What the Heck is Jim Wallis Talking About?

Yesterday on the Huffington Post, Rev. Jim Wallis declared that, "In this election, both the Religious Right and the secular Left were defeated, and the voice of the moral center was heard." And why is that? "A significant number of candidates elected are social conservatives on issues of life and family" as well as being "economic populists, and committed to a new direction in Iraq."

This is faulty political analysis and foolishly divisive political tactics.

It's faulty analysis because the vast majority of new Dem congresspeople are not social conservatives. Media Matters reports: "this incoming crop of Democrats largely agrees on the most contentious social issues of the day: All but two of the 27 challengers support embryonic stem cell research and only five describe themselves as 'pro-life' on the issue of abortion."

Furthermore, all the new Dem senators from "red" states support reproductive freedom, while bright red South Dakota voted down an abortion ban.

It's foolishly divisive because we can't isolate fringe fundamentalist religious leaders like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson unless we build a majority coalition of the religious and nonreligious on a set of common principles. Attacking the "secular Left" as having nothing to do with America's "moral center" is not the way to do that.

Wallis is correct that there common goals that we share, such as the ones he emphasizes -- the eradication of poverty and a sane foreign policy. But separation of church and state is also a shared principle, so we can have a representative government that protects free worship without imposing one set of moral views on everyone else.

And we can respect differences of opinion on difficult moral questions while forging common ground. Sen. Harry Reid is anti-abortion. I support reproductive freedom. But I'm happy Sen. Reid is the leader of the Senate Democrats because he fights right-wing judges, works with pro-choicers on birth control, and supports stem cell research.

Far from being defeated, nonreligious Americans, liberal and otherwise, joined religious Americans to fire a conservative Republican Congress and take back their government. As Flavia Colgan noted, "One of the most stunning developments in the midterm elections is how Democrats pulled religious voters back into the fold - without pandering on issues where people of faith know the party just doesn't agree with them ... most of the time, [religious people] will vote for someone they disagree with on some social issues as long as that candidate is strong on the issues that matter most."

The "grand new alliance" that Wallis envisions is being built, and it includes what he derisively calls the "secular Left."

Bill Scher is the author of the new book, Wait! Don't Move To Canada!: A Stay-and-Fight Strategy To Win Back America. He will be continuing his book tour in Oregon, Seattle and NYC this month.