) and David Morren (CC-10, Caledonia, Gaines) also were defeated. Again by “New school” ideas. In this case, that of Farm Preservation.

And Justin Amash (MI-72) turned in the biggest victory, showing the door to “old school” Linda Steil and the rather more responsible Ken Yonker. His youth and brash politics mark this new approach and touches on communities looking for change.

Even when Old School didn’t win, it was threatened.

In the City, the “Old School” style of Jim Vaughn (CC-17) was put on notice when 25 percent of voting Democrats refused to vote for him.

The threat to Old School politics also lies at the door of Rep. Robert Dean. Bob Synk’s strong showing in CC-19 relative to Dean’s is one sign. The failure to carry Ottawa Hills (3-18 ) is another. A third would be to note that the precincts where votes for Dean were in majority, were largely confined to the neighborhoods between Lake, Plymouth, Alger and Eastern — a very old school approach. The underlying dynamics of the election still favor Dean, but the shifting currents of “new school” approaches means even safe seats are a little more precarious.

Filed under: Community, Elections, , , , , ,

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