ABC’s “Man in the Middle” isn’t.
After a whirlwind highly-qualified-contrition* tour of the media, the man who credits himself with convincing Karl Rove to move all the way to the right because the center no longer exists has landed at ABC News. Predictably, he’s going to be providing us with his bipartisan view from the center.
Also predictably, from the first word quite a bit of it is, to put it charitably, less than thoroughly frank. To put it less charitably, it’s a mess of spin and bullshit.
A Man in the Middle Looks at the Whole Wide World of People and Politics
Matthew Dowd has been a campaign strategist in races throughout the country. In 30 years, Dowd has worked for Democrats such as the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, and Republicans including Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President George W. Bush, for whom he was chief strategist in 2004.
Sounds like a pretty well-balanced fellow, doesn’t he, standing there in the middle? Useta be a Democrat, you know. Jumped the fence to work for Bush, because he just fell, politically, in love. He’s been pimping that Mister, I met a man angle pretty hard.
Mr. Dowd said he decided to become a Republican in 1999 and joined Mr. Bush after watching him work closely with Bob Bullock, the Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas, who was a political client of Mr. Dowd and a mentor to Mr. Bush.
“It’s almost like you fall in love,” he said. “I was frustrated about Washington, the inability for people to get stuff done and bridge divides. And this guy’s personality — he cared about education and taking a different stand on immigration.”
Mr. Dowd said, in retrospect, he was in denial.
“When you fall in love like that,” he said, “and then you notice some things that don’t exactly go the way you thought, what do you do? Like in a relationship, you say ‘No no, no, it’ll be different.’ ”
He said he clung to the hope that Mr. Bush would get back to his Texas style of governing if he won. But he saw no change after the 2004 victory.
“I had finally come to the conclusion that maybe all these things along do add up,” he said. “That it’s not the same, it’s not the person I thought.”
Only, you know, not so much.
from a Times story (which presumably he finds accurate, since it’s posted on his firm’s website)
Mr. Dowd, who started his political life as a 13-year-old Nixon fan transfixed by the 1974 Watergate hearings (his parents were Republicans), said he became less enamored of the Republican Party at Newman College, a now-defunct private Catholic school in St. Louis. He credits Mr. Bush with converting him from conservative Democrat back to Republican when Mr. Dowd was working for Bob Bullock, the Democratic lieutenant governor of Texas who was close to Mr. Bush when he was governor.
According to Howard Kurtz, that disenchantment didn’t cause Dowd to do anything wacky like vote for the Democratic candidate for president (Howie refers to him in the Washington Post article announcing his new job as "a Reagan supporter"). According to the guy who ran his college, it didn’t even cause Dowd to leave the Republican party until after he graduated, got married, and went to work for Democrats.
Those Democrats were, perhaps not incidentally, the most powerful politicians in the party that had a lock on Texas state government at the time (presumably they seduced him too. He appears to have a bit of a problem keeping his political knees together). They lost that lock in the nineties. Soon afterwards, they lost Mr. Dowd.
By a remarkable coincidence, since their fortunes have waned, Mr. Bush and his wing of the Republican party have also lost Mr. Dowd (the nice thing about fungible virtue is that you can always get it back if the people you sell it to can’t make the payments).
While they did have his highly-paid services (keep in in mind that a great deal of the money from the ’02 midterms and the ’04 presidential election flowed through his hands) he was, as digby points out, responsible for a great deal that was very, very ugly about how the Republican party under the political direction of Karl Rove did business (more on that here and here).
See? And we haven’t even gotten to the article yet.
Faith: Finding An Authentic Place to Call Home
Before you read much further, here’s the bottom line: as one looks ahead to the primaries and the general election, the candidate who best understands the importance of faith in households across America and ultimately demonstrates authenticity will likely be the one taking the oath of office in January of 2009.
Faith and religion in politics has been misunderstood by many observers. When faith is discussed in politics, the discussion often defaults to an examination of the Religious Right or evangelicalism. However, this focus misses the bigger picture, as those much-discussed groups represent only a fraction of faith in America –- and successful candidates understand this.
More than 90 percent of American voters believe in God. This 90 percent includes Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists or whatever the church or community of choice is for that person. People rely on their spiritual foundation in decisions they make every day –- decisions ranging from whether they should change jobs, to the right medicine for their parents, to whether they should stay in a relationship, or to how one should treat the environment. In truth, for the average voter, Faith is often a more important factor than any economic calculus. And the high importance that voters place on authenticity when choosing candidate has its roots in an individual voter’s spiritual underpinnings.
Alrighty then. There are a few things about this that are remarkably interesting (not the least, of course, that the guy who ran the ’02 RNC campaign and the ’04 presidential campaign is aware that there are religions other than evangelical christianity). I found a a Harris poll with that 90% number.
I also found this Harris poll
Belief in God and Attendance of Religious Services
This survey found that 79% of Americans believe there is a God, and that 66% are absolutely certain this is true. Only 9% do not believe in God, while a further 12% are not sure.
While most people (55%) attend a religious service a few times a year or more often, only a minority of the public (36%) attends a religious service once a month or more often, with about a quarter (26%) attending every week.
Reducing "Social Desirability" Bias
These numbers – for belief in God and for attendance at churches, synagogues and mosques – are lower than those reported in many other surveys, we believe, because of the methods we use to measure them more accurately.
One of the problems with surveys where people are interviewed by people, whether face-to-face or by telephone, is that they may not tell the truth to an interviewer, if the truth is embarrassing or if another answer is more "socially desirable." This "social desirability" bias means that many surveys underreport the number of people who are homosexual, who don’t bathe or clean their teeth, who drink alcohol, or whose children are not immunized, for example. Socially desirable behavior, such as giving to charity, voting in elections and going to church are usually over reported.
Because our online surveys, such as this one, do not involve talking to interviewers, we regularly record lower levels of behavior (and belief) on topics where there is a "socially desirable" answer. We believe that the lower levels of belief in God, and the lower levels of church-going found in this survey are more accurate than the higher levels reported in telephone and in-person surveys.
Why that’s kinda important:
Forget the gender gap. The "religion gap" is bigger, more powerful and growing. The divide isn’t between Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Gentiles. Instead, on one side are those of many faiths who go to services, well, religiously: Catholics who attend Mass without fail, evangelical Christians and mainline Protestants who show up for church rain or shine, some Orthodox Jews. On the other side are those who attend religious services only occasionally or never…
There are exceptions to the pattern. African-Americans who often attend church are as reliably Democratic as those who don’t. Frequency of church attendance seems to have limited impact on the voting patterns of Hispanics.
But among whites, the political differences that church attendance signal are striking. The religion gap now dwarfs the gender gap, Green calculates. In an election that was evenly divided in 2000, women chose Democrat Al Gore over Republican George Bush by about 10 percentage points. Frequent churchgoers chose Bush over Gore by 20 points.
That pattern held true even for voters who identified themselves as members of the "religious right," a group generally considered part of the Republican base. Bush was supported by 87% of those who said they attended church each week. But his margin plunged 31 points, to 56%, among members of the religious right who attended church less often.
So it looks as if the majority of [the less than 90% of] americans who believe in God, the ones who aren’t regular churchgoers, trend towards Democrats. Who knew?
I’m guessing Mr. Dowd read that article. He’s quoted in it, and he strikes me as a gentleman who follows his own press.
Anyway, back to the blog post (I told you there was a lot going on here)
Americans, especially those attending Megachurches (one of the fastest growing Faith segments), faith and religious decisions are driven by a desire for community and fellowship. Their choice of a church is based less on theological principles and more on where they can find a community they trust and are accepted in and a place they can call home. This is why Megachurches today are one of the most diverse gatherings of people across the land.
Megachurches often include as many Democrats and Independents as Republicans, and their members and attendees cover the ideological and policy spectrum –- from socially liberal or moderate to conservative, from supporting of the war in Iraq to opposing it, etc. This fact has been miscalculated by many recent candidates, especially on the Democratic side, and as a result of it, they have suffered at the polls.
Um. Already on it, dude. You must not have heard. I know you don’t follow politics that closely. Thanks for your centrist concern.
Also, in the book he said Democrats, all by themselves, were the majority of megachurchgoers. I got nothing about who seduced him on this one.
I don’t know about you, but all this strikes me as coming from a place somewhat south and to the rear of the middle.
*He doesn’t think anything he did merits being too apologetic. After all, "it does not mean that you somehow have to walk down the street in a hair shirt with a sign that says, ‘Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me,’ " he said. "We move on."