In the months leading up to and following the Democratic convention, Democrats have taken up the language of faith and are using it to counter the religious fervor of George Bush and the Republicans, writes Amy Sullivan in Commonweal magazine (Sept. 10).
Surveys and other reports have suggested that the Republican Party and has captured the evangelicals and other conservative believers and that the Democrats and John Kerry have been skittish about speaking of religion and matters of faith [see July RW].
Sullivan argues that the use of religious rhetoric “premiered in Boston [at the convention] and has been road tested in battleground states since.” Illinois state senator Barack Obama started the trend off, declaring to the convention, “We worship an awesome God in the blue states.” Then Kerry said that in his campaign “we welcome people of faith.”
What Kerry and his advisors appear to have “learned over the summer is that it is possible to criticize how others use religion without criticizing religion in general, that a candidate need not remain silent about his own faith in order to speak out against how others turn theirs into political tools,” Sullivan writes. She cites the influence of Hillary Clinton, who has held closed-door meetings with her Senate colleagues about the importance of reclaiming concepts like “values” and “morality” from conservatives.
Such groups as the liberal Center for American Progress and the Democratic Leadership Council are cited for paying special attention to religion, with the latter offering special workshops “teaching politicians how to talk about religion in a way that is inclusive, not defensive. Lastly, the Democratic presidential campaign is reaching out to people of all faiths rather than just assigning one staff member to talk to black churches.
(Commonweal, 475 Riverside Dr., Rm. 405, New York, NY 10115)