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December 19, 2003

Godless Dean

This TNR article makes the point that Howard Dean is too secular to be elected. The article notes that Dean's family has become more secular over the generations. Political families that have succeeded over the past century have become more, not less, religious. Look at the Bush family, Bush Sr. is an Episcopalian, but G.W. is a Methodist and Jeb is a Catholic, generally two groups that require more outward displays of religious faith and devotion that their father's denomination. The current governor of Ohio, Bob Taft, is a Methodist. His presidential great-grandfather was a Unitarian, and his prominent grand-father, Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, was a lax Episcopalian (he preferred golf to church on Sundays).

In general American politicians have been converging in values with the electorate when it comes to religion. This is in contrast to caste-oriented nations. Many of Brazil's heads of state have been personally non-religious, as is the current president of Chile, while Argentina's Carlos Memen made a transparently self-interested conversion to Catholicism from Islam (only Catholics can be head of state). In India, Nehru was an agnostic, while many of the local parties that dominate on the state level have been anti-religious (Communist, DMK, etc.)[1].

It seems, unlike many peoples, Americans demand politicians that "think like them." A question the populist Left might ask is how much of this is superficial cant to paper over the genuine differences of interest between the elite and the masses? They have to realize that people don't just vote pocketbooks, they vote on cultural issues, so the Democrats will have to find someone to neutralize the latter before making a move on the former.

Advice to Dean, go to a Billy Graham revival (perhaps now Franklin Graham?), have a Born Again conversion, but assert his new found relationship with Christ has only validated his Leftish cultural views (despite her new found Christianity Jane Fonda remains on the social Left).

fn1. The old assertion that the United States is a country as religious as India dominated by a cultural elite as secular as Sweden is pretty dumb-I think one can make the case that India is a country as religious as India dominated by a cultural elite as secular as Sweden.

Posted by razib at 02:40 PM