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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Saturday, August 23, 2003


Dean can bridge the religion gap

posted by Aziz P. at Saturday, August 23, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Liberal Oasis has an interesting post that calls for Democrats to be bold about injecting themselves into religious debate, such as the Ten Commandments circus in Alabama. And concludes that Dean may well be the natural candidate to take the mantle:

it’s safe to say that it’s perceived disputes over values that sets the Dems back in rural areas and the South.

(It can’t be because the South hates big government, as they benefit more from federal government largesse than supposedly liberal New York and California.)

And if Dems want to claim stable majority status, it can’t cede an entire section of the country.

So how can Dems bridge the cultural divide?

Creatively, and boldly, step into hot-button controversies, like the current one in Alabama over displaying the 10 Commandments in a government building.

Now, this is generally the last thing politicians want to do, for good reason.

There’s not a lot of room for win-win compromises with polarizing social issues. More than likely, you’re just going piss off a lot of people.

But when you run for President, you get asked about everything, especially what’s on the front pages.

If asked about this one, chances are most Dems will probably sidestep. The issue will probably fade, so why kick up dust?

Yet a response that successfully bridges the religion gap would show that he or she can really be a uniter, not a divider.

Such a response would have rely on admittedly predictable liberal arguments. For example:

“Our Founding Fathers wanted separation of church of state so we all can practice our religion and beliefs freely without the fear of the theocracy preached by Osama Bin Laden.”

But Dems should also include the unpredictable, praising those who believe so strongly:

“To see Americans bravely standing on a courthouse steps, to express their deep faith to the world, also makes our Founding Fathers proud.

“We must always stand up for rights of Americans to worship as they please, while making sure the government doesn’t send the signal that some faiths don’t warrant the same support.”

This is not an argument that is going to get hard-core religious voters to switch their positions on the intersection of politics and religion. That’s not doable.

And it’s not a simple silver bullet to winning the South in ‘04.

But such inclusive arguments, on this issue and future ones, may help Dems, over time, reverse the perception that the party is fundamentally antithetical to the core values of the very religious.

As well as mitigate GOP attempts to paint Dems as immoral.

Howard Dean may be the natural candidate to attempt such a bold strategy, as he has similarly tried to position his support for gay civil unions, and has talked of winning over voters who display Confederate flags by finding common ground on health care and education.

It would be awesome to see Dean make such a statement. The other candidates won't go near the issue, that's for certain.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.