The election results are in, and underlying the tales of victory and defeat is a darker story about the mood of our nation. Many Americans feel neither political party speaks to their increasing struggle to make ends meet.
The exit polls paint a bleak picture. Almost half of voters reported that they expect life for the next generation of Americans to be worse. This pessimistic view is at the highest point since pollsters began asking this question in 1996. And 63% said our economic system favors of the wealthy. More than 70% fear a major terrorist attack.
While voters might have little faith in their elected leaders’ ability to improve our nation’s future, I wouldn’t interpret their disaffection as indifference toward the common good. Voters approved numerous ballot measures on Tuesday that will immediately help struggling workers and families –minimum wage increases in four states and two major cities, as well as four paid sick leave ballot initiatives.
The faith community is uniquely positioned to connect with people’s positive values and shape a new moral vision for our economy and politics. I saw many examples with my own eyes during this election cycle and heard inspiring stories from FPL staff working in numerous states.
In Georgia, which was saturated with negative ads, FPL lifted the civil discourse by enabling politically, religiously and racially diverse religious leaders to challenge the gubernatorial candidates to implement a common good agenda — and broadcast that vision statewide. In a state marred by a massive voter suppression effort, our organizers mounted a “Faithful Voter” mobilization program that equipped 150 clergy in African-American communities with best practices to encourage their church members to vote. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that 30% of Georgia voters on Tuesday were African-American.
FPL’s communications team spent much of the campaign season on the road providing strategic media support for the Nuns on the Bus tour. Over their journey across dozens of communities in 11 states, thousands of Americans — clergy, lay leaders and concerned citizens — came out to hear the Sisters’ message about the importance and power of voting in an era when megadonors seek to buy elections. I was especially proud to see Sr. Simone Campbell and fellow Sisters delivering this call on local television, newspaper and radio in city after city. Even jaded reporters were moved by Nuns on the Bus’s hopeful message.
There’s no denying that fear and anger are coursing through the American electorate right now, but it’s not the whole story. Addressing this problem will take time, effort, resources and organizing. But faith leaders are already taking steps in the right direction, and it gives me hope.
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When it comes to political campaigns, what voters need and what they’re given are often very different things. The constant stream of negative ads, dishonesty on the campaign trail, and the outsized influence of big money drown out substantive discussion of the issues that affect us all.
However, faith leaders have a unique ability to offer a positive alternative and a better values debate that emphasizes justice, compassion and the common good. I saw it firsthand last week in Atlanta, Georgia, where clergy from across the state held the Georgia Faith Forum with Governor Nathan Deal (R) and his Democratic challenger, State Senator Jason Carter. Organized by Faith in Public Life and held in the beautiful sanctuary of Trinity Presbyterian Church and produced for broadcast by Atlanta’s WSB-TV, the forum featured 14 diverse faith leaders asking the candidates in-depth questions on issues ranging from healthcare to immigration policy to gun violence to criminal justice reform. These are issues that faith leaders are uniting to address — a values agenda for a new era in faith and politics.
But the first question asked of each candidate delved deeper: “You and your opponent both share the same faith, but you hold very different policy positions; how does your faith, as opposed to your political ideology, shape your views?” From then on, both candidates wove together their values and their policy positions in a way that voters don’t often hear.
I spoke with many clergy members of the Georgia Faith Forum board after the event, and while none agreed with every last thing they heard from the candidates, they remarked at how illuminating and unique the discussion was.
You can watch the Forum in its entirety here, or a brief overview of what it was all about here.
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“We the People, We the Voters” campaign expanded to include events in Iowa and Wisconsin through Election Day
Washington, D.C. – The Nuns on the Bus “We the People, We the Voters” tour is extending its time on the road through Election Day, as the nuns continue their push for voter engagement and registration ahead of this year’s midterm elections.
The cross-country tour, organized by NETWORK, A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby, has included voter registration drives, visits to Catholic social service sites and town hall meetings in 38 cities in 10 states along a 5,252-mile route.
“In an election marked by staggering amounts of money going toward negative ads that discourage people from casting ballots, we feel called to raise a positive, faithful voice that calls on all Americans to vote,” said Nuns on the Bus leader and NETWORK Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell.
The tour’s final leg begins on October 29 in Iowa, where the tour kicked off on September 17 with Vice President Joe Biden. Stops will include Council Bluffs, Red Oak, Mason City, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Davenport and Dubuque. The tour will then continue to Wisconsin with stops planned in La Crosse, Green Bay, Madison and Milwaukee. The nuns will be participating in canvassing and early voting events with local partners as part of their continued effort to encourage voter participation.
During the 2012 election, Sister Simone and the Nuns on the Bus helped to shift the national political debate as they traveled across the country to connect with the people, lift up the work of Catholic sisters, and be a voice for speak out against the House budget proposal that would decimate programs meant to help people in poverty. The Nuns on the Bus also took subsequent bus trips in support of Medicaid expansion and immigration reform.
Detailed information about NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus daily schedule will be available here.
General information about NETWORK’s Nuns on the Bus available here
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Candidates will discuss values and issues with diverse Georgia faith leaders
Atlanta, GA – Gov. Nathan Deal and State Senator Jason Carter have both agreed to meet with faith leaders from across Georgia as part of the Georgia Faith Forum, where the candidates will field issues-focused and values-focused questions from clergy members of the Georgia Faith Forum board.
The forum will be live-streamed by WSB-TV Channel 2 and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and aired live by WSB Radio and KISS 104.1FM on October 22 from Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. The event will consist of separate, hour-long discussions with Governor Deal and State Senator Carter. Moderators from WSB will facilitate, and the candidates will discuss issues of common concern to the faith community such as gun policy, criminal justice, human trafficking, immigration and the future of our children.
“Trinity Presbyterian is very pleased to host the Georgia Faith Form with Governor Deal and State Senator Carter,” said Rev. Pam Driesell, Senior Pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta. “We look forward to a substantive dialogue that allows both candidates to talk in depth about their values, faith and policy priorities.”
“The faith community is vitally concerned about many current issues,” said Dr. R. Alan Culpepper, Dean of the McAfee School of Theology at Mercer University. “So we are grateful that the candidates are willing meet with us to discuss issues and possible avenues of collaboration.”
“Our congregations are hungry for a substantive dialogue that focuses on the common good instead of the usual political talking points,” said Rev. Billy Honor, Senior Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in College Park. “The Georgia Faith Forum will provide a conversation that reflects our values.”
“We are pleased to support the 45 diverse leaders of the Georgia Faith Forum board in holding this unique bipartisan forum,” said Rev. Jennifer Butler, CEO of Faith in Public Life, which is helping to coordinate the event. “I look forward to an event that addresses the issues and priorities that bring the faith community together.”
Further information about the Georgia Faith Forum board can be found here.
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Diverse religious groups unveil plans to engage voters on common-good policies, rather than divisive culture war issues
Washington, DC – Today, leaders from prominent progressive faith organizations announced plans to mobilize voters and hold politicians accountable in this year’s midterm elections. Around the country, clergy and faith-based organizations will launch campaigns, ranging from massive voter registration drives to cross country bus tours.
Ten years ago, so-called “values voters” re-elected George W. Bush by playing to peoples’ fears and highlighting divisive social issues. Since then, progressive faith leaders have been forging new coalitions to disarm these ideological divides, and are using new strategies to amplify their voices and their agenda—an agenda that centers on addressing growing economic inequality, racial discrimination, immigrant rights, voting rights and healthcare.
“We believe that for too long, the so-called ‘Religious Right’ has established themselves as the point of view of people of faith in America,” said Gov. Ted Strickland, president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and Methodist minister. “The community of faith is particularly positioned to bring to light what is right in wrong in the politics of our country.”
A recent study from the Brookings Institution found that religious progressives are gaining on religious conservatives and constitute a powerful political force. That force is moving justice for the marginalized and the poor back to the heart of the political debate.
“We need to reexamine our moral compass,” said Rev. Dr. William Barber, leader of the Moral Mondays Movement. “The extreme ideology we see is a sign that we need to reexamine our moral compass. We believe this is a resurgence of social concerns in the public square.”
Several speakers announced plans to specifically target drop-off voters in the Rising American Electorate.
“Over the next few months, we will be reaching out to 1 million persons of faith, engaging them people to people, neighbor to neighbor,” said Rev. Alvin Herring, deputy director with PICO National Network, the largest faith-based community-organizing group in the country. “We understand that moving people from disengaged to engaged requires a new understanding of the moral components of voting.”
“Immigration reform was remained stagnant in the House, there still has not been reform to mass incarceration, and it makes no sense that in the richest country in the world, people can’t make a living wage,” said Rev. Gabe Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “We raise these concerns not just as political issues, but as values issues. In the next few weeks, we are rallying in key states for Latino voters to raise these issues as priorities at the polls.”
For the first time, progressive religious organizations will be using state-of-the-art-technology to engage voters around social justice issues.
“Why faith matters in this election is that we can do all of the innovative, tech things, but in the end it’s all about people connecting with people and building relationships,” said Sister Simone Campbell of NETWORK: A National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. Sister Simone, the organizer of Nuns on the Bus, detailed plans of a new bus tour covering 10 states and 35 cities this fall aimed at combatting big money in politics.
As these campaigns grow in the coming weeks, Faith in Public Life will continue to share the work of these voices and organizations that are engaging and mobilizing people of faith across the country.
A full recording of today’s call can be heard here.
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