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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 12/27/19

Prod 'Nones' to Vote

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Message James Haught

PROD 'NONES' TO VOTE

reprinted from Free Inquiry magazine

Progressives hope for an America where health care is a human right for everyone and women's right to choose remains secure and gays are safe from cruelty and people of all sorts are welcome equally in a multicultural society and college is affordable without crushing debt and marijuana no longer brings jail terms and safety measures curb gun massacres and sensible steps reduce global warming and hidebound religion isn't forced onto unwilling people and extreme incarceration doesn't outstrip the rest of the world and science prevails over superstition etc., etc.

The best way to attain these advances is to boost voting by the swelling ranks of young Americans who say their religion is "none." More than any other population segment, "nones" tend to have liberal, tolerant, humanistic, modern views.

If they could be induced to participate more strongly in elections, America's moral climate would improve. But there's the rub: churchless Americans often don't vote. They shun politics as much as they shun supernatural religion. So their potential power lags.

In contrast, white evangelicals although fading are intense voters who form the core of the Republican Party. These fundamentalists have shrunk to just 15 percent of the population (down from 20 in 2012), yet they're so politically active they provided 26 percent of the 113 million votes cast in the 2018 election. Three-to-one, they supported GOP candidates.

But figures for the nonreligious are sad: They've climbed to one-fourth of the adult population, but they were just 17 percent of 2018 voters. Almost three-to-one, they backed Democratic candidates. It's too bad their turnout was so poor.

American politics reveals a travesty among white evangelicals. Jesus actually was a liberal who taught followers to help the poor, heal the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, uplift the underdog, etc. His "social gospel" matches the public safety net supported by left-leaning Democrats. But white evangelicals overwhelmingly back the GOP, which tries to slash the safety net. In effect, they oppose Jesus.

Even worse, those fundamentalists laud President Donald Trump, a much-divorced vulgarian whose view of women was expressed in his notorious "grab 'em by the p****" recording. It's ludicrous for people calling themselves Christian to rally behind such a crass leader, and help his party hurt less-privileged families.

What can be done to persuade more "nones" to vote, to counter the overblown political power of white evangelicals? Could America's widespread secular movement unite in a get-out-the-vote drive?

Some efforts already are afoot. The Secular Coalition for America operates Secular Values Voter, publicizing the rising power of the irreligious. Similarly, other groups support Secular America Votes, which declares:

"Showing politicians that atheists, agnostics, freethinkers and other secular people are a powerful (and growing) voting bloc requires getting out the vote and demonstrating that we are a force to be reckoned with at election time."

But this isn't enough, because the secular turnout remains weak. The ratio of "none" voters doubled from 8 percent in 2002, but they still fail to vote in full force.

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James A. Haught is editor emeritus of West Virginia's largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette-Mail, where he has won two dozen national newswriting awards. He has written 12 books and hundreds of magazine essays and blog posts. Around 450 of his (more...)
 
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