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The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap Hardcover – February 19, 2008

3.9 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Senior Time editor Sullivan says trying to understand American politics without looking at religion would be like trying to understand the politics of the Middle East without paying attention to oil. Her fresh look at the God gap reveals the chasm's depths and offers a bridge across. Sullivan, an evangelical, discusses party process as the Catholic and white evangelical vote for Democrats declined sharply in the 1980s. The story of this shift is as fascinating as it is timely. Starting in the 1960s, she traces the Second Vatican Council's impact on Catholics and the rise of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority, and the effects of these changes upon politics. Sullivan focuses with special sharpness on John Kerry, a case study in how to mishandle religion during a political race and challenges the conventional wisdom that the right was religious and the left wanted religion scrubbed from the public square. Evangelical and political conservatives may be related, but they are not synonymous, says Sullivan; Clinton, after all, is a genuine Southern evangelical. Sullivan's account argues persuasively and optimistically that politically liberal and theologically orthodox evangelicals can be brought back to the Democratic Party. Must reading for Democrats. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Amy Sullivan is an exceptional journalist who has become one of our most insightful commentators on the American religious-political landscape. The Party Faithful is filled with discerning reporting, behind-the-scenes stories, and astute analysis. Her history of the evangelical social conscience will be illuminating to many. She shows that faithful voters do not belong to only one party, but are looking to bring their moral passion to politics and are more likely now to hold both sides accountable. She understands the sea change going on in faith and politics in America." -- Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and God's Politics

"Long before most journalists or Democratic activists were paying attention, Amy Sullivan understood that what was happening in the religious world mattered enormously to the political world -- and she saw the damage being done to the Democratic Party in the name of God. With empathy, superb reporting, a sense of history, and an ear for the good story, Sullivan describes what went wrong in the party of Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, and the struggles and strategizing designed to level the religious playing field. The Party Faithful is a fascinating account, brimming with humanity -- and hope." -- E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right

"The religious vote is up for grabs in unprecedented ways in 2008, and in this thoughtful and moving book, Amy Sullivan not only explains why but suggests what liberals and Democrats can do to capture it." -- Alan Wolfe, author of Does American Democracy Still Work? and director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, Boston College

"Amy Sullivan is one of a small group of political journalists who understand that the phrase 'religious progressive' is not an oxymoron. Her book is the answer to my prayers." -- Paul Begala, CNN political analyst and former counselor to President Clinton

"Lots of people are writing good books on faith and politics these days -- Amy Sullivan has written a great one. The Party Faithful is an invaluable romp through the Democrats' often torturous (and regularly tortuous) journey of faith and is essential reading for anyone hoping to understand the presidential race." -- David Kuo, author of Tempting Faith

"The most exciting voice on the religious left. Period. She produces the most interesting, path-breaking writing on religion and politics." -- Steven Waldman, cofounder of Beliefnet

"There is far too little great reporting and sound thinking on the perennial subject of religion and politics in America, but Amy Sullivan is changing that. With intelligence, insight, and grace, she has given us a great gift in The Party Faithful, a new book that sheds light on a question that too often simply generates heat." -- Jon Meacham, author of American Gospel and Franklin and Winston
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; First Edition edition (February 19, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743297865
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743297868
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,849,306 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Our parents may have warned us to avoid talking about religion or politics. Fortunately, Amy Sullivan never got--or never listened to--that warning. Regardless of your political persuasion, The Party Faithful is a fascinating look deep inside a world which the mainstream media for the most part seems afraid to touch or simply does not seem to understand well.

It is no secret that Democratic party presidential candidates have been hurt by shaky support among Catholic voters and abysmal support among white evangelical Christian voters for most of the period from 1972 on. Catholics, once a solidly Democratic constituency, have preferred the Democratic presidential candidate only in 1996 and 2000 in the seven elections since 1980. And not since Jimmy Carter carried 58% of the white evangelical vote has that group favored Democrats, with no other Democratic nominee since then garnering more than 33% support among this very large demographic.

Sullivan, an evangelical Baptist and a liberal Democrat, maintains it did not and does not need to be so. National editor for Time and formerly editor of the Washington Monthly and a Capitol Hill staffer, she explains how Democrats have missed opportunities to do far better with both groups without compromising their principles--and of how the party is lately showing signs of rapid progress in working its way up that learning curve.

John Kerry, who lost the white evangelical vote 78-22, did not learn that there were evangelical Democrats until after the election. His campaign's approach: "We don't do white churches", even though 40% of evangelicals are politically moderate.
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Format: Hardcover
Though a separation of church and state is implied in the Bill of Rights, Sullivan suggests that our country was built on fundamentally religious principles that permeate the lives of all American citizens. Amy Sullivan's poignant book examines the issue of how one political party lost its right to religion. With keen wit and clever insight, Sullivan explores the series of decisions made within the Democratic Party which led to its inability to maintain religious voters.

The author points to key moments throughout history that contributed to the shift of religion in politics. Sullivan notes the importance of the Scopes Trial in disenfranchising evangelical voters from the left and acknowledges the huge role Roe v. Wade played in the democratic loss of catholic voters. She asserts that Bill Clinton's overt religiosity was not enough to inspire people of faith and that John Kerry's seemingly false Catholicism was even more off-putting for religious voters.

Though critical, her book is not without hope. Amy Sullivan suggests that the way for the left to reclaim religion is through compromise. The evangelical movement is not one against liberal ideals and the agenda has actually expanded to include such liberal issues as protection of the environment.

This book is an important one--for anyone of any political affiliation. Though a liberal reader may identify more closely with Sullivan's progressive bias, she expresses ideas on both sides of the political spectrum while providing an important message about modern politics.
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Format: Hardcover
For years, as a Democrat and progressive, I have watched the meteoric rise of the religious right. I have been struck by one question "what is it in the psyche of the American public that the Republicans are tapping into and the Democrats have missed?" I couldn't understand the exodus of fellow Catholic voters to support Republicans when so many of that party's policies were hostile to major tenants of Catholic teachings on economic and social justice. I raised this question with my Dad, a semi-retired college professor and political pollster. He too was perplexed. In an attempt to answer this question, a couple of years ago, we began a journey reading about the history of religion in America and its influence on politics and culture. It was not until we read Amy Sullivan's The Party Faithful that we finally got an answer.

One of late Democratic speaker Tip O'Neill's most famous quotes was that if you want someone's vote, "you need to ask for it." Politics 101! It appears that the Democratic Party forgot this very simple rule. They ceded a large group of voters, including historic supporters, because they incorrectly assumed all people of faith are conservatives. The party and its candidates stopped asking for their votes - or worse - pushed these voters away.

Ms. Sullivan's very timely book, describes the events and contemporary rise of the religious right as the Republican's seized a vacuum created by the Democrats. The Party Faithful is exceptionally well written, insightful and an astute social and political commentary. It is an easy read and full of entertaining and tragically true stories of how the Democratic party has bumbled its relationship with constituencies of faith voters.
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