February 19, 2005


Whither Dean’s Dems?: To be called ‘secular’ these days is more of an insult even than getting labeled liberal. That’s why the new chairman of the Democratic Party has to begin defining its policies in moral terms (Eleanor Clift, 2/18/05, Newsweek)

The Left is uncomfortable talking about spiritual matters, which puzzles Wallis. He points out with wonderment that the Democrats, a party that during the time of the civil rights movement was led by black churches, allowed itself to get defined as secular. "Where would we be if Dr. King had kept his religion to himself?" he asks. The hard truth dawning upon Democrats is that this is a profoundly religious Christian country, and that’s a political reality that will relegate Democrats to the ash heap of history if they don’t figure out how to respond. A New Yorker cartoon captures the current mood with a church bulletin board asking, “What would Jesus do about Social Security?” [...]

Politics is about connecting. It's no accident that the two Democrats elected president in recent years have been Southern Baptists. Jimmy Carter is a born-again evangelical, and Bill Clinton has a deep appreciation and knowledge of religion. Voters want to know about the moral compass of their leaders, and religious expression is one of the guideposts. Dean understands the challenge, and it doesn’t mean that he has to take a press pool with him to church on Sundays. But he has to begin to define Democratic ideas and policies in moral terms. For starters, Wallis says budgets are moral documents. They reflect the values of a family, city or nation. Democrats should do a “values audit” of President Bush’s budget—who wins, who loses, who suffers, who benefits.

Dean's chairmanship of the Democratic Party is a victory of the grassroots activists over the party establishment, which did everything to stop him and failed. One Beltway Democrat called the elevation of Dean "an office-warming gift for Rove," now that King Karl has been named deputy chief of staff and moved closer to the Oval Office.

Were Democrats to follow the moral leadership of the black churches again they'd come out against gay marriage and abortion....likely?

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 19, 2005 9:10 AM

No. They're still trying to think up another ad campaign for New Coke, because they know the stuff they're selling is great as it is, if only they can get the right buzz words out to the public. Maybe if they threw in a catchy new jingle that would help.

Posted by: John at February 19, 2005 9:26 AM

What a poorly written article. Among many other things, she just completely misunderstands the New Yorker cartoon, which is the eastern secular establishment making fun of WWJD politics and right after noting that the only success the Dems have had in Presidential politics since 1964 has been with Southern Baptists, she pretends that Howard Dean (who left his Vermont church over a bikepath) can help the party connect with religious voters. Any random commenter to BrothersJudd is more deserving of editorial space than Ms. Clift.

Posted by: David Cohen at February 19, 2005 9:30 AM

I can't read, look at, or listen to Eleanor Clift without being reminded of a wonderful Mallard Fillmore cartoon where she was breathlessly throwing her sweaty panties onto the stage during a Bill Clinton speech.

Listening to the Democratic Left talk about religion is like listening to the students in an Introductory French class, they may get the words right but they just have no sense how to put them together.

Posted by: Bart at February 19, 2005 12:25 PM