Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez warned Wednesday that Democrats need to come up with a “broader communications strategy” in order to reach Christian voters who “buy” what they are being told in church on Sundays.
Speaking at The Court in Crisis Summit in Washington, D.C. hosted by Demand Justice, a nonprofit that supports liberal judicial nominees, Perez offered his thoughts on why the Democratic Party is having trouble “penetrating” center-right voters with their message.
“We all have to make sure that we’re fluent in what’s happening across our ecosystem so we can come to each other’s defense because we need to build a bigger orchestra,” Perez said. “[The political right has] had a big orchestra for some time and they’ve got the megaphones to amplify it, whether it’s Sinclair at the local level or Fox at the national level.”
Perez continued by stating that a person from northwest Wisconsin told him that “most of the people I know, their principal sources of information are Fox News, the NRA newsletter and the pulpit on Sunday.”
“And it should come as a surprise to no-one that our message doesn’t penetrate,” Perez asserted.
As many conservative Christians and evangelicals supported the candidacy of President Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election because of his vows to appoint conservative judges and justices to the federal courts, Perez reasoned that many conservative voters have “elevated the issue of the courts to the top” of their own political priorities because “that person on the pulpit is saying ‘ignore everything else that this person has done and is doing, we have to focus on one issue of Roe v. Wade.’”
“And people buy it,” Perez said. “Because that’s their only source. As we move forward here, we have got to talk about a broader communications strategy, we have got to talk about other reforms that are going to enable us to elect Democrats up and down the ticket so that we can actually have the capacity to implement.”
According to Pew Research Center data from 2016, few Americans get information about political parties or candidates at their place of worship. Only 14 percent of those who reported attending a religious worship service at least once a month (16 percent for white evangelical protestants) reported receiving such information. And only 5 percent reporting hearing clergy tell them who to vote for, with 2 percent of pastors urging congregants to vote Republican, 2 percent urging to vote for Democrats, and 1 percent promoting third party or independent candidacies.
Many Christian conservatives are hopeful that with a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, thanks to two confirmations during the Trump presidency, that the court will decide to take up a case that could lead to the overturning of Roe, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.
At the end of November, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission urged the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe and take up the appeal by the state of Indiana. An Indiana law that was signed by then-governor and current Vice President Mike Pence that banned abortions on the basis of gender, race or disability was blocked by a federal appeals court earlier this year.
Abortion is not the only issue of importance to many conservative Christians. Many also strongly oppose same-sex marriage and desire laws and policies to protect their freedom to oppose and not be a part of such unions. One major Supreme Court ruling that conservative Christians celebrated in 2018 was a victory for Christian baker Jack Phillips, who was punished for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
Perez, who previously served as secretary of Labor under the Obama administration, has issued other controversial remarks in the past.
In April 2017, Perez suggested that all candidates for public office who want backing from the DNC should support abortion.
"[E]very Democrat, like every American, should support a woman's right to make her own choices about her body and her health,” Perez said, adding that Democratic candidates’ support for abortion is "not negotiable and should not change city by city or state by state.”
Perez's statement was denounced by some prominent Democratic leaders, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. In condemning of Perez’s remarks, Pelosi admitted that part of the reason why Trump won the election was because of the evangelical and Catholic voters who opposed same-sex marriage and abortion.
In July 2017, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Ben Luján clarified that there is no “litmus test” on abortion to receive DCCC backing because the Democrats needed a “broad coalition” in order to retake control of the House.