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Top 10 Letters

The religion gap, "The Two Towers," Gary Carter, and more.

11:00 PM, Jan 12, 2003
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Should this all come to pass--a Republican party almost entirely composed of whites and Asians and a Democratic party predominantly black and Hispanic--the Republicans would appear to be positioned to control the House for decades to come. But it would come at a grievous cost. On the face of it, there would appear to be little need for the cross-constituency coalition building that has been a mainstay of practical legislative politics for the past two generations. Blacks and Hispanics would likely find themselves more spectators than participants in the political process, a recipe for radicalization. There are surely alternative, more preferable outcomes than the foregoing. However, I do not hold out too much hope for them.

--Edmund J. Gannon

*4*

As someone born less than a mile from Wrigley Field, I have rabid anti-Mets feelings practically hard-wired into my DNA (David Skinner, You're a Good Man, Gary Carter). Nevertheless, even though I grew up watching the Cubs during the age of Sandberg, Sutcliffe, and Durham in the mid-80s, the one Mets player who I fondly remember was Gary Carter.

It may be unfashionable nowadays, but I always respect and admire great athletes who are also outstanding role models, and Gary Carter is certainly a class act and a great athlete who richly deserves to be honored in Cooperstown.

--Mihir Shah

*5*

Claudia Winkler makes a few odd leaps to reach her conclusion about the "unbelievers" that dominate the Democratic party.

Coincidentally, the Pew Research center also defines "secular" as "atheist, agnostic, or rarely attends church," which makes it convenient for comparisons. According to the 2002 Pew Research Center Poll, secularists are 20 percent Republican, 20 percent Democrat, and 49 percent independent.

Three percent of all respondents identified as atheist or agnostic; the rest responded as belonging to a religion. Forty-four percent of all respondents said that they attend church a few times a year or less.

What can be concluded from the Pew numbers?

(1) Almost all secularists believe in God.

(2) Nearly half of the people polled in the last Pew Research Center survey on religion qualify as secularists by Bolce and De Maio's standards ("few times a year").

(3) Secularists are not primarily identified with either party.

Yes, the culture wars exist, and yes, the Democratic party is home to those seeking to secularize public life. But it's absurd to characterize this "gap" as having much, if anything, to do with atheists and agnostics. There just aren't enough of them to be players in this game, even if it is assumed that all of them share the same goals.

The "culture war" isn't driven by unbelievers, who are wrongly given first and second billing in the "secularist" credits. It's a religious clash, and the big player in the game is Christianity--America's majority religion. The Democratic party is not the "Party of Unbelievers." It's the Other Party of Christianity.

Speaking as a Republican agnostic, I object to being drawn into this dispute, much less having the entire dispute blamed on our miniscule percentage of the population. Non-believers have to deal with a 54 percent unfavorable rating and the fact that George W. Bush will never appoint us to the federal bench. Isn't that enough? We'll continue fighting the occasional Supreme Court case and sulk, marginalized, on the sidelines. Let us know what happens when y'all are done arguing about which party God belongs to.

--Michele Kerr

*6*

If George W. has learned one important political lesson from his father, it may be not to rest on your laurels during the good times (Fred Barnes, Taxing Issues). This juncture in his presidency is eerily similar to his father's in 1991: troop buildups in the Middle East combined with a high approval rating.

His father forgot to look forward to the natural economic downturns which occur after a military exercise, and therefore was late to instigate any real domestic economic plan. George H.W.'s incentives actually did more to help the first years of the Clinton era than they did his own. George W. is obviously taking steps to reconcile early.

--Chris Stringfield

*7*