Allegedly manipulative conservative religious voter guides often get lots of media play. But Religious Left groups publish their own guidance, although for a much smaller potential constituency.
The 1.2 million member United Church of Christ (UCC), whose elites are probably the most left-leaning of all major U.S. denominations, has helpfully composed “Our Faith, Our Hope” guides to direct how liberal Christians should think in politically correct terms about climate controversies, socialized medicine, the U.S. presence in Iraq, immigration and the Welfare State.
Conservative Christian groups typically focus their voter guides on issues to which Christianity has historical teachings, such as marriage and abortion, while often also emphasizing church/state and religious liberty issues. These conservative religionists usually do not spotlight issues emphasized by secular conservative groups, such as tax rates, economic regulation and foreign policy. In contrast, Religious Left voter guides merely echo the refrains of the secular left. How their guides are specifically informed by religious faith is often not clear.
On Global Warming, the UCC voter guide denounces the U.S. for emitting “almost 25 percent of greenhouse gases” in the world, while asserting that the world’s poor will be “greatly impacted because they live on and from lands devastated by climate change.” Naturally, the guides does not explain how the world’s poor will suffer from the economic strangulation that many Global Warming zealots seek in their quest to save “The Planet.”
While admitting possible influence by factors other than climate change, the UCC voter guide apocalyptically claims that 326 “climate disasters” unfolded during the Bush Administration’s first term, affecting 262 million people. Additional global heating could displace another 330 million with flooding, while exposing an added 220-400 million people to malaria, the UCC starkly warns.
Climate change, fueled by greenhouse gas emissions, is “established fact,” the UCC voter guide insists, while urging church goers to demand that candidates explain how they will better serve “The Planet” than has the Bush Administration. The guide frets over America’s “insatiable thirst for fossil fuels,” while emphasizing solar energy and hydrogen as potentially magical solutions that are carbon free.
On Iraq, the UCC voter guide complains that the U.S. has spent $500 billion on the war over 5 years, money that could have better fueled an expansion of the U.S. Welfare State and more federal spending on “renewable” energy. More specifically, it cites a former division of Haliburton, KBR, for having spent $20 billion “to supply the U.S. military in Iraq with food, fuel, housing and other items.” It’s not clear if the UCC voter guide prefers that U.S. troops not be fed, but it does mention that $3.2 billion may have been “questionable,” according to auditors. Church goers are urged to ask candidates to support “legislation barring the construction of permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.”
Predictably, the UCC voter guide wants liberalized U.S. immigration policies, bemoaning the “anti-immigrant rhetoric espoused by some legislators and radio and television personalities has resulted in an ugly patchwork of punitive, draconian measures being adopted in cities and states around the nation.” It is also worried about sinister “code words” such as “amnesty,” “terrorism,” “illegal aliens,” “anchor babies, and innumerable phrases that seek to equate unauthorized workers with terrorists and criminals.” Even the term “illegal alien” offends the UCC, since it is “completely dehumanizing and conjures up visions of dangerous extra-terrestrials.” And it blames immigration problems on NAFTA and other free trade accords, which have caused families to be “torn asunder.”
Chronic poverty in America, according to the UCC voter guide, is exclusively faulted on a parsimonious nation unwilling to care for the needy through a boundary-less Welfare State. Regrettably, it opines, President Bush’s 2009 budget “continues tax breaks for the most affluent, cuts health, education, child welfare and other services, seeks the highest Pentagon base budget ever, and asks for another $70 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Arguably, the billions spent by the U.S. military have provided more quantifiable results than the trillions of dollars engorged by the Welfare State. But the UCC wants more spending on failed policies, rather than examination of social pathologies that actually perpetuate poverty.
Similarly, the UCC voter guide believes the U.S. is drowning in a health care “crisis” engendered by the federal government’s not taking over the health care industry. It demands wider health care coverage at less cost, apparently unaware of the potential contradiction. “People have talked about fixing our health care crisis for a long time, no real substantive action has been taken to fix it,” candidates are to be told. “If elected, what strategy do you have to pass real health care reform? Will you make access to quality health care a top priority?”
On trade issues, the UCC voter guide imagines that the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and other trade pacts have only exacerbated poverty and suffering everywhere. “All indications point to a glaring and disturbing fact: poor people throughout all three countries have suffered as a result of the policies put in place by this agreement,” it laments. “The wealth…has been dramatically siphoned upward into the hands of exceedingly rich.”
Besides candidates for office, the UCC voter guide is very distressed about “some of the threats to justice” from local ballot initiatives that are “anti-affirmative Action, anti-choice, anti-GLBT and anti-immigrant measures.” According to the UCC, “this is truly scary stuff and can easily go unnoticed” because “initiatives are often given deceptive names so that when voters enter the voting booth they don’t always know what it is they’re voting on.” The UCC voter guide is primed to alert the casual voter, lest he or she accidentally vote for a socially conservative referendum.
Conservative religious vote guides, typically distributed by parachurch groups rather than denominations, target millions of socially conservative church goers. The UCC voter guide, like other Religious Left attempts to influence voters, largely targets clergy and small cadres of left-leaning activists. According to some polls, even most church going UCC members tend to vote Republican. UCC elites undoubtedly would prefer not to stir them up.
Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.