...we've gone and made Amy feel bad, and she's lashing out a bit over at the Gadflyer
Apparently my humble efforts
, and a generous assist from Atrios
, have led to a flood of email to Miss Sullivan, and some of you have not been very nice at all. I think "vitriolic" is the exact language she uses.
Of course, she isn't real nice in response. "Use Small Words" is a kind of snarky title for a post, isn't it? Especially if she really thinks its just a matter of misunderstanding, as she seems to say.
Judging by the amount -- and type -- of mail I've received over the past few days, some people are still a bit confused about what exactly I'm advocating liberals do about religion.
Of course, in her view, the misunderstanding is all on our side. She, of course, has been abundantly clear. Her "basic point," she contends, is simply that "You cannot dismiss the 87% of the population who say that religion is an important part of their lives."
I'm not sure who "you" is in that sentence, but it certainly isn't me. After all, religion is an important part of my life. But that didn't seem to be the basic point of her article at all. OK, maybe she is just too sophisticated for a rube like me to understand, but I would expect the basic point of a piece titled "Preach It, Brother
- Why did Kerry stop talking about faith?" to involve John Kerry, his neglect of religious consideration in his public addresses and his need to, well, preach it. And basically, that's what she wrote, although she did stop along the way to paint Democrats generally with the same broad brush and drop a kind word for no less a progressive authority than David Brooks.
"The Democrats," she begins, apparently now counting herself outside the group she has such highly vaunted (and continually cited) credentials within, "have a religion problem." And she details her diagnoses of that problem, including
...many Democratic operatives still think of religion mostly as a constituency problem... and have yet to be convinced that religious Americans are "their" voters.
Another reason Democrats avoid the topic of religion is that they believe it will offend what they see as their secular base.
Finally, John Kerry has a special discomfort with religion that comes simply from his specific religious tradition.
Because Kerry is uncomfortable talking about his own faith (a perfectly reasonable thing), they have steered clear of all mention of religion (a potentially fatal political move).
The problem, of course, is that she provides virtually no evidence for her assertions regarding Kerry, and I had no trouble finding plenty of evidence to the contrary. I'm sure she thinks she's spouting conventional wisdom, based on things she's heard, and therefore is absolved of actually supporting her argument, but whatever she's heard she should bear in mind the wisdom of E.J. Dionne, who says ""The plural of anecdote is not data." Data, Amy. Evidence.
So, what does she add to her original argument? First, she claims that
I'm not suggesting liberals do what conservatives have and use religion as a political tool. That merely weakens political discourse and undermines the prophetic power of religion.
Well, nonsense. "Tool" might seem to be a disagreeable word to her, but she's clearly advocating the use of religious language and imagery in the speech of John Kerry in order to appeal to voters with religious sentiments. Of course, I agree that he should, and as I have documented, he does. Not in a cynical or hypocritical fashion, but because religious faith is part of his life and a source of his core values. To not know that is to ignore his personal history and his contemporary utterances. In other words, to be ignorant of John Kerry as a man and a candidate to a degree that renders any judgement offered irrelevant.
Then she claims that a candidate's religion doesn't really matter much at all to that "87% of the population who say that religion is an important part of their lives." No, they don't care about a politician's faith, she says.
What they care about is inequality (whether issues of poverty or corporate greed or globalization), about stewardship (using our economic and environmental resources wisely), about the morality of war and treatment of prisoners. Their concern for these issues often springs from their religious beliefs. And yet when they go to the polls, their choice is between a party that tells them that it's okay to be religious and a party that says they need to divorce their faith from their political decisions.
Really? That's a pretty bold claim, isn't it? Who is it that tells them they need to divorce their faith from their politics? It can't be the Party officers who labor to include clergy of diverse faiths to invoke the blessings of diety on party conventions, or the conventioneers who invariably bow their heads in silence, whether out of personal conviction or respect for the convictions of their fellow Democrats. It can't be the Democratic politicians who almost universally include citations of religious faith and congregational membership in their personal and political biographies. It can't be the Democratic members of Congress who joined their Republican colleagues on the the Capitol steps for a stirring rendition of "God Bless America" in defense of a God-enhanced Pledge. It certainly can't be John Kerry, the former alter boy who once contemplated the priesthood and now (as the record shows) regularly makes religious references in his public appearances.
Who then? I don't know, and Amy isn't saying, but it's somebody she knows, apparently, and in the end, that's what matters, because in the end, it's all about her.
I use myself as an example only to say that if I (a former Daschle and Bonior staffer with a half dozen Democratic campaigns under my belt) sometimes feel alienated by the way that liberals and Democrats talk about religion, then countless people slightly to the right of me on the political spectrum feel that way as well.
Maybe, Amy. Or maybe people are just so put off by your one-note "what about God" rap and your inference that you know something about Him and His people that they can't grasp that they don't feel at all bad about making you feel as alienated as the way you make them feel.
After all, you admit that
No matter how resistant some old-school party operatives are to the idea, liberals are moving toward an understanding and acknowledgement of the importance of religion, not away from it.
If that's the fact, then maybe what you don't understand is that for some of us "old-school party operatives" (and I think that almost four decades of activism as a Democratic party officer, candidate, campaign manager and consultant qualifies me for that title), people moving "toward an understanding and acknowlegement of the importance of religion" can mean they're moving toward us, not away from us.