Nation-Building >> TAP explores Congregationalism and it's influence on Howard Dean's political style | return to front page

"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

Add to Google Reader or Homepage Subscribe in Bloglines Subscribe in NewsGator Online Add to netvibes

website stats

Previous Posts
Netflix, Inc.
ThinkGeek T-Shirts will make you cool!
illy coffee - 2 cans, 2 mugs for just $26.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003


TAP explores Congregationalism and it's influence on Howard Dean's political style

posted by annatopia at Tuesday, October 21, 2003 permalink View blog reactions
Garance Franke-Ruta has written a wonderful article which is so insightful that I have nothing to add.
This quality in Dean's rhetoric -- that he is appealing not just to people's partisan leanings, nor to their particular ethnic or gender identities but to their history and identity as Americans -- is what has made him compelling to so many liberal voters who feel America is no longer even trying to be a "City upon a Hill." Instead of fearing the legacy of northeastern liberalism, he has embraced it as the philosophy that founded contemporary democracy, created America, kept it whole during the 19th century and fought to expand the franchise so that African Americans and women could participate as full citizens. When the other presidential contenders have tried to reach back past the Great Society, it has often been to connect with the last northern Democratic president, John F. Kennedy. And Dean? In the Boston speech, he quickly mentioned the 1960s and the New Deal -- but he built his address around the Sons of Liberty, who had carried out the Boston Tea Party. At his formal announcement speech, he skipped past JFK and went all the way back to John Winthrop, a Puritan settler, theologian and early governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, quoting these words: "We shall be as one. We must delight in each other, make others' conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together."

This is the first article I've seen which really explores the historical roots of Dean's Congregationalist faith and expands on how Congregationalism has influenced American politics:
Dean is, without a doubt, an odd vessel for the quasi-religious fervor he has inspired. He almost never mentions God in his stump speeches and he rarely goes to church himself. Nevertheless, his rhetoric -- like his campaign structure -- is deeply grounded in the social practices of a branch of radical Protestantism whose tenets still wield power in the structures of Vermont's government. The Pilgrims who gave America its foundational governing documents and ideas -- ideas that Dean now routinely references -- created a society based partly on the anti-authoritarian religious principles of Congregationalism, their religion (and, since the early '80s, Dean's).
Congregationalism, the dominant religion of colonial and early federal life, had by the 20th century become an obscure New England denomination about as relevant to modern life as covered bridges. Yet the legacy of the Congregationalists -- and their Unitarian descendants -- is one of the most powerful forces in the history of the American North. It was Congregationalists who landed the Mayflower on Plymouth Rock in 1620. Their descendants founded America's elite colleges, such as Harvard and Yale, and some of its most liberal ones, such as Oberlin and Amherst. Where the South bred agrarian populists and Baptist revivals, the North churned out Unitarian and Congregationalist ministers.

Just go read the whole thing. It's very enlightening.


Post a Comment


View blog top tags
The Assault on Reason

Obama 2008 - I want my country back

I want my country back - Obama 2008

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.