Category Archives: politics

Sexism Sux

Watching Hillary being treated like a dog (well actually, far worse than any dog I know) throughout her campaign was incredibly disheartening. If we had an idea that we live in a country in which women are respected, all we have to do is look at what she went through to know it isn’t  true.

And all I have to do is look at my inbox—at the sexist jokes and cartoons that come in weekly from various family members.  Today an uncle sent me an email that began ” With all the political stuff, gas price woes, Iraq war, etc., hitting from all angles, the following cartoons are a breath of fresh air.” The “fresh air” was a host of largely sexist “jokes.” (And yeah, the answer when we get upset at these jokes is either “It’s just a joke, don’t take it so seriously” or “You have to be able to laugh at yourself.”) Sorry, but these “jokes” represent the way women are seen in this country and the fact that they are forwarded around and, apparently, found humorous, by so many, is a clear, clear sign.

At Linda‘s earlier in the week, I found this link to an article explaining to us why so many women are depressed. It’s because (as the conservatives never tire of telling us) the feminist revolution failed us. It’s because we women bought the lie that we could have it all and now we’re paying for it. This man is happy to tell us stupid women why we’re unhappy:  too many of us work, when what would really satisfy us is staying at home with a few children, cleaning and cooking. (He explains, “The feminist emphasis on career has been an obstacle to many women’s happiness.” Isn’t it just like some men to blame women for creating our own unhappiness?)

If we buy that lie, we’re back in the fifties. Anybody who is buying that lie ought to go read Betty Friedan’s eye-opening book, The Feminine Mystique, about women who were depressed precisely because they were trapped with no way to fulfill themselves outside of the home. (Read the first chapter here.)

Working isn’t what’s depressing women—it’s the empty, sexist society we live in.

Firstly, we go to work and are lesser than the men there. Doesn’t matter if we’re smarter or more capable, we’re automatically several rungs lower on the ladder than just about any man around, no matter how incompetent he may be. (Read about my own experience, if you’d like.) If this isn’t depressing, I don’t know what is. Even when there are corporate rules in place to combat blatant sexism, women still make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men and are not promoted to the upper echelons of management as readily.

Second, we live in a country that doesn’t support mothers, whether we work or not. And by support I do not mean supporting the idea that we should be at home with our children 24/7. I did prefer to stay at home with my daughter, and did for many years, but that doesn’t mean all women want to, or can. See this report, that ranks countries according to how mother-supportive they are. The U.S.—this great superpower—ranks number 26, tied with that other superpower, Hungary. (H/T to Charlotte.) How about, for instance, decent, affordable daycare, so all the women who have to work (yes, for many women, it simply is not a choice) don’t have to worry all day about their children? Maternity leave? Health insurance and decent health care? Supporting mothers does not equal saying they should be home.

Third, we live in a society where our appearance is the most important thing about us. I’m not an unattractive woman and I find this depressing (my answer to those who say only “ugly” women resent it). I don’t watch t.v., but on Charlotte’s blog I read about a new show called Beauty and the Geek about smart young men and beautiful bimbos. Excuse me, are we back in the seventies? And I find it endlessly depressing that women participate in debacles like this.  Where is your sense of self worth?  Trust me, chasing after male admiration isn’t as gratifying as you might imagine, even though you may be nineteen and have heard your whole life that it is what matters most. Depressing? Heck yes.

More than one person seemed to think the greatest compliment they could give my very bright daughter when she was in high school was that she could be a model. I heard this from several women—oh, she could be a *model* (ooooeee! what an amazing achievement that would be!). Depressing.

Yeah, women aren’t depressed because they’re treated worse than dogs, or like children or like meat, it’s because they work.

It’s not feminism that let us down, it’s the backlash against it and the fact that we still live in a very sexist society. Look around! When half the people are treated—yes, here’s the cliché—like second class citizens, why the surprise that they’re depressed?

Here’s a quote from the article mentioned above:

Feminism raised women’s expectations beyond what life can deliver to the vast majority of them. It was hard enough for women in the past to realize their far fewer expectations of marrying a good man and making a happy family. But feminism told a generation of women that they can not only expect to have that but, perhaps even more important to feminism, they could also expect to have a fulfilling, financially rewarding, society-honoring career.

He asserts that women are more clinically depressed than ever and that proves that we were led, like stupid cows, to our own slaughter, not smart enough to see what was happening to us. What I find most insulting is that condescending attitude: let me—the male—explain it to you because you women just don’t get it. His logic is so simplistic it’s laughable. Even I, mere woman that I am, can see through his arguments.

My grandmother was depressed and I am quite certain she was depressed at least in part because she was an intelligent human being not allowed fulfillment outside the home. My grandfather was a good man, but he was a product of his time and believed he should be the bread-winner and she should stay at home. Now, she wasn’t, technically, clinically depressed, because she was never diagnosed by a doctor. How many women in the forties and fifties went to a doctor and got a diagnosis of depression? (Or even well into the seventies and eighties?) If they went to a doctor, they were likely to be given tranquilizers or told it was all in their heads! (What you need, little lady, is to scrub the floor a little harder—maybe twice a week instead of once. You must accept that this is all the fulfillment you’ll get in this life.)

Brilliant—take two facts (the feminist movement started in the sixties and women have since been diagnosed with depression at higher numbers), create a connection and twist it to suit your own bias. I eat oatmeal for breakfast most mornings and I enjoy walking my dog—therefore, oatmeal eating leads to enjoyable dog walking (or, if I feel depressed, was it the oatmeal? or could it have been the walk?).

While his argument is obviously based on very bad logic, I know that a lot of women are depressed.

We all understand (well, all of us except the man who wrote that article) that depression is multifaceted. While I do believe sexism plays a part, there are other culprits, including the inherent emptiness of a society obsessed with, no—not only women’s bodies—but with that great delusional pie in the sky: money. We live in a society that puts money above people at every turn. Corporate profits are more important than education, more important than public health, than the well-being of the earth we live on, than families (no matter what Republicans say—read their votes). Don’t believe the lie that women are our own worst enemies—feminism did not fail us, conservatives did.

The greatest lie we have been told is not that we can have it all but that it’s all about money. No—it truly is about family, about people, about love. Sending women back into the home one by one will not solve the basic falsehood that lies at the heart of our society. It doesn’t matter who is doing the earning, it matters what we put first in our lives, and in our life-in-common. We have forgotten the truth.

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P.S. Just checked my mail; lo and behold, my dad thought the sexist cartoons were such a breath of fresh air that he forwarded them, too. (We live in a society in which fathers send sexist jokes to their daughters—yeah, we’re all equally respected here.)

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Words I Won’t Give Up (Plus, Falafel & Doubloon)

Liberal. For a while there I went along and identified myself as Progressive. Some say the L word as if they’re talking about the most evil, most corrupted beings on earth. The RNM has been effective. Yeah, I believe everyone should have access to decent health care (meaning, yes, free, or very affordable) and I don’t believe in war to solve our problems and I think people and their needs (yes, even gay people and poor people and other unpopulars) should come before big business. I also believe we should be responsible stewards of the environment. Go ahead, stamp me with the L.

Religion/Christianity. I know it’s common these days to insist I’m not religious, I’m spiritual. Religion is now equated with rigid belief systems, with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, James Dobson. And with anti-science, anti-evolution backward-headedness. But I’ve been hanging on to this word. Religion is important to my life; it includes church-going, singing hymns, praying, reading religious books, writing religious gobbledygook. Loving Christ. So no, the fundamentalists cannot have the R word. And they can’t have the C word, either. Christ doesn’t belong to anybody.

Feminism. (The Other F Word.) Okay this one, I admit has been slandered so effectively that I wouldn’t label myself a feminist in most company. But hey, what’s it mean? “The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social and economic equality to men. ” Pretty ridiculous, eh? Could destroy the country.

On the smearing of feminism:

One of the most outrageous but effective conservative efforts in the last few decades has been the transformation of “feminism” into a dirty word. What began as the label for those who proudly worked on the frontlines to ensure equal rights for women has now been twisted to serve as a code word for alleged emasculating abortionists who can be blamed for everything from excessive litigation to the gay rights movement to the moral decadence of pop culture.

No one has been more influential in this sleight of hand than the conservative movement’s godmother, Phyllis Schlafly, the Trent Lott of gender equality.

For many Americans, the name “Phyllis Schlafly” conjures up images of her circa 1972 – when she was a Donna Reed doppelganger leading a 10-year battle against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). More than thirty years later, you might think this mother of six and leader of the so-called “pro-family movement” would have long since retired to the kitchen where – she claimed – all women belong.

Alas, she has failed to take her own advice. At 80 years old, she’s still waging the war against equal rights that she began in the 1960s, with the gusto of an overzealous preteen. Her weekly newsletter, The Phyllis Schlafly Report (now in its 38th year) lets her fulminate on everything from gay marriage to feminism in academia. She weighed in on the controversy surrounding Harvard University President Larry Summers’ recent remarks about the place of women in science, saying: “The outburst by feminist professors simply confirms the stereotype … that they are too emotional to handle intellectual or scientific debate.” Her newsletter can be read in 100 newspapers around the country and is accompanied by her radio commentaries, heard daily on 460 stations and on the Internet. Instead of leading the tranquil life of a grandma, darning sweaters and cleaning the oven and taking a few moments out of her day to dash off a bit of punditry, she’s still as hot as any of the fiery young pundits the right has, and she too is working the college circuit. In fact, it seems that Schlafly debates on campuses more frequently than any other conservative.

And a couple of genius quotes from the woman herself:

“The atomic bomb is a marvelous gift that was given to our country by a wise God.” Mother Jones, (no longer available online)

“Many years ago Christian pioneers had to fight savage Indians. Today missionaries of these former cultures are being sent via the public schools to heathenize our children.” (Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum)

The above from.

And here‘s an exposé  of the ubiquitous, the evil, Liberal Media.

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My spellchecker didn’t like Falwell—thought it should be Falafel. It didn’t like Dobson, either—wanted it to be Doubloon. Jerry Falafel and James Doubloon, yahoo! (It thought Schlafly should be Scholarly—ha!)

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Boycott, Yes!

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China’s attempt to protect itself from a boycott of the Olympics by crying Don’t make the Games political is ludicrous. As David Wallechinsky pointed out in an interview on NPR yesterday, they already are political. It is the nature of a world event to be political. Wallechinsky, author of The Complete Book of the Summer Olympics, is an expert on the Games. Interestingly, he also compiles the top ten list of the world’s worst dictators for Parade every year.

Wallechinsky says the Olympic Committee is to blame for giving the Games to a dictatorship in the first place. Yeah, hello.

If anybody is to be held responsible for ruining the Olympics, it’s not the Tibetans or those who will boycott China for its treatment of them (not to mention the Sudanese; not to mention Chinese citizens; not to mention China’s support of Burma). How about laying the blame squarely on the shoulders of the Chinese government for its behavior, and then pointing a finger at the IOC for supporting a brutal dictatorship?

Hu Jintao, leader of The People’s Republic of China, and number four on the worst dictators list, has befriended number one, Omar al-Bashir, of Sudan. How cozy.

“Last week China’s leader, Hu Jintao, provided Sudan with an interest-free loan to build a presidential palace. With that gesture, Hu demonstrated his contempt for the Western understanding of the world — and for Western policy toward his own country.” And: “China is not financing a presidential palace by mistake; it is doing so deliberately. It is not financing just any presidential palace; it has chosen a president so odious that his fellow African leaders hold their noses at him.”*

Birds of a feather. . . .

Who Is the World’s Worst Dictator? (2007)

1.)    Omar al-Bashir, Sudan
2.)   Kim Jong-il, North Korea
3.)   Sayyid Ali KhamEnei, Iran
4.)   Hu Jintao, China
5.)   King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia
6.)   Than Shwe, Burma (Myanmar)
7)    Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe
8.)   Islam Karimov, Uzbekistan
9.)   Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya
10.) Bashar al-Assad, Syria

Olympic Boycotts** (take special note of number three, below—I thought the PRC didn’t believe in making the Games political?—oh, guess that was then)

1956, Melbourne:  Boycotted by the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland, because of the suppression of the Hungarian Uprising by the Soviet Union. Cambodia, Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon boycotted the games over the Suez Crisis.

1972 and 1976, Munich, Montreal: African countries threatened the IOC with a boycott, asking it to ban South Africa, Rhodesia, and New Zealand. The IOC conceded in the first 2 cases, but refused in 1976. Twenty-two countries (Guyana was the only non-African nation) boycotted the Montreal Olympics because New Zealand was not banned.

1976, Montreal: The People’s Republic of China (PRC) pressured Canada to bar the Taiwanese team from competing under the name Republic of China (ROC). The ROC refused the compromise that was suggested and did not participate again until 1984, when it returned under the name “Chinese Taipei.”

1980, 1984, Moscow, Los Angeles: Cold War opponents boycotted one anothers’ games. Sixty-five nations refused to compete at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, protesting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The boycott reduced the number of competing nations to 81, the lowest number since 1956. The Soviet Union and 14 Eastern Bloc nations (except Romania) countered by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

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See this BBC article about current protests by Tibetan children in Katmandu

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* Sebastian Mallaby, February 5, 2007, The Washington Post

**From Wikipedia

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Kristof: Hero

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I’m biased. I prefer my heroes to be women. Maybe it’s because when I grew up history books celebrated Betsy Ross as a female hero. Hello, she sewed! I’m sorry, but big deal. Now Nikolas Kristof is simply an amazing human being, so I grudgingly bestow upon him hero status. He can’t help that he’s male. He travels to the places in the world where people suffer and shares their stories with us. He shines light in the dark places, and I, for one, am grateful for this. He also keeps a blog, which I’ve recently subscribed to. And if you watch his videos and read his columns, you will find that many of his heroes are women.

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For instance, Mukhtar Mai, a Pakastani who “survived a gang rape to become a fervent campaigner for voiceless women in Pakistan.” Mai runs schools, an ambulance service and a women’s aid group.

And this Pakistani woman whose husband was kidnapped in Pakistan and who bravely stood up to the government.

And the amazing Edna Adan Ismail, who founded Edna Adan Maternity Hospital—the first maternity hospital in Somaliland.

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Kristof is a tireless voice for the downtrodden, especially women and children, because, in much of the world, they are most often the victims of horrendous human rights violations.

He also spotlights health crises that could be solved if the world would step up.

In his latest column, he wrote about the American Presidency and saving lives in Africa:

Saving children’s lives in rural Africa or Asia, where millions die of ailments as simple as diarrhea, pneumonia or measles, is achingly simple and inexpensive. The starting point is vaccinations and basic sanitation. 

. . .

For years, the rationale for opposing foreign assistance has been that it doesn’t work. It’s true that humanitarian aid is devilishly difficult to get right, money is squandered and the impact of aid is often oversold.

But President Bush’s record underscores that other policies are difficult to get right as well: Iraq is a mess, and social security reform and immigration reform both failed. Mr. Bush’s greatest single accomplishment is that his AIDS program in Africa is saving millions of lives.

That makes it all the more stunning that Mr. Bush’s proposed budget for 2009 cuts U.S. funding for child and maternal health programs around the world by nearly 18 percent.

Fortunately, all the candidates are saying the right things about malaria, AIDS and support for education in Africa (although John McCain is fuzzier about commitments). You can compare the candidates’ positions on global humanitarian issues at www.onevote08.org.

Voters should remember this: A president may or may not be able to improve schools or protect manufacturing jobs in Ohio, but a president probably could help wipe out malaria. Compared with other challenges a president faces, saving a million children’s lives a year is the low-hanging fruit.

See Nicholas Kristof’s page at the New York Times.

OneVote08 is a project of One—the Campaign to Make Poverty History.

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And historical women heroes?

How about Jane Addams? Susan B. Anthony? Elizabeth Cady Stanton? Marie Curie? Fannie Lou Hamer? Mary Harris Jones (Mother Jones)? Margaret Sanger? Sojourner Truth? Harriet Tubman? Etc.

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I Hope, I Hope This Guy Is Wrong

Douglas Schoen writes: Wrong About Nader: Far from being a vanity trip, a maverick candidacy could upend the presidential race — again.

Nader is undoubtedly a less appealing candidate than he was in 2000, when by winning 97,000 votes in Florida he famously cost Gore the election. But that doesn’t mean 2008 is going to be a repeat of 2004, when Nader attracted a mere 0.038 percent of the popular vote. On the contrary, the circumstances for Nader’s candidacy could hardly be better. The conditions this November will be more favorable to an independent, third-party candidacy than ever before. As a result, Nader stands a real chance of matching or even exceeding his 2000 performance, when he won 2.74 percent of the popular vote.

And:

In 2004, Nader faltered because it was apparent that George W. Bush and John Kerry offered stark alternatives. But 2008 is not 2004. George W. Bush isn’t on the ballot this year. What the public wants is change. Research done by Rasmussen Reports in September shows that Nader’s candidacy is well positioned to capitalize on that desire. In a four-way race, Nader could get 4 percent, considerably more support than he received in 2000. A centrist alternative could do even better, easily attracting 15 to 30 percent of the electorate. Even Ron Paul could receive as much as 8 percent as a libertarian, fourth-party candidate.

In the Washington Post.

I think he is wrong. I hope he is wrong. But hoo-boy was I shocked when GW was re-elected—I thought the writing on the wall was crystal clear after four years. However, this may simply be a case of wishful thinking on Schoen’s part. The title of his book is Declaring Independence: The Beginning of the End of the Two-Party System. He’s probably the one who convinced Nader to run. (Thank you Mr. Schoen. Not.)

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The Noise Machine & Obama & Health Care

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My husband sent me a link to a blog by Marc Andreessen. Since I’m not a tech-head, I’d never heard of him (he was a founder of Netscape, it turns out), but I read his post about Obama (An hour and a half with Barack Obama) with interest. He met with Obama in person before the campaign began and his insights are worth taking into consideration.

I have not jumped on Obama’s boat, but I’ve got one toe in. Whether or not I end up on board, I am disgusted by how successfully he is being smeared. I’m well aware that there is a Noise Machine out there, but it is disheartening to watch (yet again) how very well it works. Recently, Diane wrote about a conversation she witnessed between two women in South Dakota:

Woman #1: They aren’t ready for a woman president there.

Woman #2: They aren’t ready for a black president either.

Woman #1: I hear he’s Muslim, but he’s not active in his faith.

Me: (Interjecting) He’s not Muslim. His father is Kenyan, but he’s not Muslim.

Woman #1: Well, he’s not active.

Me: (Interjecting) Actually, he goes to the same church as Oprah Winfrey. He’s a Christian.

The effectiveness of the Noise Machine is clear. It doesn’t matter if the info put out is false, all they have to do is make a connection in people’s minds and they’ve succeeded. Obama. Muslim. That’s it—that it’s not true is irrelevant. And, as Naomi Klein pointed out in this editorial, it wouldn’t be a smear if it were true—but the fact that people perceive it as one is evidence of yet another successful Noise Machine campaign. Code words: Muslim. Terrorist.

Truth should matter. Whichever side you’re on, the end cannot justify the means. If we waltz down that road, where does it end? The lies and deceit grow larger and uglier the longer we dance. Step by little step, before we know it, we’ve become an immoral nation.

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Obama’s message is about hope and change. Yesterday, I heard Jim Wallis speak and he made the point that, no matter who is elected, they will not be able to make sweeping changes. For instance, try getting a meaningful universal health care plan passed when there are three lobbyists from the pharmaceutical industry for every member of Congress (some interesting facts here). And how about this:  Pharmaceutical, Insurance Industries Lead Way In Lobbying Spending; New Study Provides Comprehensive Look at Washington’s $1.26 billion Influence Industry (that was published ten years ago—think things have improved?).

Gee, I wonder if the drug and insurance giants are planning to sit on their tushes while their industries stand to lose boatloads of moola? You can bet they’re right now this minute blueprinting a massive, unrelenting attack. Code word: socialism. They’ll dredge up nightmare stories from people in England and Canada about waiting years for a needed treatment. We won’t hear about all the Americans who simply can’t get treatment, about the people who lost everything when a loved one got cancer. About ambulances being turned away from hospitals because the patients didn’t have insurance—and the people who died as a result.

The fact is, we need change.

Wallis said change comes from social movements, not politicians. I agree with him. We need a sweeping social movement in this country that says, among other things, yes to decent health care for all people. No, demands it.

It wouldn’t hurt to have a president who can maybe stir up a social movement, would it?

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Jesus And Voting

Came across an editorial by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Post this morning, How Would Jesus Vote? I’m an Evangelical — and a Liberal. Really. This followed on the heels of Charlotte’s excellent post about Sullivan’s recent Salon interview.

Salon asked Sullivan, “Do you think that many Democrats underestimate just how religious many of the members of their party are?”

Well duh. Naturally, Sullivan answered in the affirmative.

I can attest that I am one of many liberal religious tired of being maligned by my own people. I mean, sheesh, too many liberals seem to assume that their fellow liberals are 99% agnostic or atheist. Think again. I am not an evangelical, but I am a Christian and I do vote.

And with the popularity of books by religion-haters like Dawkins and Hitchens, some anti-religious are becoming more vitriolic than ever in their rhetoric. So certain of their rightness, they appear more fundamentalist than many of the religious they deride. Talk about rigid. Talk about closed-minded. Talk about arrogant.

We don’t co-exist by attacking one anothers’ religion, or lack of. One lesson that we would all do well to remember: We are unlikely to convince others by becoming louder, brasher, uglier. (In fact, on issues like this, we are unlikely to convince one another at all—we’re likely each preaching to our own choir.)

In the Post article, Sullivan writes that she was at a panel discussion in Manhattan when “a man stood up to declare that Democrats who reached out to religious voters, especially evangelicals, were akin to those who collaborated with the Nazis.”

Nazis. Wow.

And:

“Walking through Dulles Airport not long after losing the 2004 election, John Kerry was stopped by a supporter. The man shook Kerry’s hand and told the senator that he was an evangelical. ‘I voted for you,’ he said, ‘and so did a lot of evangelicals. But you could have gotten more of us if you’d tried.’ Kerry was floored. Evangelical Democrats?”

Truthfully, I am not sure that reaching out to religious voters is a great idea, because separation of church and state is important—but why alienate us? Why does the Democratic party so often seem aligned with the anti-religious, the oh-too-vocal atheists? The fact is that many of the issues that are important to Christians also happen to be liberal values—putting people before corporate interests, feeding the hungry, ensuring access to health care for all, peacemaking.

I find it interesting that (according to Sullivan) many evangelicals seem to be questioning their alliance with the Republican party. Sullivan writes:

Between November 2004 and July 2007, the percentage of white evangelicals who identified themselves as Republican declined from roughly 50 percent to 40 percent.

That dramatic slump was driven by a stampede of younger evangelicals away from the GOP. Christian colleges have become even bigger centers of political activism than secular universities, protesting the Iraq war and demanding that campuses “go green.” A recent Time magazine poll of voters ages 18 to 29 found that 35 percent of young Democrats and 35 percent of young independents identify themselves as born-again.

Jesus was all about serving the disenfranchised, lifting up the poor; he was not aligned with the privileged, the wealthy, the big wigs. He did not promote tax cuts for the rich, or war, or intolerance of people who are different.

In my mind, it makes sense that Christians would tend toward the liberal end of the political spectrum—as long as they’re not driven away by liberal atheists. Democrats should make peace with the fact that most Americans—yes, even liberals—are religious.

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