Category Archives: president

The Stained-Glass Ceiling of Religious Tolerance

[also cross-posted on AmericanGrace blog]

American Grace co-author David Campbell has an Op-Ed in today’s USA Today (with John C. Green and J. Quin Monson) entitled “Tolerance? We have a ways to go”.

The Op-Ed sizes up the chances of Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney in 2012 by examining public opinion regarding religious tolerance and America’s de facto “stained glass ceiling”.  Interestingly, those  most knowledgeable about Mormonism (Latter-Day Saints) were least likely to be intolerant, regardless of whether they were LDS themselves.

Read Op-Ed here.

AMERICAN GRACE: How Religion Is Reshaping Our Civic and Political Lives By David E. Campbell and Robert D. Putnam, will be published in 2010.

Obama’s historic election

barack-obama-hopeThe election of Saguaro’s Barack Obama as 44th, and first African-American president marks itself as a truly historic election.  It makes me immensely proud to be an American.

Some notes on the election:

1) voter turnout:  preliminary turnout projections put the numbers between 134 million (Curtis Gans, American U.) and 136.6 million Americans (Michael McDonald, GMU).  SEE UPDATED NUMBERS HERE. [Some 30 million voted early and some 105 million were believed to have voted on election day.] This would translate into a voter turnout rate of somewhere around 64%, possibly exceeding the all time rate in 1960, or just below this rate.  [Curtis Gans notes on a Metro Connection interview that turnout was very high among Democrats, but actually lower in 2008 among Republicans; Gans notes that some states actually had lower turnout.  Gans notes that one shouldn't compare votes cast to number of registered voters since once can manipulate turnout rates depending on how recently they cleaned the voter lists for people who moved or died.]  (You can see from below chart that after declining until 1996, it has shot up in the last 12 years).  [David King, of the Kennedy School believes that voter turnout, without counting the absentee ballots was 64.9%, matching the 1960 rates and could rise higher.)  One can see this as half-full or half-empty;  it is disconcerting that even in an election with such important consequences for the future of the nation, and with such compelling personalities (Obama and Palin), and with unprecedented sums spent on advertising and GOTV (get out the vote) efforts, still over a 1/3 of all eligible Americans did not vote.  But nonetheless, it is a remarkable turnaround in the last 12 years.  Curtis Gans thinks that the trends of civic disengagement from voting are generally occurring and although he hopes Obama brings in a new era of civic engagement, he thinks we shouldn't infer too much from a couple of close elections in 2000-2008.

presidential-turnout-rates

(Source: Michael McDonald, GMU)

2) youth vote:  Part of the story in the resurgence is youth voting.  We witnessed  huge increases in primary voting among younger voters 18-29 year olds (in many cases doubling or tripling number of youth votes 4-8 years ago in the primaries).  We have written  about what might be the beginning of a 9-11 Generation among youth, preliminary reports from CIRCLE were that youth 18-29 did not make up an increased percentage of voters in the 2008 general election [since all age groups were increasing their voter turnout, the youth's share stayed constant at about 17%).  SEE UPDATED NUMBERS HERE. But it appears that the youth are continuing to turn out at increasing rates (from 37% in 1996 to 41% in 2000 to 48% in 2004 to 49-54% in 2008). [CIRCLE is still projecting the youth turnout from the 2008 election; we'll fill this in when they come in with a definite number, but it could be the second highest youth turnout ever since 1972 when it was 54.5%.]  David King at the Kennedy School says the data indicates it was the highest turnout for 18 year-olds since 1972. Whether the glass is half full or half empty is a matter of interpretation;  voting rates for youth are still significantly below voting rates for seniors, for example.  And young people voted overwhelmingly for Obama.  [See the NYT's story "Youth Turnout up by 2 Million from 2004"]

3) mobilizing new people into the political process:  2008 was an unprecedented year in terms of the numbers of volunteers and donors to the Obama campaign, and an exquisite combination of “high-tech” and “high-touch” in his campaign (with tens of thousands of door-to-door canvassers coupled with a highly sophisticated use of e-mail, texting, use of cellphone, and websites).  [We've written about that earlier here and here. ] But with the massive increases in the number of registered Americans, preliminary reports were that first-time voters were not noticeably higher than they were in 2004 as a percentage of the voters (even though their absolute numbers increased, since the total number of voters increased).  In the process of his campaign, he spurred 50,000 local events, 1.5 million volunteers on the web, 8,000 web-based affinity groups, and 3.1 million donors who contributed almost $700 million to his campaign. It didn’t hut that Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes helped worked for the Obama campaign. [My colleague David Lazer talks about in "Obama's Machine" [Forbes], how Obama might unleash this network in the future to his advantage.]

4) What will new Obama administration look like?  What will be their priorities?

In some regards, it is too soon to tell.  But there have been some inklings of important strands announced by Barack on the stump, above and beyond his obvious focus on energy independence, ending the war in Iraq and trying to make the economy work again.

- Focus on sacrifice: Alexandra Marks article in Christian Science Monitor discussed this theme which Obama also returned to in his speech last night from Chicago.

Obama in his victory speech: “So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers — in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.”

- Role of the citizen:  Mentioning Obama’s focus, Michael Sandel noted “…[A] new politics of the common good can’t be only about government and markets. “It must also be about a new patriotism — about what it means to be a citizen.”  (From Thomas Friedman’s column, “Finishing Our Work”, NYT, 11/5/08)

From Obama’s victory speech: “[The campaign victory] was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth….[A]bove all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years — block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand….This victory alone is not the change we seek — it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.”

- Focus on service:  from Barack’s mention of a bold plan for AmeriCorps expansion as a campaign promise, to his appearing in the ServiceSummit with John McCain and Richard Stengel of TIME, to his invocation of service in his victory speech.  [As Michael Sandel noted, “This is the deepest chord Obama’s campaign evoked. The biggest applause line in his stump speech was the one that said every American will have a chance to go to college provided he or she performs a period of national service — in the military, in the Peace Corps or in the community. Obama’s campaign tapped a dormant civic idealism, a hunger among Americans to serve a cause greater than themselves, a yearning to be citizens again.” (Friedman’s column, “Finishing Our Work”, 11/5/08)]

- Slate magazine’s John Dickerson also had an interesting post on  6 ways that Obama could show he is a new type of leader

And E.J. Dionne (who was a fellow member of Saguaro with Barack) wrote an op-ed today “A New Era for America” talking about how he expects that in the same way as Barack completely recast the campaign process, he will recast politics.

Yes, it is time to hope again….Time to hope that the era of racial backlash and wedge politics is over. Time to imagine that the patriotism of dissenters will no longer be questioned and that the world will no longer be divided between “values voters” and those with no moral compass. Time to expect that an ideological label will no longer be enough to disqualify a politician….Above all, it is time to celebrate the country’s wholehearted embrace of democracy, reflected in the intense engagement of Americans in this campaign and the outpouring to the polls all over the nation…. Obama inherits challenges that could overwhelm any leader and faces constraints that will tax even his exceptional political skills. But the crisis affords him an opportunity granted few presidents to reshape the country’s assumptions, change the terms of debate and transform our politics. The way he campaigned and the way he won suggest that he intends to do just that.

How low can McCain and Palin stoop in campaigning?

John McCain and Sarah Palin continue to campaign at some of the basest levels we’ve seen in recent years.  Sarah Palin now regularly throws “meat” to racist bigots that I’m embarrassed live in America. Does she believe that her best and maybe only hope of becoming V.P. at this point is to incite an assassination of Barack Obama?    The simple fact that she dresses it up in lipstick and says it with a smile doesn’t make it any better.

(photo by thekateblack)

(photo by thekateblack)

The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank described this scene in Clearwater, FL:

Palin’s routine attacks on the media have begun to spill into ugliness. In Clearwater, arriving reporters were greeted with shouts and taunts by the crowd of about 3,000. Palin then went on to blame Katie Couric’s questions for her “less-than-successful interview with kinda mainstream media.” At that, Palin supporters turned on reporters in the press area, waving thunder sticks and shouting abuse. Others hurled obscenities at a camera crew. One Palin supporter shouted a racial epithet at an African American sound man for a network and told him, “Sit down, boy.”

Cindy McCain has joined her husband in the nasty, angry tirades. [Spreading more lies about "Obama not funding the troops in Iraq" when this is equally true of McCain who refused to back a funding bill for U.S. soldiers in Iraq that had a withdrawal timeline.]

And John McCain continues to dwell on the fact that Barack Obama has served on non-profit boards with former Weatherman Bill Ayers, even though the two are not even close friends and Ayers is now a tenured professor in Chicago, Ayers been commended for his recent educational work, and got a Citizen of the Year award from the city of Chicago in 1997.  [Not to make light of the subject, but Jon Stewart nails what is going on.]

His latest is this “about-to-air” commercial which the New York Times calls “paint-peeling” in tone (10/10/08)

I know McCain is embarrassed that he is not stronger on the economy, and E.J. Dionne has noticed that McCain, in his campaign desperation, has decided to start putting “John McCain First” rather than “Country First” as his campaign slogan claims.  The only mark that McCain has any scruples is recent claims that he has put the brakes on advertising that tries to make hay out of comments of Obama’s ties to his previous pastor, Rev. Wright;  McCain apparently, as least as of today, feels that this is a bridge too far.  Let’s hope he holds on to at least this shred of campaign decency, even if his campaign numbers fall further, and current polling shows a 168 point electoral landslide for Obama.

One would hope that McCain would have learned something positively from the nasty smear campaigns that George Bush’s campaign ran against McCain in 2000, but instead he appears to have learned: ‘if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em.”  Desperation has no fury like a McCain scorned…

Let’s hope that Americans have greater common sense than to fall to McCain’s baiting.

Coda: David Tanenhaus, who met Ayers and Obama in the early 1990s, writes about how Ayers’ 1997 book A Kind and Just Parent: The Children of Juvenile Court and the serious national discussion that ensued ushered in policy reforms of blended sentences, “whereby kids, even though tried as adults, received suspended sentences and were then referred to juvenile programs instead of rotting away for years in adult prisons.”

By the late 1990s, such ideas had become part of the national dialogue. Approaches that Ayers helped publicize were being adopted in several states—including Texas under then-Gov. George W. Bush. Juvenile justice was, in fact, a cornerstone of Bush’s “compassionate conservative” agenda. In his 2000 acceptance speech, he spoke movingly of a 15-year-old African-American boy he had met at a juvenile jail in Marlin, Texas, who had committed a “grown-up crime” but was still a “little boy”: “If that boy in Marlin believes he is trapped and worthless and hopeless—if he believes his life has no value—then other lives have no value to him, and we are all diminished.” The passage could have come directly from Ayers’ book….

Leading Chicagoans, including Mayor Daley, now commend Ayers for his service to the city. “I don’t condone what he did 40 years ago, but I remember that period well,” Daley said last April. “It was a difficult time, but those days are long over. I believe we have too many challenges in Chicago and our country to keep refighting 40-year-old battles.”

See a related comment on McCain’s deplorable tactics in Gail Collins’ “Confessions of a Phone Solicitor” (NYT, 10/23/08)

Clever Obama iPhone application to use social networks

The Obama campaign has released an application for the iPhone that cleverly sorts your address book, prioritizing which friends you should call to convince them to vote Obama.  (“Call Friends” sorts your friends by how close the race is in that state. So you can call your Ohio friends or Missouri friends and not bother with your California or NY friends.)  It’s a smart marrying of the fact that friends are much more likely to convince friends politically, coupled with the technology that helps you to easily see where your social networks may make the most political difference given battleground states and the electoral map.  The ‘Get Involved’ Button uses GPS to help you find the closest Obama campaign headquarters.

Another interesting part of the application is that it shows how many calls you have made using this application and how many have been made nation-wide, enabling one to feel a growing sense of momentum and part of a larger national cause.  (The software doesn’t transmit who you called, but records the number of calls made with the application so they can centrally keep track.)

Download the Obama for America iPhone application here.

Here is the blog post of its developer Raven Zachary.

See earlier blog posts of mine about use of technology in the Obama 2008 campaign.  See also this one and this one.

Our growing divisiveness

Roger Cohen, NYT columnist (“In The Seventh Year“, 9/1/08) describes how, far from 9-11 bringing the country closer together, it has sundered America in two: with some fighting for our country while others backdated options, packaged toxic mortgage-backed securities, and got themselves wealthy in the process.  America, far from other countries has become noticeably more uneven in wealth over the past few years.  [You can see how this growth in inequality is greater than than in the UK, Canada, France or Japan.]

In an interesting companion piece, Scott Leigh notes wistfully how the promised civility of the 2008 campaign has given way to rancorous squabbling (“Civility is Casualty as Campaigns Spar“, Boston Globe, 9/1/08).  While largely initiated by the McCain/Palin team, especially in her nasty (but humorously and folksily delivered) speech at the nomination; Obama has now countered calling McCain/Palin, laughingly commenting: ““You can put lipstick on a pig; it’s still a pig. You can wrap an old fish in a piece of paper called change; it’s still going to stink after eight years.” McCain has lambasted the use of the “lipstick on a pig” image, a phrase McCain claims is a dig on Palin, even though McCain used this phrase himself earlier in the campaign.  Woe to the higher plane on which these candidates said they would play: appearing at joint meetings to discuss their policies.  And McCain’s tactics make a mockery of his claim that he will usher in a new era in bipartisan politics in Washington — live by the sword, die by it.

I myself think that President Bush squandered a remarkable opportunity after 9-11.  We had the world’s admiration and sympathies after 9-11 and now we have their enmity for our cowboy foreign policy.  We had amazing class solidarity, with financiers helping waiters out of the Twin Towers and vice versa, and now we are back to every class looking out for itself.  We had a remarkable opportunity to give Americans a chance to sacrifice for the good of our country: e.g., conserving fuel use to make us less dependent on the Arab undemocratic states, but instead we were encouraged to shop by Bush and initially the Administration’s policies drive down gas prices and made us use all the more fuel.    And we had an opportunity to use our powerful assets to reshape the world for good:  to teach Muslim youth so they saw that there was opportunity to learn beyond going to radical madrassah schools, to invest mightily in our own educational system so we could ensure that our citizens prospered in the years ahead amidst a much more globally competitive world, and to usher in the next wave of green technologies so we were exporting these technologies to the world with lots of jobs, rather than the reverse.  But all this has been squandered along with trillions of dollars on the Iraq War, which has radicalized Arab youth rather than made the world safer.  Let’s hope that we can do a far better job in the next 8 years.

A Cause Larger Than Self

I disagree with many policy positions of John McCain (among them, his being anti-abortion, appointing judges who would fail to protect Americans’ rights, lack of environmental concern, believing that cheap oil will help solve our longer climate-crisis problems, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.).   But McCain did sound two notes in his convention speech last night in St. Paul with which I heartily agree (although I shy away from his bellicose imagery): the notion that our gridlock in Washington stems from self-interested politicians and the fact that regardless of our government in power, we all owe it to ourselves to change that with which we disagree.  His notion that if you disagree with government you should work to change it, deeply parallels our suggestion #70 in 150 things to do to build social capital (“When somebody says “government stinks,” suggest they help fix it.”)

Two snippets of McCain’s speech:

1) “The constant partisan rancor that stops us from solving these problems isn’t a cause. It’s a symptom. It’s what happens when people go to Washington to work for themselves and not for you.”

2) “My country saved me [speaking of his experience as a tortured MIA soldier in Vietnam]. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

“My friends, if you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you’re disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them….

“Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an — an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed.

“Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

“….And with hard work, strong faith, and a little courage, great things are always within our reach.

“Fight with me. Fight with me.

“Fight for what’s right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people.

“Fight for our children’s future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

“Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other, for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America.

“Stand up, stand up, stand up, and fight.

“Nothing is inevitable here. We’re Americans, and we never give up.

I must admit I still heavily favor Barack Obama and having been burnt by George W.’s meaningless claim that he would be a “compassionate conservative”, I am naturally distrustful of McCain’s rhetoric.  Moreover, Republicans have had 8 years in power and McCain voted with Bush 95% of the time in 2007 and 100% of the time in 2008, according to Congressional Quarterly.  With most of the same Senators and Representatives likely returning to Washington, I am skeptical that McCain could achieve real meaningful change even if he wanted to.  But I do agree that we all have the power to refashion a better and more engaged America, and it is at least refreshing to hear from the bully pulpit that we have larger duties to our country than shopping (as George W. suggested).

While we’re on shout-outs, a hearty praise to Barack Obama’s wonderful nomination acceptance speech In Denver last week and his assertion to open the doors to higher education for those who serve our nation.  “[W]e will keep our promise to every young American: If you commit to serving your community or our country, we will make sure you can afford a college education.”  It echoes a promise made by Bill Clinton in the “rights and responsibilities” mode when he first promised AmeriCorps in the 1992 presidential campaign, although the reality that he and we were able to achieve on AmeriCorps was far smaller than Clinton’s promise (not nearly all young people, and they only got a $4,725 educational voucher for their year of service).   Let’s hope that Obama is better able to fulfill his vision; our ability to compete in the global economy will depend on the better education of our citizenry (see Glaeser Op-Ed “The Dream for a Human Capital Agenda“, Boston Globe, 9/5/08).  It is also worth noting two things: 1) that the World War II GIs who went to college through the G.I. Bill were extraordinarily grateful to their country and would up paying back in the country in so many ways beyond their higher earnings; and 2) more educated Americans tend to be more socially and civicly involved so this education-through-service approach is likely to further enhance America’s social capital.  [For more information on Barack and national service, see this earlier post.]

On the theme of McCain/Obama and civic engagement, both candidates have mini essays in the current issue of Teaching Tolerance:  Obama writes in Choices for a Rising Generation:”[A]t this historic moment, we must ask our rising generation to serve their country…. Because that’s how real change has always come — from ordinary people coming together to do extraordinary things.” In A More Peaceful and Prosperous World, McCain writes, “After 9/11, leaders in Washington missed an opportunity to call young people to service. Young men and women, who are willing to give of themselves and sacrifice, want a leader who will ask something of them.”  [And see Sabrina Karim's critiques of these essays.]

And one final un-related note on the conventions:  I think Rudoph Giuliani would be a bit less nasty and more effective if he actually had served as a community organizer (a hallowed role that he mocks).  If Sarah “Barracuda” Palin is the pitbull in lipstick, Giuliani is just a plain old pitbull (or pitbully) and it makes one realize why so many New Yorkers disliked him when he was Mayor.

Use of technology in the 2008 Obama-McCain contest

Howard Dean’s presidential run in 2004 unlocked politicos imagination about the power of online politics to shape the race.

While Dean’s bid imploded with his Iowa rant, Dean’s rapidly growing Meetup.com following in the campaign’s early days convinced the media that Dean was a rising force. The Economist in a story this week notes that Dean “changed the way campaigns are organised. Using social-networking tools, Ron Paul’s supporters generated a “money bomb”–$6m in one day, shattering the previous record. Huck’s Army, an online network of Mike Huckabee’s supporters, rallied 12,000 campaign volunteers. Both networks meant that Mr Paul and Mr Huckabee stayed in the race a lot longer than they might otherwise have done….

“Mr Obama took it another step, raising more money–seen in real time–from the grassroots than any campaign ever. In June alone he raised a near-record $52m, of which $31m were donations of $200 or less. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, says that he has “succeeded in translating what was happening online to getting the vote out”. Mr Obama has 1.3m supporters on Facebook, a popular social-networking site; John McCain has only about 200,000…The Democrat is using Twitter, a social-networking and micro-blogging service featuring instant messaging (each answer, or “twit”, is limited to 140 characters). By signing up to Mr Obama’s twitters, the campaign at once signs up to yours.”

And this go-round, YouTube is placing a newly important role. Will.i.am’s (of the Black-eyed Peas) “Yes we can” video has gotten some 9m views in six months

and the McCain Girls’ “Raining McCain” video got 1.9 million hits in 4 months. Obama’s videos on his YouTube channel garned 52m views to McCain’s 9.5m on his channel. Several million of McCain’s hits came from his sleazy campaign comparing Obama to Paris Hilton ; which inspired Barack to launch his “Low Road Express” (mocking McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” mantra). Even Paris Hilton hit back at “white-haired dude” McCain with her bikini-clad bid for the “pink house.”

Barack’s speech on race in America has been viewed 4.7m times on YouTube in its entirety, while Jeremiah Wright’s incendiary sermons have also been seen by millions. YouTube moderated highly interactive debates among Republicans and Democrats during the primaries, and has now asked YouTube users to submit 2-minute videos explaining why they support McCain or Obama (with the prize being a trip to the convention).

And it is not just YouTube. The conventions promise to also feature”Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, My Space profiles and Flickr…” Obama sent an e-mail one week ago to supporters indicating that they could sign up to be the first (several million?) to receive an email or a text announcing his choice for vice president.  The real benefit of getting this million person list will come near Election Day: “What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican techno-political strategist.

It appears clear that something transformative is happening, but not enough careful research has helped us to understand the social consequences of this media, other than the fact that YouTube and cellphone cameras mean that future candidates will have ever diminished chances of privacy without one mistake being aired for everyone to see.

But will the new technologies help to stoke the 9-11 Generation’s interest in politics (that Bob Putnam and I have written about). Will the technology enhance people’s ability to make connections with others active in the campaign or weaken those ties relative to “old-world” technologies of political parties and rallies and door-knocking? Will the technology make us more likely to stay involved after the campaign or not (evidence on the latter front may come from a September poll issued by the National Conference on Citizenship’s Civic Index for 2008)? And will the new technology exacerbate class and racial gaps in the patterns of political participation (or see this link) or ameliorate them? Brave new worlds indeed….

For full article, see Economist’s “Technology and the campaigns: Flickring here, twittering there” (August 16, 2008), including the fact that more of the online role comes from the millennials (those born between 1978 and 1996) who comprise 50m voters, are 90% online and two-thirds of whom are on social networking sites.

The Scramble for Evangelical Votes in 2008

Evangelicals, who have voted solidly Republican since Jimmy Carter ran for President and talked openly about his being “Born Again” and the “lust in his heart”, may be in play this November, and tip the election decisively.

Standard bearers Barack Obama and John McCain have been invited this Saturday by Rick Warren, the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing, most successful megachurch pastor ever, to air their views before evangelicals. (Warren’s Purpose Driven Life, has sold more copies than any book in American history with the exception of the bible and Warren runs a network of several hundred thousand megachurch pastors who have been trained by Warren or Warren disciples in how to run a purpose-driven church). Warren was here at the Harvard Kennedy School several years and gave a speech in which he disassociated himself from the political Right and said “I’m not for the Right. I’m not for the Left. I’m for the whole bird.” Warren has also gotten his networks increasingly involved in issues that in the past would have been Democratic issues, like AIDS in Africa, through the PEACE plan, or environmental issues or world poverty. That Warren himself is increasingly open to courting ties with Democrats is symptomatic of the crumbling of the Republican-evangelical marriage that was solidified starting with Ralph Reed and the Christian Coalition.

Almost 8 of 10 white evangelicals supported Bush in 2004 exit polls and they made up a third of Bush’s total votes. A Washington Post-ABC News poll of registered voters last month showed McCain with a lead among this segment, but the ratio was only 3:1: McCain with 67% vs. Obama with 25% among white evangelical Protestants. It’s especially true that the younger white evangelicals are far more likely to be Independent or Democrat than their parents were, but evangelicals are also coming to realize either that Bush didn’t deliver them the promises that he made or that the issues that Republicans have stood for (strong military, tax cuts for the wealthy, etc.) are less in tune with how Jesus would have lived his life (caring for the sick and poor).

In a historic reversal, Democrat Obama appears far more comfortable talking about his faith than Republican McCain, despite the flap over Barack’s pastor Jeremiah Wright, than past democratic nominees. And Obama on Saturday will unveil the Believers for Barack website.

For more on evangelicals in the 2008 election, see “GOP Loyalty Not a Given for Young Evangelicals” (Wash. Post, 8/15/08) or Pew Research report on McCain’s weaker connections to evangelicals in 2008 election. And this Pew Research Report shows drop in white evangelicals attached to Bush and Republicans from 2001-2007.

For a fascinating discussion of how Rick Warren builds community (social capital) through his church (Saddleback), read Better Together (by Putnam and Feldstein).