"Beto O'Rourke in Cleveland" by Erik Drost / CC BY 2.0

Secular Democrats Are the New Normal

Mar 26, 2019

By Peter Beinart

Were a Democrat from the Clinton, Bush, or Obama eras to watch the presidential-announcement video that Beto O’Rourke released on Thursday, they would likely be struck by how it ended. Or, more specifically, by how it didn’t end. O’Rourke did not close with any mention of God.

Until recently, farewells that invoke God were standard fare for Democratic and Republican candidates alike. Bill Clinton ended his 1992 convention speech with the words “God bless you, and God bless America.” At the 1996 convention, he declared, “God bless you, and good night.” Al Gore finished his 1999 presidential-announcement speech with the words “May God bless you. And God bless America.” John Kerry closed his presidential-announcement speech in 2003 by saying, “Thank you, and God bless you all.” Barack Obama ended his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention with the phrase “God bless you.” (Although Obama didn’t mention God at the end of his 2007 announcement speech, he began it with “Giving all praise and honor to God for bringing us here today.”) Hillary Clinton closed her announcement speech in 2015 with “God bless you. And may God bless America.”

O’Rourke exemplifies a new normal. None of the other major white progressive candidates—Bernie SandersElizabeth Warren, or Kirsten Gillibrand—invoked God in their presidential announcements either. (Amy Klobuchar, who is running as a comparative moderate, did.)

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