Faith in Public LIVE: XPatriated Texan on Spending Time Wisely and Developing an Ideological Core (Part 7)

August 3, 2006, 2:19 pm | Posted by

Dear Amy and David,

Don’t worry about the optimism, Amy. We all need plenty of it! Actually, I’m fairly optimistic as well, I guess I just look for boulders on the highway too much.

I realize that I need to clarify something. I don’t think that Casey was able to demand equal time because of his pro-life credentials. That is pure political strategy and simply using the law as it was intended. I still think, however, that his reception by the group has more to do with his pro-life stance than anything else. They may respect him for standing up to his party on abortion and to conservatives on gay marriage, but that’s because he manages to stand up to different people on the two issues. If he was also pro-choice, then he’d have left a much different feeling in their bellies when he walked away. He still could have demanded, and probably received, fair and equal time. The result would have been different, though. In fact, I doubt he’d have decided it was worth his time.

The most precious resource in any campaign is time. The PPN has maybe three or four issues about which they want to hear a candidate speak. If he’s against them on all four, there’s no chance he’ll convince a voter to vote for him. From a campaign perspective, that’s a waste of time. That’s why Democrats have, for so long, eschewed many religious groups. It isn’t going to help them and they might say something that really gets the religious people lathered up. It’s better to let a sleeping dog lie.

In Casey’s case, his pro-life position allows him to make the speech something besides a waste of time. There may be a few voters there that actually vote for him. Regardless, their attacks on him, as Amy points out, are going to be blunted. So while it isn’t his pro-life credentials that get him the time from a legal perspective, it is his pro-life credentials that make it worth his trouble.

The problem that this highlights is that there is no similar left-wing religious organization from which a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage candidate could get an equal political boost. That’s an organizational problem. Pretty much everyone on the left understands that we are decades behind the right organizationally. I believe that is also tied to the lack of an ideological basis (in political terms) and a strong theological basis (in religious terms) for collective action. Until we find an answer for the charge that we “stand for nothing and fall for everything” we aren’t going to change that. People don’t generally get out of bed early to vote or take time away from their family to attend meetings dedicated to “good government” – but if you make it about “liberty” or “doing what is right for your kids”, then suddenly they are interested.

That is currently where the Prevention First strategy is. It’s good policy. As Amy points out, it will do more for cutting abortions than overturning Roe. But, while there is an ideological core to that policy, it is not well articulated. Therefore Senator Reid’s speech has some rhetorical highlights, but no really binding ideas that will draw people out of their shells. Because it lacks a well-crafted ideological core, the only soundbites are policy-heavy and can be spun so hard it makes your head hurt. “Better access to birth control pills” suddenly becomes “Your daughter will be given birth control by her PE teacher and you’ll never know it.”

I want to stress again that it isn’t solely the job of our politicians to make create this ideological core. In fact, due in large part to their need to appeal to a larger group, they can’t. It’s our job as liberal activists to create a rhetorical base that our leaders can tie into in order to make those sound bites. “That isn’t conservative,” was a ludicrous statement twenty years ago. Today, everyone knows what it means – or at least they think they do. Either way, the core is there and it can be used to spin off sound bites in every direction. Since it’s my idea to bell the cat, I’ll take a short stab at it – with the understanding that it is likely to make a lot of people uncomfortable. But I think I’ll do it at my site rather than further sidetracking the conversation here.

Instead, I’ll end today by encouraging the party chairs who are reaching out to groups that may have been less than friendly in the past. You can’t steer a parked car, and it’s better to try and steer some of the politically active in our direction than it is to build an entirely new field of politically active persons. I don’t think that all of these groups are as conservative as the PPN. Rather, they are more “Republican leaning” groups that head in that direction because Democrats simply haven’t tried to engage them. Rectifying that oversight should put a number of races into play that wouldn’t be otherwise. If nothing else, it should help us engage a wider electorate and that should help us be more respectful of differences and perhaps – dare we hope? – bring a more civil discourse to our politics.

All the Best,


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First Ever Progressive Faith Blog Con!

June 16, 2006, 5:08 pm | Posted by

It’s an exciting time to be a blogger interested in faith and progressive politics. There are more of us every day (we’ll be featuring some of the best here at FPL), and national leaders in our community are becoming more and more aware of how important blogs can be in spreading the good news about their work. With all that energy in the cyber-air, it’s almost providential that we get to announce that the first ever Progressive Faith Blog Con is on its way.

The Blog Con will take place from July 14-16 in Montclair, NJ (just outside of New York). It’s the brain-child of some of the best minds in our corner of the blogosphere, and will feature Velveteen Rabbi, Mainstream Baptist, Chuck Currie, Pastor Dan of Street Prophets, XPatriated Texan, Talk to Action, Philocrites, CrossLeft, JSpot, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, and many, many more. Check out the site for more details on attending. You won’t want to miss it! The buzz about the event is already building here, here, here, here, and, well, you get the point.

We at FPL are thrilled to be working on this, and will be sure to keep you all up to date as the calendar ticks down to July 14. Register now (space is limited!), spread the good word on your blogs, and make sure you’re there for this landmark event.

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Welcome to Blogging Faith

June 16, 2006, 8:57 am | Posted by

Welcome to Faith in Public Life’s corner of the blogosphere! We’re glad to join the hundreds of bloggers out there in this growing and exciting community. Like any responsible new neighbor, we’ll try to make a good first impression, keep the yard looking tidy, and not make TOO much noise.

As you’ve hopefully noticed from the rest of this website, Faith in Public Life isn’t a normal organization. We exist as a resource center for faith communities working for justice and the common good. When we do our jobs right, we provide faith leaders and community members with the tools they need to more effectively carry out their work. When our partners win, we win, so to speak.

In keeping with this mission, this blog won’t be entirely normal either. We’ll feature our share of staff-written content on current events at the intersection of religion and politics, but we’ll spend most of our time featuring the best work of others, in an attempt to build up the strongest voices for justice and the common good in our community.

What does it mean to use a blog to provide resources to the community? We’ll frequently feature cross posts from bloggers whose voices add to the national debate on faith in politics. We’ll have guest blogs from our board members and partners who don’t maintain regular blogs but who are excited by the chance to engage in conversations with this community. We’ll put together a weekly highlight reel of the most interesting posts from far and wide in the faith blogosphere. And we’ll use the blog to post audio and video clips of our partners making an impact in mainstream media outlets.

We hope that this blog can play a role in building up this exciting community. Leave comments, tell us all what you think, and spread the word about Faith in Public Life as a resource center for bloggers who care about faith, justice, and the common good.

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