The strategists inside Hillary Clinton’s Brooklyn campaign headquarters believed that demography was destiny and that a mythical ascendant majority of African-Americans, Hispanics, single women and millennials would elect their boss president of the United States.
In mapping out their strategies based on data analytics and computer modeling, the Clinton campaign strategists ignored—even held contempt for—people of faith. This dismissal of evangelicals and faithful Roman Catholics as part of a “basket of deplorables” proved to be a fatal mistake.
Indeed, people of faith ultimately fueled the Trump victory. According to exit polls, evangelical voters comprised 26 percent of the electorate in 2016, and they supported Donald Trump by a margin of 81 percent to 16 percent. Among the 33 percent of voters who self-identified as conservative Christians, they voted for Donald Trump by a margin of 78 percent to 15 percent over Hillary Clinton.
Even more than the gender gap, Democrats have a “faith gap” causing such estrangement from religious voters that it is putting large swaths of the country out of their reach. Republicans now control the governorships and state legislative chambers in 25 states. The GOP governing majority is so broad that a person could drive from Florida to Idaho and not transverse a single state where Democrats are in power. Yet it appears Democratic elites are committed to continue their losing “War on Religion” that is driving more voters away from their candidates.
In recent weeks, there have been scores of stories planted by teacher’s union apparatchiks that smear Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education, for her deeply held religious beliefs and for her support for allowing children in underperforming public schools to attend religious schools that infuse religion and moral values into classroom instruction. If the Democrats continue to ratchet up this line of attack during the confirmation process for Mrs. DeVos, they will further alienate people of faith and create a big opening for the Trump administration to make inroads with voters of faith, including African-Americans and Hispanics. This would create a permanent shift in American politics that could solidify the Democrats status as America’s minority party for a generation or more.
The biggest victims of the failures of traditional public education and the dominance of teacher’s unions over K-12 education policy are minority children trapped in failing public schools. The wealthy and elites have the power to send their children to private schools. It is telling that the past two Democratic presidents sent their children to private schools as opposed to the underperforming public schools in Washington, DC. Why shouldn’t poor black kids in D.C. or Hispanic children in Los Angeles have the same access to higher performing private schools?
The liberal smear campaign against Mrs. DeVos’ religious faith is despicable. The left-wing magazine “Mother Jones” headlined one hit job “Betsy DeVos Wants to Use America’s Schools. To Build God’s Kingdom.” Nonsense. Mrs. DeVos simply wants to insure that every child in America has a civil right to a quality education. She is a convincing and passionate advocate for the cause of school choice and greater parental control over how and where their children are educated. In her worldview, education dollars should follow the student to the best available school whether it be a traditional public school, charter school or private school. In fighting for the rights of parents, DeVos and Trump will be taking the side of minority parents who are demanding better schools for their children. In urban school districts, the demand for school choice is high. For example, in Chicago, more than 70 percent of high school students attend schools of choice. In New York City, 44,000 kids are on waiting lists to get into charter schools.
In opposing Mrs. DeVos for being a Christian who supports providing children with access to private and charter schools, the Democrats are doubling down on a failed strategy of demonizing people of faith. This is a losing argument on the merits, and it will only further drive evangelicals and faithful Roman Catholics further away. This is a warning that Democrat Senators in red-state “fly-over country” such as Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McKaskill, and Joe Donnelly would be wise to heed.
Ralph Reed is the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition.