Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Democrats Go for the Faith Vote

Although I pushed it here on my blog on Monday, I goofed setting my DVR and missed the Democratic presidential candidates talking about faith on CNN Monday evening. I got to see Hillary Clinton share a bit but missed Obama, Edwards and the rest. If anybody saw it, I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.

I was able to read the transcript on the CNN site and reading their words is different from watching the candidates, but here are my thoughts:

Edwards completely fumbled the gay marriage question. I guess he was aaying that he is personally opposed to calling a union between homosexuals "marriage," but would be open to something like civil unions if he were president. It was a lame answer that smacks of cowardice on this issue--i.e. give them the rights but not the name. When asked about poverty, he answered very well, but from the beginning of his campaign this time around he has made dealing with poverty a major priority.

(Also, I was pleasantly suprised to see that Rev. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of our denomination, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ was one of the questioners. Nice to have some national exposure for the denomination!)

I also t hought Edwards answered the question of what he would do about post-Katrina New Orleans. In my mind, he has credibility on this issue, because he began his campaign there and has continued to visit the Gulf region and mention it in speeches. I would have liked, however to hear a broader perspective here on what the plight of New Orleans says about race in America.

(I really like Soledad O'brien a whole lot and liked her performance on Monday, but asking Edwards about what is the biggest sin he ever committed was a bit naive. He dodged it, as he should. Nobody wants a repeat of Carter's interview in Playboy where he confessed to "lusting in my heart" after women.)

Obama hit a home run in my book in his answer to the very good question from O'brien about whether God takea a side in a war. He led with Lincoln's quote about not asking if God is on our side but whether or not we are on God's side--always a good one. Then he noted that even if we are engaged in a just struggle--say, against terrorism--our actions can be unjust--like, for instance, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, etc. It was nice just to have a candidate declare such things are unjust, unlike those on the Republican side who pledged to increase the size of Guantanamo--shameful!

On the Israel-Palestine question, Obama was insightful in speaking of the best interests of both sides rather than a blanket support of Israel, but short on specifics.

Obama was at his best speaking about MLK's remarks on getting rid of the either/or mentality in favor of the both/and mentality. We can have both an emphasis upon individual responsibiity and social or mutual responsibility--they do not have to be mutually exclusive. I thought his discussion of early childhood education at this point was prophetic: "Early childhood education, we know that if we invest a dollar in early childhood education, we get seven dollars back in reduced dropout rates, improved reading scores, reduced delinquency, increased graduation rates. The reason we don't make those investments is not because they don't work; it's because we lack the political will. We don't think those children are deserving of a good education, although we won't say that explicitly. Our actions indicate it." That'll preach.

Clinton, when asked about her husband's infidelity, talked in generalities about faith sustaining her, but what can you expect when someone asks you about such a personal subject--which was dragged out into the public eye in such outlandish ways? Where I felt she was moving was when she talked about meeting a Congolese refugee at a Methodist church in Iowa, and how she spent the service praying for him and his people in Congo. I appreciated her discussion of working to make abortions "safe, legal, and rare." I also appreciated her remarks about seeking some kind of political consensus on issues like healthcare and renewable energy, because it is true that most people would believe it is a good thing for everyone to have healthcare or for us to use renewable energy, making the sacrifices for such things to happen is less popular. How exactly a politician could convince Americans to sacrifice for the common I don't know, but I appreciate the fact that at least she's aware it needs to happen.

Sojourners, who helped sponsor the forum, has links to video clips of the program as well.


Ruth Marcus at The Washington Post has a column today talking about the Democrats trying to attract religious voters. It's not particularly enlightening, just the same point that has been made in numerous articles and columns about attempts from the left end of the religious spectrum to prove that the Religious Right does not speak for all people of faith. I'm waiting for the day when somebody from the mainstream media spends some time actually discussing the issues being raised by folks on the religious left (e.g. poverty, war, the environment, health care, etc.) rather than just taking the shallow way out of saying the only story here is whether or not the religious left can match its counterpart on the right.

Here are some more links to what bloggers had to say about Monday night's forum.

Grace and Peace,


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