In the coming weeks, hundreds of predominantly Black churches in Virginia will hear a message from Vice President Kamala Harris urging them to go to the polls and vote for Democrat Terry McAuliffe in a pivotal gubernatorial race.
The video, obtained by CNN, features Harris saying that when she grew up, she was “taught that it was our sacred responsibility to raise our voice and lift up the voices of our community” — and voting is one of the most “significant” ways to do that.
NEW — More than 300 Black churches across VA will hear from @KamalaHarris btwn Sun. and November 2 in video message that will air during morning services as part of outreach effort aimed to boost @TerryMcAuliffe.#VAGOV
— Eva McKend (@evamckend) October 16, 2021
“I believe that my friend Terry McAuliffe is the leader Virginia needs at this moment,” says Harris, before praising McAuliffe’s “long-track record of getting things done for the people of Virginia.”
Harris implores congregants to vote following church service. The McAuliffe campaign has embraced “Souls to the Polls,” block-party style events featuring top campaign surrogates after church near polling locations, to drive voter turnout.
If any of that bothers you because you don’t think any politician should be campaigning within the walls of a church… oh well. As much as I’d like for that to be the case — and as much as I wish the IRS would take the Johnson Amendment seriously — that’s not the country we live in. The IRS doesn’t go after churches that play politics, despite its own rules, and right-wing Republicans have used white evangelical churches to their advantage by getting pastors to essentially campaign for them (or allow them to do it) during sermons.
If you watch that video, you’ll also see that Harris is not doing what Republicans do. This isn’t a “both sides” thing. She’s using her faith as a starting point to make a broader case for her candidate, not using her faith as the singular reason someone should back him.
While she brings up her own religious upbringing, she doesn’t say Jesus wants churchgoers to vote for a Democrat, or God will be upset if they don’t vote at all, or that the Bible commands them to back her candidate. She doesn’t say the things Republicans often do with ease. Instead, she uses their shared faith to make a secular argument for electing McAuliffe. She talks about how it’s everyone’s responsibility to lift up their communities — something that’s part of the core mission for many Black churches — and talks about why McAuliffe is better to help them achieve that goal, especially when it comes to education, the economy, and health care.
The question really is whether Democrats should cede church-campaigning ground to Republicans on principle — and risk losing close elections — or play the same game with more progressive churches. I’m not a fan of asymmetric warfare, whether we’re talking about campaigning or gerrymandering. If Republicans face no consequences for breaking the rules, then Democrats would be foolish to ignore the same opportunities. Good on Harris for getting her message through to a huge group of likely Democratic voters.
Will it make a difference considering many of those churchgoers were already going to vote blue? I don’t know. Here’s hoping she can encourage some people who may have been on the fence about voting.
Here’s what I’m really interested in seeing: Will Republicans complain about Harris’ statement? Will they claim she has no business encouraging churchgoers to vote for McAuliffe? The blatant hypocrisy is inevitable. The only question is which prominent conservative Christian will be the first to whine about it.