Is the economy a ‘values’ issue?

Four years ago, when politicians referred to “values” issues, we all knew what they meant: abortion, sexuality, marriage, stem cells, etc.

Now Democrats are trying to portray our economic troubles as “values” issues.

Read the AP’s Eric Gorski and decide for yourself:

AP Religion Writer

In Parma, Ohio, an organizer for Barack Obama arrived at a recent “Catholic house party,” a campaign-sponsored chat about values, prepared to answer questions about abortion.

The conversation instead lurched into the battered state of the local economy — not surprising in a community where laid-off Ford auto workers are now greeters at Wal-Mart.

Across the religious spectrum, from atheists to evangelicals, the economy ranks as the top issue on voters’ minds — a scenario that usually works in Democrats’ favor.

fb1cbb6c059a4b7f977b951f12da0c57.jpgNow, with U.S. financial systems in turmoil and the government rushing to fix it, Democrats sense an opportunity to highlight the economy as a values issue and attract middle-of-the-road religious believers who were central to George W. Bush’s winning coalition in 2004.

For years, more liberal faith leaders have tried to elevate fighting poverty at home and abroad onto the values agenda. What’s changed is that an increasing number of voters are seeing suffering not just in the streets but in the mirror.

Barriers remain to both major parties if they seek to appeal to religious voters on the economy. You’re either for or against gay marriage or abortion rights, but no one supports foreclosures and layoffs. Differences arise over solutions, and analysts say it can make more sense for campaigns to make general pitches on the economy than faith-based appeals.

Then there’s the mind-boggling complexity of things like the $700 billion government bailout Congress is considering this week just as the presidential race is heating up.

“This is daunting, complicated stuff even for sophisticated voters,” said John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron in Ohio. “You can make values arguments about the economy. But you’d have to be subtle and complex and require a good bit of discussion — not the sorts of things presidential campaigns are given to.”

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