The Democrats, The Gays, And The Evangelicals

The Democrats don’t plan to try to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell legislatively during the lame duck session of Congress, giving the term new meaning — perhaps a different sort of fowl.

There’s no reason why the Democrats should be afraid of repealing this policy that even the gay Republicans have sought to overturn in court. As I’ve written before, “The only group that has more opponents of open service than supporters is white evangelicals.” Even Republicans support it by 47-43% margin, according to a recent Pew poll.

One of the head-scratchers of last Tuesday’s exit polls was how the Republicans increased their share of the gay vote from 19% in 2008 to 31% this year.

On LGBT issues, there can be only two factors worrying the White House: religion and religion, or the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the evangelicals. The Democrats lost ground both with Catholics and evangelicals from 2008 to 2010: 42% of Catholics voted Republican in 2008, and 54% in 2010. They lost ground with evangelicals, a group with which they made modest gains in 2008. But they also lost ground with the unaffiliated, with Republicans picking up ten percentage points in this group since 2006. And, of course, this cycle the LGBT vote — unenthused, apparently, with the tepid Democratic support for their basic rights — bizarrely migrated toward to party that actively caters to the most virulently anti-gay elements of American religious life.

It’s exactly that element, it seems, that the White House is fearful of inciting. It’s a loud element, a shrinking minority that the GOP seeks out, even as younger evangelicals drift away from caring about gay marriage. It keeps certain foot soldiers out and marching — to the polls, to fundraisers, to rallies. But that didn’t stop a third of gay voters from pulling the lever for the GOP.

Why does the White House care about the wrath of the religious right? Surely tiptoeing around it didn’t help Democrats whittle away at the evangelical vote. As an example of the sort of religious thing the White House cares about, One News Now, the (notoriously slanted) “news” service of the American Family Association reported just before the election that White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Joshua DuBois reached out to David Jeremiah, a California megachurch pastor who declared in an AFA news story that Obama “is a dangerous person” because he’s moving the country toward “socialism.”

The pair reportedly agreed to disagree — about whether the president is a dangerous socialist! Now that must have been a worthwhile conversation.

The White House wouldn’t comment, but didn’t deny that DuBois had phoned Jeremiah. But the question is: why would he? Jeremiah is a protégé of end-times populizer Tim LaHaye whose website is devoted entirely to spinning the day’s news in light of end-times prophecy. His new book, The Coming Economic Armageddon, is a favorite of Glenn Beck’s, who decreed it to be a “great” examination “of ties between the global financial crisis and the new world order.” (And for good measure, Jeremiah was a big supporter of Proposition 8, California’s gay marriage ban.)

Is this the religious outreach that was supposedly so sorely missing from the Democratic strategy this year?