BLOGGERJacques Berlinerblau is an Associate Professor and Director of the Program for Jewish Civilization at the School of Foreign Service. Berlinerblau has published on a wide variety of issues ranging...
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Boca Bubbies for Barack! (And Other Slogans Obama Would Like To See)
September 17, 2008
Beliefnet has drawn attention to an innovative PR cum merchandising initiative from the Obama campaign. Religious supporters of the Senator from Illinois can now purchase tee shirts, buttons and bumper stickers with faith-specific messages such as "BELIEVERS FOR BARACK" or "PRO-FAMILY AND PRO-OBAMA," or "CATHOLICS FOR OBAMA."
According to Paul Monteiro, Deputy Director of Religious Affairs, the new products permit customers "to show your support for Barack Obama as a person of faith." Well, all of this got me thinking about other religious constituencies whose support for the Democratic ticket will be crucial come Election Day. What would their T-shirts look like? :
"BOCA BUBBIES FOR BARACK!": If there is one place where we might actually expect the Jewish vote to make a difference in 2008 it would be Florida (and even here, as I noted on Friday, we should not overestimate its salience). In a state where Jews comprise roughly 3.6 percent of the population, Obama will need to reach out to senior and middle-aged Members of the Tribe as part of a broader program to overcome McCain's steady lead in the polls.
"NO-SHOW EVANGELICALS (FOR OBAMA)": Much has been said about the quasi-decisive role that White Evangelicals played in the 2004 presidential race. Up until John McCain's selection of a running mate the Evangelical base showed little indication that it would perform the same service for the GOP in 2008.
But now that Sarah Palin is here, and wowing those who accept Christ as their personal savior, Obama will have to fight a lot harder to improve upon the 22% that voted for John Kerry. Of course, If he gets up to 27%-32% of their ballot in a state like, let's say, Ohio he is in excellent shape.
But one question which has not been much discussed concerns turnout. By one account 63% of Evangelicals voted in the previous presidential election (Jews were at a whopping 87% incidentally). Obama has a major interest in lowering that number by a few percentage points in 2008. An Evangelical vote for McCain is a vote for McCain. But an Evangelical no-show accrues to Obama's advantage.
"THE CHOICE OF BIDEN IS OK BY ME: CATHOLIC MODERATE FOR BARACK": I had speculated a few weeks back that pro-Choice Senator Joseph Biden's presence on the ticket created a possible tension with moderate to traditional Catholics. One of the pressing tasks for the Obama campaign in the coming days is to argue that abortion is just one criterion by which Catholics should assess his candidacy.
He must convince moderates (the traditionalists will not support him) to look at the Big Picture. His argument must go something like this: in terms of the whole palette of issues that are of interest to Catholics (e.g., the alleviation of poverty, stewardship of the environment, the death penalty, education, immigration, health care policy, etc.) Obama/Biden are more in line with Catholic social teachings than their Republican counterparts.
"'OTHER' FOR OBAMA": Compulsive observers of CNN exit polls during the Democratic primaries were intrigued by Obama's strengths among religious people who were neither Christian, nor Jewish. There are votes to be had in those constituencies. The challenge is for Obama to rally Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and, uh, others to his side.
"NONBELIEVER WHO BELIEVES IN CHANGE": One of the great curiosities of the primaries was Obama's appeal to self-described atheists and agnostics,This was strange because Obama could trample on Church/State boundaries with the best of them. With his invocations of God, his dropping of Scripture Bombs, and (later on) his support for Faith-Based initiatives, Obama would not seem to be a natural hit with this constituency. But most of today's secularists are liberals first and secularists second. (Potential tee-shirt for 2012: "SECULARIST FIRST").