We!: a Progressive Voice
Republicans lead in charismatic change by befriending those in power and leading the marginalized. Many Republicans, including President Bush, and Democrats like the Clintons, have adopted rhetoric that sounds similar to Jimmy Carter's born again vision of modesty, humility and compassion. Every time I read something about Bill Clinton, he is said to pray, sacrifice and hope there is something about life that cries to be preserved; goals worthy of both men to pursue with personal involvement and confronting helplessness with hope. To win the middle, or help the poor, it’s vital that our leaders move people away from a climate of fear regardless of party affiliation. An honest story needs to be told.
Consider this. Conservative religious groups tap the resources of oppressed immigrant communities by inviting them to build an extended church family. Churches are there to collect the kids who are thrown out of school, for a price. They successfully build organizations that make contributions appear voluntary and intimate. Liberals have not done a good job of making alternative systems work.
No one could have painted a picture of cultural elitism unless there was an ounce of truth to build on. Reverend Jim Wallis, author of God's Politics, hits it squarely on many points showing how hypocritical the Republican party is in their call of faith, as he does when he decries the Democratic Party for attempting to do the good works while being (in many cases) reluctant to praise God and Christ publicly.
But when social leaders cry for community, tyrants fill the school with cops carrying guns and school to prison alternative education. When humanitarians grow the skills that address the real needs of education, tyrants grow an army of undereducated angry aides to bully the public into regimented compliance. They 'look at the numbers', dehumanize and the public meets the compassionate professionals that defend the system that oppresses them. Progressive thinkers cannot move forward unless they introspectively judge how their role may be counter-productive.
To be successful, the progressive movement needs to embrace faith among its designers. Not all are of faith, but those that are need to speak out and find some central ground affirming faith as a part of life, with private faith carrying into public persona. This must be done truthfully and humbly. With one-third of congregations voting Democratic Party, their voices need to be heard and their faith supported.
Progressives need a vision that is bigger than America. A vision bigger than putting man on the moon, bigger than saving the environment or abolishing poverty or bringing equal rights to all - yet something that encompasses all of these. Our language must inspire, touch people's souls. That is the first task of leadership. All great leaders inspire people to follow. That was Kerry and Edwards greatest shortcoming. They mouthed platitudes without genuine passion, without true eloquence. Hillary Clinton's greatest shortcomings are the baggage of being attached to Bill Clinton, and that she sounds like a politician and a lawyer, saying the right words but without passion, without speaking from her heart to the hearts of her audience. We progressives can capture the hearts of the voters, or we shall continue in our present funk.
Conservatives have made temporary alliances with people supporting genuine moral beliefs by falsely claiming to hold those same moral beliefs in order to gain support. The Christian Right is not a bunch of fanatics to be shrugged off. They are people with very strong beliefs who care deeply for the lives of other human beings. Unfortunately, a lot of their energy has been wasted and some of their efforts misguided, by zealots out to make a fast buck and gain publicity for their own nefarious purposes. It is up to us to identify and deal with leaders within that movement who wish to lead because they believe in the teachings of Jesus. At the same time, we should expose those who lead within that group because they believe in the teachings of Wall Street.
Upon closer examination the Christian Right has more in common with the Progressive movement than they do with neo-conservatives. Neither Progressives nor Christians want people to be tortured, humiliated, beaten or starved. Neo-conservatives feel those evils are just necessary means to gain a profitable outcome.
This is the kind of thing progressives can passionately communicate. It is not enough to simply state: "all people have the right to lead their personal lives in accordance with their own beliefs, free from imposition or monitoring by others." That many public servants are of a variety of faiths, that their faith is part of their decision making process, part of their very lives, and that this is accepted, if not expected, needs to be acknowledged.