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John Edwards on Democrats and Faith

Friday, February 25, 2005
Possible 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards on Democrats and authentic faith:

"The party has enlisted a number of consultants, church leaders and marketing experts to help Democrats chart a new course. Some party leaders fear they have ceded the values of faith and spirituality to Republicans...

What concerns the former U.S. senator from North Carolina and 2004 vice presidential nominee is that fellow Democrats, in an effort to regain lost ground, will get into a bidding war with Republicans over who could invoke the name of God and quote Scripture the most.

"The last thing the Democratic Party needs is to start trying to maneuver strategically" to gain the upper hand, Edwards said during a visit to Columbia last week.

The values seminars and retreats have had some effect already. Use of value-laden phrases has proliferated on Capitol Hill. Democrats are freely quoting the Bible.

The House Democratic leadership has tapped U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., son of a minister, to lead a "faith working group" to encourage lawmakers to sprinkle references to God and religion into their speeches.

Fine, says Edwards, a man of deep faith, but it must be real. Put another way, authenticity is essential. You must be able to say "God" and not flinch.

"You should be able to say these things and be comfortable with it," Edwards says. "You must have genuine emotion to go with it."

No matter how hard some try to be spiritual, they don't sound convincing. They can't refer to the Almighty without cringing.

And they quote the Bible without knowing the Bible.

"People know the difference," Edwards says. What people want in their leaders is "strength and conviction and a clear core set of beliefs."

"They want to know what you care about, and they want to know that it is real. They want somebody who will fight for their core set of beliefs."

Latest Harris Poll and the News Media

As usual, great stuff from slacktivist, this time on the latest Harris poll. Check it out:

"If a handful of students fails a final exam, that probably indicates a failure on the part of those students. If the entire class fails the final, that probably reflects a failure on behalf of their teacher. This Harris poll, in other words, is more damning of those of us in the news biz than it is of the hoi polloi that Leno so enjoys holding up to ridicule.

Everyone in the news biz needs to account for results like the following, and to admit that they indicate a massive failure on our part:

More surprising perhaps are the large numbers (albeit not majorities) who believe the following claims not made by the president and which virtually no experts believe to be true:

-- 47 percent believe that Saddam Hussein helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11, 2001 (up six percentage points from November).

-- 44 percent actually believe that several of the hijackers who attacked the U.S. on September 11 were Iraqis (up significantly from 37 percent in November).

-- 36 percent believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded (down slightly from 38 percent in November).

Another interesting finding is that only 46 percent believe that Saddam Hussein was prevented from developing weapons of mass destruction by the U.N. weapons inspectors, a fact which most reports now support.

If you were, say, the head sports editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer and poll results indicated that, say, 47 percent of your readers erroneously believed the Eagles won the Super Bowl, then you should probably consider tendering your resignation."

Count Every Vote Act

Sunday, February 20, 2005
This is a key proposed law, that if enacted would make crucial reforms needed in time for the 2006 elections. You can sign a petition endorsing these changes. Below check out the press release on the act itself:

"U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today unveiled comprehensive voting reform legislation to make sure that every American is able to vote and every vote is counted. Senators Clinton and Boxer announced the legislation today in a press conference joined by Representative Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who will sponsor the legislation in the House of Representatives, and voting rights advocates.

"Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process," said Senator Clinton. "The smooth functioning of our democracy depends on voters having faith in the fairness and accuracy of our voting system, and the Count Every Vote Act is an important step toward restoring this covenant. We must be able to easily and accurately count every vote so that every vote counts."

Added Senator Boxer: "Every citizen of this country should be guaranteed that their vote matters, that their vote is counted, and that in the voting booth, their vote has a much weight as that of any CEO, any member of Congress, or any President. Our democracy is the centerpiece of who we are as a nation, and we must take action to ensure that the American people have full confidence in our electoral system.

The Count Every Vote Act of 2005 will provide a voter verified paper ballot for every vote cast in electronic voting machines and ensures access to voter verification for all citizens, including language minority voters, illiterate voters and voters with disabilities. The bill mandates that this ballot be the official ballot for purposes of a recount. The bill sets a uniform standard for provisional ballots so that every qualified voter will know their votes are treated equally, and requires the Federal Election Assistance Commission to issue standards that ensure uniform access to voting machines and trained election personnel in every community. The bill also improves security measures for electronic voting machines.

To encourage more citizens to exercise their right to vote, the Count Every Vote Act designates Election Day a federal holiday and requires early voting in each state. The bill also enacts "no-excuse" absentee balloting, enacts fair and uniform voter registration and identification, and requires states to allow citizens to register to vote on Election Day. It also requires the Election Assistance Commission to work with states to reduce wait times for voters at polling places. In addition, the legislation restores voting rights for felons who have repaid their debt to society.

The Count Every Vote Act also includes measures to protect voters from deceptive practices and conflicts of interest that harm voter trust in the integrity of the system. In particular, the bill restricts the ability of chief state election officials as well as owners and senior managers of voting machine manufacturers to engage in certain kinds of political activity. The bill also makes it a federal crime to commit deceptive practices, such as sending flyers into minority neighborhoods telling voters the wrong voting date, and makes these practices a felony punishable by up to a year of imprisonment."

Church Folk for a Better America

From Nation.com:

"Church Folks for a Better America owes a debt to great figures who have gone before us like Karl Barth, Martin Luther King, and Bill Coffin. You could look at it as my modest attempt to pay them tribute.

As for what's next, a larger anti-torture campaign is now in the works with the following goals: 1) Congressional action to stop exempting intelligence services from the torture ban imposed on military services; 2) Congressional action to outlaw the horrifying practice of extraordinary rendition/torture by proxy; 3) A clear statement from Bush that US policy does not condone torture in any form or under any circumstances; 4) The appointment of a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of the issue.

Our work will also continue against the Iraq war. Destroying entire cities, as happened with Fallujah, is a form of terrorism, just as torture is a form of terrorism. Fighting terrorism by terrorism is at once immoral and futile. It has been clear since Abu Ghraib that the war cannot be won. The 14 new military bases planned for Iraq must be exposed and opposed along with the shameless profiteering still taking place. We join with all who call for an early and orderly exit, and for reparations for Iraq's long-suffering people.

As our list of supporters grows, we will combine Internet activism with direct mail and political action. Last fall the Dove Ad campaign saw seminary students raising money on 12 campuses across the country. Model sermons and prayers appear on our website along with alternative news and analysis. Congregations need a deeper understanding of the just-war tradition. Ordinary believers need to see the progressive implications of ordinary faith. They need powerful alternatives to the Religious Right.

We will work in concentric circles, beginning with the community of faith. Our efforts will be modest. Remember that we have only been around for six months. Though we will of course join in coalitions with anyone who shares our concerns, our particular calling is reaching out to people of faith, including elected officials. Republican Senators who profess to be believers, for example, have no business voting for torture. Through creative new faith-based initiatives, perhaps they too can be reached."

Molly Ivin's on Bush Budget

Saturday, February 19, 2005
From Molly Ivin's latest column:

"What this budget means, quite literally, is that more kids will be hungry and malnourished. More kids who get sick will be unable to see a doctor, more kids with diseases will go undiagnosed until they get so sick they have to be carried to the emergency room. More kids who need glasses or hearing aids won't get them, causing them to fall behind in school. More kids will show up to start school without being in the least prepared, and they will remain behind for the rest of their days. Less money for childcare means more kids left alone or in unsafe places with irresponsible or incapable people while their parents work. More kids who are being severely abused will go unnoticed, and fewer of them will find safe foster homes.

What's really sad is that all this damage is being done to real, living children...to save what is, in Washington terms, pennies. Pitifully small sums.

Nothing compared to the $9.9 billion being squandered on the missile defense boondoggle this year. (Did you notice that the system flunked yet another test this week, at a cost of another $85 million?) Nothing compared to the two tax breaks in the budget that benefit ONLY the really, really rich -- regular folks this time will not even get that little, tiny slice that went to the middle class in the first Bush tax cuts.

But don't get me started."

Newsweek: Under Dean, Dems Need to Find Religion

Friday, February 18, 2005
Eleanor Clift from Newsweek, on Dean, Democrats Jim Wallis and Moral Politics...I've included excerpts here, but read the whole thing:

"A crush of people pushed into my neighborhood bookstore Sunday evening to hear religious leader Jim Wallis talk about his book, "God's Politics: Why the Right gets it Wrong and the Left doesn't get it." Wallis is a progressive evangelical Christian, and no, that's not an oxymoron. He believes the country is ready for a new and better conversation about faith and values, and he wants to break the cultural zeitgeist that equates religion with the right wing.

To be called “secular” these days is more of an insult even than getting labeled liberal. That’s why when Wallis was asked whether he felt Howard Dean is the right person to lead the Democrats, the bookstore crowd in upper northwest Washington, a liberal bastion, reacted with laughter. "I talked to him over the holidays," Wallis says. Both men are regulars at Renaissance, the New Year’s gathering of intellectuals and politicians pioneered by the Clintons. "I explained Job wasn't in the New Testament. He was grateful for that advice, and he won't make that mistake again.

The worst thing is being inauthentic, Wallis continued, and that's how Dean appeared when he called upon Job as evidence of his religiosity, and got him in the wrong Testament. "If you're motivated by religious values, let it shine through," says Wallis. But if you’re not, don’t be a phony. Dean was raised as an Episcopalian, and more recently has attended a Universalist church in Vermont. His wife is Jewish. Like most New Englanders, he is not accustomed to discussing his religious faith in a political context. "Dean talks about community and that's a value," Wallis says to reassure the crowd that the new Democratic leader can hold his own. "So let's hope for the best with Howard Dean."

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.

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.

Dean got the job as party leader because he has edge and attitude and conviction. He understands the need to rebuild the party from the grassroots, and that means taking back God’s politics. “The monologue is over and the dialogue has begun,” says Wallis."

Annenberg Polling on US Party Allegiance

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Below are excerpts from the latest Annenberg polling, Democrats still are a slight majority of the US population, but Republicans have made strong gains.

The white Born-again demographic (which was previously strongly Republican) moved more so with the last election, signs of the Republican specific efforts to court that group. If you note what happened through was not Progressive Christians moving (they stayed about the same), but rather Independant Christians being swayed to Republican camp this go round. Democrats need to learn from their success there.

But even still the Religious Right would frame that all true Christians are Republicans, and this poll clearly shows that to be wrong
even after such a full-court press by the Repubs, still 23% of "born-again, white evangelicals" is actually a Democrat. Good data.

"Republicans narrowed the gap in party allegiance in the 2004 campaign, but are still outnumbered by Democrats, the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey shows.

Clymer said “Our data reflects steady Republican gains, though both parties gained allegiance from independents in a year of a spirited presidential contest. Republicans have been looking for a party realignment in which they would assume dominant status ever since Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980, and they moved closer this year.”

“But the narrowing of the gap is more reflective of Democratic losses than Republican gains,” he said. In presidential elections in the 1960s, according to the data of the American National Election Survey, just 27 percent of Americans called themselves Republicans but 48 percent said they were Democrats.

The biggest Republican gains were recorded among evangelical white Protestants. In 2000, 42 percent called themselves Republicans, and 25 percent called themselves Democrats, a 17 percentage point Republican advantage. In 2004, the margin increased to 25 points, as 48 percent said they were Republicans and 23 percent said they were Democrats."

Presbyterian Church USA: Faith Reflection on the Federal Budget

As first linked to from the Jesus Politics blog, here is this study on the 2005 Bush budget from the Presbyterian USA Church:

"Faith Reflection on the Federal Budget

As communities of faith, we are grounded in a shared tradition of justice and compassion, and we are called upon to hold ourselves and our communities accountable to the moral standard of our Biblical tradition. We speak out now because we are concerned about our national priorities. The federal budget serves as a fundamental statement of who we are as a nation. The decisions we make about how we generate revenue and spend resources test our commitment to these values. Thus, we hold that the federal budget should be viewed and evaluated through a moral lens: does it uphold values that will strengthen our life together as a nation and as part of the global community?"

Quote of the Day

Tuesday, February 15, 2005
One quote from the story I just posted. This quote stood out from the Beliefnet article and deserved to be highlighted here:

"But by traveling across the country, giving useful information, and extending faith-based groups an open hand, powerful inroads were made to "non-traditional" supporters. One senior Republican leader walked into an early conference, stared wide-eyed at the room full of people of diverse ethnicities and said to me, "This is what Republicans have been dreaming about for 30 years."

This is more damning of Democrats than anyone else. Where, exactly, has their faith outreach been for the last decade?"

Ex-Aide Questions Bush Vow to Back Faith-Based Efforts

More on poverty, this time from former Bush deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, and a self described "compassionate conservative." He discusses the failure of the Faith Based Initiatives he ran. I include some of the reviews from the Washington Post, but read it all over at Beliefnet.com.

"A former White House official said yesterday that President Bush has failed to deliver on his promise to help religious groups serve the poor, the homeless and drug addicts because the administration lacks a genuine commitment to its "compassionate conservative" agenda.

David Kuo, who was deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for much of Bush's first term, said in published remarks that the White House reaped political benefits from the president's promise to help religious organizations win taxpayer funding to care for "the least, the last and the lost" in the United States. But he wrote: "There was minimal senior White House commitment to the faith-based agenda."

Analyzing Bush's failure to secure $8 billion in promised funding for the faith-based initiative during his first term, Kuo said there was "snoring indifference" among Republicans and "knee-jerk opposition" among Democrats in Congress.

"Capitol Hill gridlock could have been smashed by minimal West Wing effort," Kuo wrote on Beliefnet.com, a Web site on religion. "No administration since [Lyndon B. Johnson's] has had a more successful legislative record than this one. From tax cuts to Medicare, the White House gets what the White House really wants. It never really wanted the 'poor people stuff.' "

Kuo's remarks were a rare breach of discipline for an administration that places a high premium on unity among current and former officials, and they mark the second time a former high-ranking official has criticized Bush's approach to the faith-based issue.

In August 2001, John J. DiIulio Jr., then-director of the faith-based office, became the first top Bush adviser to quit, after seven months on the job. In an interview with Esquire magazine a year later, DiIulio said the Bush White House was obsessed with the politics of the faith-based initiative but dismissive of the policy itself, and he slammed White House advisers as "Mayberry Machiavellis."

Study: War on Poverty Sees More Hungry, Homeless

From Today's Rueters News...The full survey can be found here:

"Despite a war on poverty that began more than four decades ago, the ranks of the hungry and homeless in the United States are increasing even as government funding declines, a study released on Tuesday found.

The National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness surveyed 900 providers of emergency food and shelter in 32 states and found that government cuts to social programs caused nearly one-fourth of the emergency food agencies to turn people away. More than three-quarters of shelters had no place for people to stay.

The Bush Administration proposes in its new budget to cut millions of dollars in funding to the three largest federal food programs: food stamps, school lunches and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, better known as WIC.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in an October 2004 report, said that 36.3 million people lived in households without enough food in 2003. The Urban Institute, based in Washington, D.C., found in a 2000 survey that 3.5 million people in the United States were homeless.

Minimum wages in the United States do not go far toward eliminating homelessness.

The U.S. minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, but a separate survey by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found that in 2004 there was no place in the United States where a person earning as much as $9.17 an hour could afford a modest two-bedroom apartment.

A quarter of U.S. workers earn $9.17 an hour or less --about $19,000 annually or a little more than the $18,850 that is the official federal poverty level for a family of four.

Tawana Thomas, 34, who is living with two of her three children at the Union Gospel Mission in Dallas, is a living example of that economic equation.

Divorced, she moved back to her native Texas from South Dakota two years ago, and she found a job. "I had my own apartment, a two-bedroom in Highland Hills (a suburb of Dallas) ... then I lost it. I've been working at fast food places and at stores making minimum wage. But I couldn't afford the place."

"In South Dakota, $5.15 may pay the lights and the rent, but in Dallas, $5.15 pays the lights," Thomas said."

Blog DNC giving...

Monday, February 14, 2005
Distributed over the "Democratic blogosphere" over 2,284 donors have given the DNC over $107,000 in support since Dean won the Chairman job.

This support is exclusively from blogs and from individuals who want to send the message that it's time for the DNC to get serious about reform and action. It also sends the message inside the DNC to take the "netroots" seriously. Join in:


Contribution amount:
$




Pro-Choice Pro-Life Common Ground: A start...

As linked to from the Washington Monthly blog:

"COMMON GROUND....This is a good start. Pro-lifers? The ball is in your court.
(I hardly need say, of course, that pro-lifers will come out against this, claiming that the proposed legislation is "deceptive" and "full of loopholes". But it puts them in a tough position. What? You're not for reducing unwanted pregnancies? Really? Who's not for reducing unwanted pregnancies?)

Remarks by Governor Howard Dean Accepting the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee

Sunday, February 13, 2005
Dean's in. Here is his acceptence speech, and it's right on. Dems now have a reformer in. Let's get working.

Remarks by Governor Howard Dean Accepting the Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee

I. INTRODUCTION/ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

If you told me one year ago that I'd be standing here today, as your choice for Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, I wouldn't have believed you. And neither would have a lot of other people.

But let me say that standing here with the opportunity to lead this Party, is a great honor.

I am thankful.

I am humbled.

And I'm ready to get to work.

This was the first race for DNC chairman truly driven by the grassroots of this Party. And so, I want you to know this is not my chairmanship, this is our chairmanship.

You have given me an enormous responsibility. But it is a responsibility we share.

We can change this Party… but only by working together and competing in all 50 states. We can change this Party… but only by working together and becoming a national party again. We can change this Party… but only by working together at thelocal level.

If we want to win nationally, we have to win locally.

With your help, I am certain that today will not mark the end of the process of selecting a DNC chair. Today will be the beginning of the reemergence of the Democratic Party.

We have a lot of work to do.

But we have a bright future… exemplified by the other candidates who joined me in this race. They are all great Democrats.

I want to thank Terry McAuliffe. He has given this party so much. Not to mention every waking day of the past four years as our Chairman.

He has also given us something else — a Party in strong financial shape, with the infrastructure to meet the challenges of the future. That is no small gift. Thank you, Terry McAuliffe.

I also want to thank my family. I wouldn't be here without their support, or their belief in a more fair and just America.

I especially want to thank my wife, Judy, for her patience and her love. She's here with me today.

We all know that we're the party of the big tent and new ideas.

We know that we're the party for young Americans looking for a government that speaks to them… we know that we're the party for working Americans desperate for a government that looks out for them… and we know that we're the party for older Americans and veterans and members of the Armed Services expecting and deserving a government that honors them.

And we know that no matter where you live or who you are, what you look like or how you worship, ours is the diverse party that welcomes you.

But right now, as important as all of that is… it is not enough. We have to move forward. We cannot win if all we are is against the current President.

Republicans wandered around in the political wilderness for 40 years before they took back Congress. But the reason we lost control is that we forgot why we were entrusted with control to begin with.

The American people can't afford to wait for 40 years for us to put Washington back to work for them.

It can't take us that long.

And it won't take us that long… not if we stand up for what we believe in… organize at the local level… and recognize that this Party's strength doesn't come from the consultants down, it comes from grassroots up.

II. STANDING UP FOR WHAT WE BELIEVE IN

The first thing we have to do is stand up for what we believe in.

This week, the Republicans introduced a $2.5 trillion budget that deliberately conceals the cost of their fiscal recklessness.

Their budget doesn't account for the cost of the war in Iraq, or privatizing Social Security. It cuts education, children's health, veterans benefits, and community policing.

As far as I'm concerned, this budget does only two things:

It brings Enron-style accounting to our nation's capital.

And it demonstrates what Americans are beginning to see: Republicans cannot be trusted with your money.

The Republicans know the America they want… and they are not afraid to use any means to get there.

But there is something that this Administration and the Republican Party are very afraid of. It is that we may actually begin fighting for what we believe; the fiscally responsible, socially progressive values for which Democrats have always stood and fought.

Because we are what we believe.

We Democrats believe in fiscal responsibility and we're the only ones who have delivered it.

The first time our nation balanced its budget, it was Andrew Jackson, father of the Democratic Party, who did it. The last time our nation balanced its budget, it was Bill Clinton who did it. Democratic governors do it every single year.

Not one Republican President has balanced the budget in almost 40 years. Borrow and spend. Borrow and spend. Borrow and spend. Americans cannot trust the Republicans with their money.

Americans want a strong and smart national security.

It was Democrats who pushed to create a Department of Homeland Security. It was Democrats who pushed to make our airlinessafer. It is Democrats who are now working to make sure we close the remaining gaps in our security. It was Democrats who demanded reform of the intelligence community.

And it is Democrats who are pushing for a foreign policy that honestly deals with the threats of today, and the threats of tomorrow — like securing the nuclear materials around the world.

Republicans had to be dragged kicking and screaming to our side on all of these issues. There is no reason for Democrats to be defensive on national defense.

We believe that a good job is the foundation of a strong family, a strong community, and a strong country. We're going towork to create good high-paying jobs here in America, and we're going to keep good high paying jobs here in America.

And there is no reason for us to apologize for being willing to stand up for our belief that Americans who get up and go to work everyday have the right to join a union.

We believe every American should have access to affordable health care. It is wrong that we remain the only industrialized nation in the world that does not assure health care for all of its citizens, particularly our children

We believe the path to a better future goes directly through our public schools.

We believe that every single American has a voice and that it should be heard in the halls of power every day. And most importantly, it ought to be heard by guaranteeing an open and fair vote on Election Day.

And finally, we believe that a lifetime of work earns you a retirement of dignity. We won't let that be put at risk by leaders who continually invent false crises to justify policies that don't work… in this case, borrowing from our children and shredding our country's social safety net in the process.

The President's plan for Social Security does nothing to guarantee Social Security's future. But it will cut benefits andcost an estimated 2 trillion dollars. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, we will have to borrow 4.5 trillion dollars to finance the privatization of Social Security in the first 20 years alone.

Let me give you a sense of how much money that is. There are 118 million people under the age of 30 in America today. That means borrowing nearly $45,000 in each of their names.

That's a legacy of debt our children don't deserve.

Social Security is one of the proudest achievements of the Democratic Party, and we don't intend to let it fall victim toa dishonest scheme that only serves to heap greater debt on America's young people.

We need to set the agenda. And we're going to work with Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and our Democratic governors and local elected officials to do just that.

I met with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid this past week, and we are looking forward to standing together in the battles ahead.

We're all going to need to be united. And we're going to need to be organized.

Really organized.

III. ORGANIZE

That means we frame the issues; Republicans will not tell America what our agenda is. We will do that.

Organizing means raising money not only from big donors but small contributors, not only through dinners and telephone solicitations and direct mail, but also through the Internet and person-to-person outreach.

Organizing means transforming us into a Party that can communicate with its supporters and with all Americans.

Politics is at its best when we create and inspire a sense of community. The tools that were in part pioneered in my campaign — like blogs and Meetups and most importantly, community building — are just a start.

We are going to use all of the power and potential of technology as part of an aggressive outreach to meet and include voters, to work with your state parties, and to get our message out.

We cannot run 18 state presidential campaigns and expect to win.

You all know we have a strategy for every state and territory. It's very simple. Show up.

People will vote for Democratic candidates in Texas, and Utah, and West Virginia if we knock on their door, introduce ourselves and tell them what we believe. That's what organization allows us to do.

IV. GRASSROOTS

But all of the ideas and organization in the world won't matter if people don't see our ideas as relevant to them, or thepolitical process as connected to them.

So, third, we are going to recognize that our strength lies at the grassroots.

If we are to take our country back for everyday working Americans, Democrats will have to match or exceed the Republicansability to motivate voters.

You might find this hard to believe… but I'm not much of a zen person. But I've found that the path to power, oddly enough, is to trust others with it. That means putting the power where the voters are.

That is something Republicans will never understand.

But we do.

V. CONCLUSION

Standing up for our beliefs… organizing… and transforming our party into a grassroots organization that can win in all 50 states: That's how we will rebuild the Democratic Party.

We will rebuild our Party because only we are the party of reform. Republicans can stop progress, but only Democrats can start it again.

And we will rebuild our Party because our greatest strength is something the Republicans can and will never match — the diversity represented in this room.

Look around — we look like America. We are America. Republicans stop progress, but only Democrats start it.

It's going to take a lot of work. And I'm going to be asking a lot of all of you. It is not my chairmanship; it is ours.

Election by election… State by state… Precinct by precinct… Door by door… Vote by vote…

We're going to take this country back for the people who built it.

Build The Party

Thursday, February 10, 2005
A good sentiment from Kerry on Dean as DNC Chair...

"We have a strong Democratic Party - and we need it to be stronger. Strong enough to turn back George Bush's efforts to privatize Social Security. Strong enough to insist that every child in America has health insurance. Strong enough to elect candidates committed to Democratic ideals at every level of government and in every region of our country.

On Saturday - just two days from now - Howard Dean will be elected as the new chair of the Democratic National Committee. He'll need the ideas, engagement and financial support of the entire Democratic Party to succeed.

Let's welcome Howard Dean and give him the groundswell of grassroots support he needs.

http://www.democrats.org/BuildTheParty

Let's send an unmistakable message to George Bush and his allies: In 2005, the Democratic Party is strong and united."

Sojo.net On the Bush Budget

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
From Sojourners:

"Yesterday, President Bush released his administration's proposed 2006 federal budget. The $2.6 trillion budget projects a record $427 billion budget deficit, not including funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. It includes increases in military spending while at the same time proposes major cuts to domestic programs that benefit people living in poverty.

Some of the proposed changes:

*Making permanent the tax cuts of 2001 - 70% of which benefited the wealthiest 20% of U.S. citizens
*The elimination of block grants that aid poor communities
*Making it more difficult for working poor families with children to be on Medicaid
*A $355 million cut to programs that promote safe and drug-free schools
*Cuts to housing and urban development programs
*The elimination of 48 educational programs

Budgets are moral documents. This administration's proposed budget reflects a set of priorities that stand in clear opposition to biblical values. Paying attention to the poorest among us is arguably the most central biblical imperative - not increased spending on nuclear warheads and tax cuts for the rich.

When considering a document as important as this one, it is imperative that our leaders consider its impact on people living in poverty. Urge your members of Congress to consider this budget's effect on the poor.

Click here to take action today."

Black Baptist Leaders Call for Prophetic Mission

Monday, February 07, 2005
This article in the Chicago Tribune shows a clear progressive voice from leaders representing 15 million black Baptists...the call for action also calls the Church back to it's role of "prophetic mission:"

"Leaders of 15 million black Baptists on Friday called on President Bush to pay as much attention to democracy at home as democracy abroad, issuing a list of demands that they say better defines America's moral values.

After an unprecedented assembly of four historically divided Baptist groups, presidents of each denomination declared their opposition to the war in Iraq and to the nomination and expected confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.

They also called for a higher minimum wage, discontinuation of recent tax cuts, investment in public education and reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, some provisions of which are up for review in 2007.

"We have power in terms of black registered voters across the country to impact who sits in the White House," said Rev. Stephen Thurston, president of the 3 million-member National Baptist Convention of America and pastor of the New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church on Chicago's South Side.

Leaders also demanded that Bush stop privatization of prison construction, reinvest in children's health insurance and increase global relief for black nations such as Sudan and Haiti.

During this week's sessions, delegates passed the plate to endow two historically black colleges, fund care for African AIDS victims and provide tsunami relief in Somalia. The money will be distributed from a newly opened bank account shared by the four groups.

Shaw said an effort to galvanize other African-American denominations is under way. Leaders of other black churches, including the African Methodist Episcopal Church, attended this week's gathering.

Rev. Lewis Baldwin, a Baptist minister and professor of theology and church history at Vanderbilt University, said the joint meeting was the most promising sign of active engagement since the death of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Since King passed away, the black church has retreated into reactionary traditions," he said. "Many see a need to reawaken the church to its prophetic mission."

Rev. Major Lewis Jemison, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, said the church must take its cues from that era.

'The history of the civil rights movement shows how potent the black church is," Jemison said. "If we take the time to do what our mothers and fathers have done, we can get things done.'"

Dean as Presumptive DNC Chair

As Rosenberg and Roemer have dropped out of the race, they now leave Gov. Howard Dean as the final candidate in the race.

As I posted before, I was supporting Rosenberg, but I always felt that should Rosenberg not win, that Dean would also make a fine chair. They both were the most clear reformers in the race.

I'm including Rosenberg's email leaving the race, and urging his supporters to support Dean. As I said before, this is a key moment for reform of the party, and will almost certainly will have Dean as chairman, who will be a key force for reform and revitalization.

Simon's letter:

"Effective today, I am ending my campaign for chair of the Democratic National Committee. I am grateful for the opportunity I have had to share my vision with Democrats around the country, and I remain encouraged by the depth and thoughtfulness DNC members have brought to this important process of picking our next chair.

Today, I am endorsing Governor Howard Dean to be the next Chairman of the DNC. While we have not always agreed on every issue, I believe his passion for our Party, his remarkable fighting spirit, his direct and powerful way of speaking, and his commitment to bringing regular people back into our Party will allow him to revitalize our Party and help us win again in the 21st century.

I call upon my supporters, and Democrats from all parts of the Party and all parts of the country, to join me in supporting Governor Howard Dean as the next DNC chair.

Though my campaign is ending, my work and my commitment to the Party that I love will continue at NDN. There I will continue to focus on the three priorities for our Party that I spelled out in the campaign - crafting a better agenda for our Party, investing in and building a better infrastructure for our politics, and leading a new national commitment to nurturing the grassroots. If we can do these three things and do them well in the years ahead, we can once again become a vibrant, dynamic and winning Party."

Quote of the Day

South African Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, quoted in Publishers Weekly:

"Frequently when they attacked me for being involved in politics, I used to say, I wish I knew which Bible they were reading! Because the Bible I read was quite clear: God revealed God to the children of Israel, not in a sanctuary, but by carrying out a political act — freeing a bunch of slaves. Nothing could be more political. And yet it was also deeply religious. They then realized that the God who does this kind of thing must be a God who cares, who is biased in favor of the weak, the oppressed, the marginalized."

Early Details on Bush Budget

Sunday, February 06, 2005
Early details on the Bush budget begin to surface....

"President Bush plans to unveil a $2.5 trillion budget today eliminating dozens of politically sensitive domestic programs, including funding for education, environmental protection and business development, while proposing significant increases for the military and international spending, according to White House documents.

Overall, discretionary spending other than defense and homeland security would fall by nearly 1 percent, the first time in many years that funding for the major part of the budget controlled by Congress would actually go down in real terms, according to officials with access to the budget. The cuts are scattered across a wide swath of the government, affecting a cross-section of constituents, from migrant workers to train passengers to local police departments, according to officials who read portions of the documents to The Washington Post.

About 150 programs in all would be shuttered or radically cut back to help meet Bush's goal of shaving the budget deficit in half by 2009. One out of every three of the targeted programs concerns education. Medicaid funding would be reduced significantly and even major military weapons programs would be scrapped to make more resources available for the war in Iraq.

The spending blueprint for fiscal 2006 and beyond promises to touch off a wrenching debate about national priorities in the months ahead.

The spending plan does not include future expenses of the continuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor does it include upfront transition costs of restructuring Social Security as Bush has proposed. The administration will submit a separate supplemental request largely for Afghanistan and Iraq operations in the current fiscal year, which will be reflected in the budget charts, officials said, but war costs in 2006 and beyond will not be. Nor will be the cost of Bush's Social Security plan, which would begin in 2009 and result in $754 billion in additional debt over its first five years.

Those omissions provide ammunition to Democrats who dispute Bush's math. "The Administration's claim that it will cut the deficit in half by 2009 lacks credibility," said a report released last week by House Budget Committee Democrats. When the omitted items are included, along with the impact of making Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent, the report estimated that the government would rack up $6.1 trillion in deficit spending over the next decade."

The Greening of Evangelicals...

Here are excerpts from the Washington Post news story on evangelicals and environmentalism.

Environmentalism is one of the huge mandates from God to us all... Be a good stewards or caretakers for creation. Not a suggestion there by the way, but a command.

And especially as this issue is just absent from the voices of the Christian right -- the article mentions how many Christian advocacy groups give 100% ranking to congressmen that environmental groups fail -- it is even more crucial for progressive and moderate Christians to keep this issue as a core public moral concern. If we don't no one else in the church will.

But there are signs of hope as listed below:

"There is growing evidence -- in polling and in public statements of church leaders -- that evangelicals are beginning to go for the green. Despite wariness toward mainstream environmental groups, a growing number of evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated by God in the Bible.

"The environment is a values issue," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. "There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right."

In October, the association's leaders adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" that, for the first time, emphasized every Christian's duty to care for the planet and the role of government in safeguarding a sustainable environment.

"We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," said the statement, which has been distributed to 50,000 member churches. "Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation.

Also last fall, Christianity Today, an influential evangelical magazine, weighed in for the first time on global warming. It said that "Christians should make it clear to governments and businesses that we are willing to adapt our lifestyles and support steps towards changes that protect our environment."

The magazine came out in favor of a global warming bill -- sponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) -- that the Bush administration opposed and the Republican-controlled Senate defeated.

Polling has found a strengthening consensus among evangelicals for strict environmental rules, even if they cost jobs and higher prices, said John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron. In 2000, about 45 percent of evangelicals supported strict environmental regulations, according to Green's polling. That jumped to 52 percent last year.

There is little to suggest in recent elections that environmental concerns influenced the evangelical vote -- indeed, many members of Congress who receive 100 percent approval ratings from Christian advocacy groups get failing grades from environmental groups.

At the same time, activists such as Ball from the Evangelical Environmental Network are trying to show how the most important hot-button issue of the Christian right -- abortion and the survival of the unborn -- has a green dimension.

"Stop Mercury Poisoning of the Unborn," said a banner that Ball carried in last month's antiabortion march in Washington. Holding up the other end of the banner was Cizik, the National Association of Evangelicals' chief lobbyist.

They handed out carefully footnoted papers that cited federal government studies showing that 1 in 6 babies is born with harmful levels of mercury. The fliers urged Christians not to support the "Clear Skies" act, a Bush administration proposal to regulate coal-burning power plants that are a primary source of mercury pollution.

"

The "Whole Cloth" of Responsiblity

In the Boston Globe interview with Sen. Kerry, he discusses the faith and a "whole cloth" or "seamless garment" view of Catholicism and social concern:

"He also expressed frustration over surveys showing he lost to Bush among Catholic voters, a problem Kerry promised to address by pursuing an agenda that reflects ''the whole cloth" of Catholic teachings, not just abortion.

'We were all taught as young Catholics growing up to think and see our Catholicism, and in our duty to God and to ourselves in that relationship, as the whole cloth of Catholicism, the whole cloth of responsibility, the solidarity of people to their community and to each other and ultimately to the Lord," Kerry said. 'I'll tell you -- that teaching has always been inclusive of just wars, the environment, poverty, justice, social justice, and never been reduced to one point or another.'

Kerry insisted that he and his running mate, former North Carolina senator John Edwards, talked about values ''every day" during the race, but he strongly endorsed efforts by Democrats to talk even more about religion."

Manager of biggest bond fund contends individual accounts not the answer

Saturday, February 05, 2005
From CNN Money:

"Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest bond fund, is criticizing President Bush's plan to privatize part of Social Security.

Gross, managing director at Pimco, called the argument about the solvency of Social Security "silly" and said it was an example of the president not focusing on more important issues, such as the budget deficit.

The president's argument for individual Social Security accounts is meant "to promote an agenda that has little to do with seniors and more to do with Bush, his ownership society, and ultimately his domestic legacy alongside the likes of Ronald Reagan and FDR," Gross wrote in comments posted on Pimco's Web site.

"Without a blockbuster of a program in his second term it is unlikely that Bush can go very far in the history books on the back of a paltry 3 or 4 percentage point tax cut for the rich," Gross wrote.

"Presto!" he continued. "We now have partial privatization of Social Security heading the agenda upon which the president intends to spend his well-advertised political capital."

But while the president says that will help fix Social Security, "the problem has more to do with demographics than the lack of ownership," Gross wrote.

Gross argued that it will take more than individual Social Security accounts to correct a projected shortfall and suggested the government should focus on cutting the budget deficit instead.

"Production can only come from employed workers and so the basic solution is to produce more workers, either through immigration or postponed retirement for the existing work force," he wrote.

"By reducing budget deficits now, and especially that portion of the deficit owed to foreign governments, we would be able to keep more of our domestic production within our borders and therefore available to senior citizens."

President Bush on Thursday kicked off a five-state tour to push his plan to overhaul Social Security, an issue highlighted in his State of the Union address.

While the president offered new details of how individual accounts would work in his address, he did not address many outstanding issues."

Quote of the Day

Friday, February 04, 2005
As found in a Steven Waldman article on Belief.net:

"On both sides, discourse now moves swiftly from disagreement into demonizing, from contrast to caricature. The worst motives are always assumed. Both camps have polemicists who win popularity, ratings, and book sales by devising ever more clever ways of ripping the eyelids off their opponents.

We all know the visceral satisfactions of hanging out with our home-team blogs and watching the TV or radio stations that fit our worldview. Our politicians and pundits happily supply us with the voodoo dolls and the pins. But we'd be smarter not to use them.

I’m not saying the conflicting values aren’t profound and important. But I am saying that if we choose to find the legitimate underpinnings of our ideological opponents' arguments, we can. It may not be as much fun, but it is more patriotic."

Force of Freedom: Bush's Political Theology

Thursday, February 03, 2005
Pastor and blogger Mark Roberts examines the theology behind the Innaugral Address: This is a long series, and deeply deserves a full read. I'll excerpt here some of the passages specific to the question of Bush's description of the "Force of Freedom" -- but be sure to read the whole thing.

"From a biblical perspective, what the President actually said about freedom was not correct. If one of my associate pastors, in a sermon preached in my church, were to say that the force of freedom is the only power that can overcome hatred, that pastor would be visiting my supervisory woodshed in a jiffy. I’d send that pastor back to do more biblical homework.

I am not doubting the President’s faith or his basic evangelical theology. But I do find his statement about freedom to be inconsistent with biblical theology. It actually sounds a whole lot more like classic theological liberalism. No wonder the President’s evangelical supporters get confused!

Again, I see the President making the kind of religiously generic statement that Presidents of the United States often make. Yet a person would be hard pressed, I think, to defend this viewpoint from Scripture. Again, I’m not suggesting that President Bush should have spouted evangelical theology from his secular pulpit, but I am pointing out that his public proclamations are hard to reconcile with biblical faith.

This is even more evident in the final sentence of the paragraph ...Here the President spoke of “ideals of justice and conduct that are the same yesterday, today, and forever.” In a previous post I mentioned that this last phrase – “the same yesterday, today, and forever” -- is an obvious quotation of Hebrews 13:8. That verse reads: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

I would not expect the President to quote this verse in an inaugural address. Nor would I approve of his doing so. Yet it seems odd to me that he felt comfortable using this distinctive biblical description of the timelessness of Jesus Christ when talking about “ideals of justice and conduct.” Is it really true that such ideals are timeless in the same way that Jesus Christ is timeless? I rather doubt it. The President’s idealism in this instance seems much more Platonic than Christian. (Plato, you may recall from your college philosophy class, believed in the existence of transcendent forms or ideals, which were timeless and independent of human perception.)

Yet some of his rhetorical flourishes make me uncomfortable, not as an American citizen, but as a Christian theologian. I’m not sure that Scripture allows me to share President Bush’s confidence in the power of human freedom. And I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be able to refer to human ideals as “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” From a biblical perspective, this sort of timelessness belongs to Christ alone.

Am I getting too picky? Perhaps. Should I just chalk up the biblical allusions in the Second Inaugural to customary presidential hyperbole? Maybe. But I am concerned that the President’s language will ultimately backfire. No, I do not share the fears of Rolling Stone blogger Tim Dickinson and other secularists that the President will impose Jesus upon the nation. If anything, I think the rhetoric of the Second Inaugural shortchanges Jesus, and not the other way around.

But, even beyond this concern, I am worried that by assigning divine powers to human ideals and aspirations, President Bush is forging impossible expectations. Freedom may well advance throughout the world, and I hope it does. But as long as human beings remain captive to sin, new forms of oppression will emerge. And if we expect human ideals to be universal and timeless, then we’ll be shocked when these ideals crumble beneath the weight of human evil. We won’t know how to respond when human beings callously and joyously murder innocent people. The confidence of the President in freedom and human idealism seems to be inconsistent with the reality of a fallen humanity and a broken world.

This is not to say that Americans should back away from the fight for freedom. Far from it. But our fight often involves far more ambiguity than clarity. Moreover, we do battle for what is right, not because we are certain that right will prevail this side of heaven, but because it is right to seek righteousness and justice now, no matter what the results may be."


A Response to the "Black Contract with America"

Below are excerpts of a response to the "Black Contract for America," which I still can't find online. It is written by Madison Shockley and Kelvin Calloway.

Madison Shockley is the minister at the Pilgrim United Church of Christ in Carlsbad. Kelvin Calloway is the pastor of the Second AME Church in Los Angeles.
This was in todays Op Ed section of the LA Times.

"Selling Their Birthright to the GOP
Some black ministers betray their people.

It is a sad beginning to Black History Month when a group of black preachers have so forgotten the past that they agree to be tutored in "moral values" by Republican operatives in sheep's clothing.

Don't get us wrong: Some of our best friends are Republicans. But the recent invasion by Karl Rove's minions into the heart of black communities and black churches across the country — most recently on Tuesday at the Crenshaw Christian Center, one of Los Angeles' biggest churches — has been downright offensive.

Seventy pastors apparently turned out for Tuesday's meeting, which was supposedly organized by conservative black ministers who had backed George W. Bush in November and who are seeking to promote what they say is a new agenda for the black community.

Are they doing it with programs that bring jobs, education and opportunity? Nooooooooooooo. They are doing it with a campaign against gay marriage.

They are unveiling a "black contract with America on moral values." That's right, Newt Gingrich is back and he's black! And in case you didn't know, gay marriage, not gang violence, gay marriage, not hyper-unemployment and undereducation, is what has destroyed our jobs, closed our schools and forfeited our opportunities.

That the ideological descendants of the architects of Jim Crow would be setting up shop in inner cities to structure a solution to the problems of being black in America is beyond ludicrous...

These ministers also claim a deep concern for the "unborn" who are aborted. OK. We all want to reduce the number of abortions. But this is best done through economic empowerment to support a family and through contraception for effective family planning.

The saddest part is that these ministers, who have inherited a legacy of respect, leadership and authority, would squander their profound birthright for a bowl of faith-based porridge. The underbelly of this Republican initiative is the promise of funding for church programs. That's a true sellout.

The black church has always stood with the oppressed and never the oppressor....It has not been in the forefront of the movement against gay marriage because it doesn't adhere to the biblical literalism of many fundamentalist churches and looks more to the compassion of Jesus than to conservative legalism.

If the black church took the Bible literally we would still be "slaves obey[ing] your masters" (Ephesians 6:5).

The gospel of freedom that has been the hope and strength of the black church is still a powerful and meaningful message to millions who are weekly inspired to struggle harder, study longer and love so fervently that hate, discrimination and prejudice wilt under its persistent presence."

"Gimme some Truth"

Lennon wrote this as an angry song.
It's meant to be sung in anger, and I'm the first to say although I'm don't see how angry or harsh criticsm really helps move anything forward, I "get" this song very specifically today.

I still believe that being "shrill" doesn't do much. Many of the political voices from both the right and the left that have gone into shrill mode a while ago, have proven to just raise the volume level in an already crazy loud place, and end up doing no one in particular any good.

That said, I must confess, after listening to the State of the Union, and the last Innaugural Speech, that I came away with a strong sense of saddness and anger.

Sadness still reverberating that our nation had the brief window to choose a more sane, better course this last election, and by the slightest of margins we chose to let that window close.

And anger that with the Republican attempts to "reframe" Iraq, could well mean we as a nation haven't learned anything from what we've just gone through.
The message that "See, it was all worth it," leaving us none the wiser, and likely repeat this in places like Iran. "As a dog returns to it's own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."

The reframing Bush's plan for Social Security as "reform," versus it's true form as "privatization" and the Government really begining to abdicate the roll of providing care for our elderly. And the desire for "legal tort reform," which is hard to see how it means anything other than protecting Big Business from having to be responsible legally for the damage that they can cause to real people. I'm angry over how much of the Church has seen it's role as cheering on the Administration uncritically. Abdicating any "prophetic voice," in such a crucial time.

I'm really, really ready to be a voice of counsel and disagreement to this Administration on issues like this. The time for action and planning and reform and loyal opposition is now. But it's going to be a long four years.

In the progressive movement, we will really need each other. And to have each other's back.
And though I think nothing is served from the name calling in Lennon's song, I understand the "sick and tired" angry feelings behind it, and the longing for Truth.


"I’m sick and tired of hearing things
From uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocritics
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

I’ve had enough of reading things
By neurotic, psychotic, pig-headed politicians
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope
Money for dope
Money for rope

I’m sick to death of seeing things
From tight-lipped, condescending, mama’s little chauvinists
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth now

I’ve had enough of watching scenes
Of schizophrenic, ego-centric, paranoiac, prima-donnas
All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth

All I want is the truth now
Just gimme some truth now
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth"

Avid Church Goers Vote Like the Rich

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
As first pointed out by Jesus Politics, here is an article from eithic's daily, examining voting patterns from the last election:

"As the emotions from the 2004 election recede, it is time to contemplate its meaning. There is a multitude of exit poll data to examine, but here is a set of numbers that caught my eye.

--Persons who say they attend church more than weekly: Bush 64 percent, Kerry 35 percent.
--Persons whose annual income is greater than $200,000: Bush 64 percent, Kerry 35 percent.
--Persons whose annual income is less than $15,000: Bush 36 percent, Kerry 63 percent.

These numbers are so stunning that it takes a moment to recognize what they are saying....

If those who attend church more than weekly represent its most committed members, those whose identity is most closely connected to the church, then what do the numbers tell us?

They tell us that the church votes just like rich people and just the opposite of poor people."

State of the State of the Union

Slate.com's early review calls it Bush's anti-over-reach speech:

"Not exciting, but highly effective. Or, rather, highly effective because it wasn't exciting. Bush saved the apprehension-inducing vision of global freedom until the very end, where it was condensed intotwo easily-tolerated paragraphs. Did somebody in the White House take Peggy Noonan's criticisms seriously?"

As often he does, I'm impressed with Josh's reading of Bush's speech tonight especially as it ties into the privatization of social security.

Here are excerpts from Josh's early thoughts:

"...And I found the choices imbedded in the speech quite surprising.

First, As someone who is not at all neutral on whether Social Security should be preserved or dismantled, that struck me as a missed opportunity. It's not every day that even the president gets an hour with the American people, with all the pomp and ceremony reared up in his favor. Even the privatizers have a story to tell. And the State of the Union gives the president a moment of conversational intimacy with the American people. On Social Security, I don't think he made much good use of it. And there was little on Social Security at least that was memorable.

The whole second half of the speech (I wasn't watching a clock; but that was my sense) was about foreign policy issues that are distant from what the country will be debating in the coming months. They remain issues of deadly importance and high ideals; everyone can agree to that. But nothing was connected together -- no bridge from the issues and touchstones which won him reelection to the policies he now wants to enact.

A few other observations.

First, now we know how much phase-out the president wants: 1/3 of Social Security. He said so tonight. So at least that nugget of his plan is clear.

Second, there were a slew of bones tossed to the cultural right pretty clearly aimed at bringing them back on board the phase-out bandwagon. Again, it didn't seem woven together, all disconnected.

Third, the president is now saying -- and saying emphatically and militantly, with an eye on his critics -- that if you're 55 you're home free, nothing to worry about when it comes to phasing out Social Security.

One might observe that this is a rather unfortunate dividing in half of the country. If you're 50 today, you spent most of your highest earning years not only paying into Social Security, but advance-paying even more, under the 1983 Social Security Commission which put in the extra level of tax to build up the Trust Fund. Now you're hosed. Too bad."

Time II: Top 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America

Tuesday, February 01, 2005
As often times happens, Rob Asgar seems to put words my feelings. This time it was describing his reaction to looking through the Time magazine list of top 25 Evangelicals. Here is the quote, but go read the whole post...

"I often wonder whether I'm an evangelical or an ecumenical kind of guy, and I go in cycles. But I'm not inspired when I see the sort of list that TIME did or when I see the faces of the folks who will be in millions of living rooms tonight via Mr. King.

Reminds me of Mouw's book, Calvinism in Las Vegas. He tells of an experiment he conducted with a small group of evangelical laypersons. He lists a number of prominent evangelical leaders, along with Catholic legends Mother Theresa and Henri Nouwen.

He then asks them, if a dear secular friend were to spend a few days with one of these leaders, which one of these famous persons would you choose for that duty? ...

Who are the evangelical world's Nouwens and Mertons and Theresas? Our most visible figures, within and outside our confines, are our fanciest talkers, not the humblest servants. "

Thankfully, in the Time article there are a couple of very notable exceptions....

Time: Democrats Trying Out a Soulful Tune

Excerpts from this month's Time magazine, on Democrats post-election "come to Jesus" moment. They point out that this is a real opportunity for people of faith inside the party to bring an authentic voice, and a true spiritual foundation to progressive change:

"A few days after the Democrats' November defeat, Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings suggested that the party needed a "come to Jesus" moment. His colleagues seem to have taken him literally. Former Indiana Representative Tim Roemer, who is running for chairman of the Democratic Party, could be heard arguing that "Jesus talks more about the concern for the poor" than he talks about gays and abortions. House minority leader Nancy Pelosi said a good place to start off the Social Security debate is to consider "how we honor our fathers and our mothers." Senator Hillary Clinton gave a speech praising faith-based programs and reminded everyone that she is "a praying person."

So in the past three months, Democrats have been agonizing over how to reach more religious voters. House Democrats have organized a 20-member faith committee that will design messages that emphasize the moral dimension of Democratic policies. The Democratic National Committee is considering creating a center for religious outreach that would focus on increasing turnout among regular churchgoers, mirroring Republican efforts. The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, will sponsor events around the country to demonstrate how Democratic policy aligns with faith."

Central to the efforts is a linguist, George Lakoff of the University of California, Berkeley. He says Democrats keep losing elections because Republicans have framed moral issues about gay unions, for instance, with clever phrases like "defense of marriage." In discussions with Democrats in Congress, Lakoff and Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical author, have advised officials to talk about how their faith informs their politics, from peace to environmental stewardship to economic justice. Wallis has suggested that when the Bush Administration releases its budget Feb. 7, for example, Democrats argue that it is a "moral document" and, as such, expected cuts in Medicaid funding violate the biblical tenet to support the poor.

The Democrats, Wallis says, need to shed their reputation as the party of "secular fundamentalists" and return to their roots. Liberal ministers like Martin Luther King Jr. led the civil rights movement. The first born-again Christian President was Jimmy Carter, and Bible-quoting Baptist Bill Clinton embraced faith-based initiatives before Bush did.

But the party's voice on that front has sometimes been tentative. John Kerry's campaign was worried enough about values to hire a religious-outreach task force but then ignored many of its ideas, including having Kerry speak at an evangelical-Christian college, talk at a religion writers' conference and give a speech about faith early in his campaign. Postelection, some Democrats say they're not sure this faith talk is necessary.... But the biggest risk for the party is to come off as insincere."

DNC Chair Race Down to Four Candidates...

I've posted a few times that I thought the DNC Chairman race would be a very key time for anyone who cares about reforming the Democratic Party. The race continues to narrow, with Martin Frost stepping down today leaving only 4 candidates. And Dean shows a commanding lead, but is the first to admit that the race is not done. As I've said before, my support in this race is still for Rosenberg.

But this is still an important race to follow and to voice your opinion on.

Here are excerpts from the AP story on Frost's dropping out...


"I want to thank Congressman Martin Frost and Chairman David Leland for lending their ideas and vision to this race," Dean said. "While I am encouraged by the news of the day, this race is still not over."

Democratic activist Donnie Fowler's campaign was fighting on, along with activist Simon Rosenberg and former Indiana Rep. Tim Roemer.

"Roemer spokesman Ruben Pulido said the former Sept. 11 commissioner is staying in the race because Democrats need an effective spokesman on national security issues who will welcome more voters into the party.

Rosenberg spokesman Guillermo Meneses said: "We're talking to our friends and supporters. Simon is listening to their guidance and advice. At this point, we're moving forward..."

GOP Wooing Black Church and the Black Contract for America

I just saw this today from an LA Times article. It covers the GOP courtship of culturally conservative Black Church leadership.

As I've posted before, the search for a politically progressive Christian community needs to start with finding and supporting the progressive Black Church leaders. The Black community including the Black church has voted for the Democrats by about 90% in the last seven presidential elections.

My sense is that the Black community as a whole -- and the Church leadership in particular -- view the Democratic party as largely MIA, only showing up every 4 years three weeks before the Presidential election and then vanishing.

Politically, if Democrats don't elevate and deeply value and learn from this community -- and do so with a Democratic message that ties well to a prophetic and moral voice -- the GOP will.

Note the comment that "at the end of the month, the Heritage Foundation will cosponsor a gathering of black conservatives in Washington designed to counter dominance of the 'America-hating black liberal leadership' and to focus African American voters on moral issues."

Also of note in this article is a "Contract for Black America and Values" that will be announced. When this is online I'll post it in a follow up.

Here are excerpts:


"Black conservatives who supported President Bush in 2004 and gained new prominence within the Republican Party are launching a loosely knit movement that they hope will transform the role African Americans play in national politics.

The effort will be visible today at the Crenshaw Christian Center, one of Los Angeles' biggest black churches, headed by televangelist Frederick K.C. Price. More than 100 African American ministers are to gather in the first of several regional summits to build support for banning same-sex marriage — a signature issue that drew socially conservative blacks to the Republican column last year.

Before the meeting, one prominent minister plans to unveil a "Black Contract With America on Moral Values," a call for Bible-based action by government and churches to promote conservative priorities. It is patterned loosely on the "Contract With America" that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich used 10 years ago to inaugurate an era of GOP dominance in Congress.

If the small shift in black voter support is thrilling to GOP leaders in Washington, it is scary to the country's most senior black elected leaders, who long have found their home in the Democratic Party.

Owens suggested that one way the Democratic Party could fight back would be to renew its commitment to investing in poor black neighborhoods. He lamented that "we don't have leaders like Lyndon Johnson, who understood the dynamics of building power, building it through your base."

Rather, he said, that lesson has been learned by Republicans like Gingrich and Rove.

Failure to respond to the GOP investment in black communities, he said, could allow Republicans to add five percentage points to the 11% they received among African American voters nationwide in 2004.

Republican officials, such as outgoing party chairman Ed Gillespie, have said they think the percentage could rise to 30 in the next presidential election — a prediction that even some GOP strategists called overly optimistic.

Even if it rises 5 percentage points, Owens said, "the Democratic Party will be paralyzed."

Owens said the GOP strategy of courting church leadership was on target. "The churches are the last institutions alive and breathing in some of these neighborhoods, and people look to them for leadership," he said.

The Bush administration has found entree to church leaders through its faith-based initiative, which is providing them with federal aid to fight social problems such as drug abuse, prison recidivism, divorce and teen pregnancy.

To counter the Republicans, Owens was preparing legislation that would send billions to impoverished neighborhoods through programs that he said would be more accountable than Bush's faith-based program.

All of the upcoming national and regional meetings of black conservatives emphasize a "moral values" agenda.

The organizer of the Heritage Foundation meeting, the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson of Los Angeles, said that his session would emphasize the need for black families to reject the notion that racism caused family and economic ills and begin taking personal responsibility. He favors the Republican emphasis on traditional marriage, school vouchers and reduced reliance on government. And, he said, he sees a palpable shift in attitudes.

"I saw black preachers turning toward the Republicans in greater numbers this election. I don't know if it's because they believe in it or they want some of the faith-based money. Whatever the reason, they are turning; and as a result of the preachers leaving, many of the congregations are following."