Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Jesse Jackson’s Brand of Piety

Jesse Jackson is not impressed with the Democrats’ working toward a more pious image. His argument against what the Dems are doing to appear more religious is full of the usual muck about Bush stealing Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004. In other words, he thinks the Dems don’t need to appear more religious because lack of piety is not their real problem--they’re working on a false diagnosis. He says that what the Dems truly lack is will. And, in a certain respect, that argument makes sense when you believe (as today’s Democrats at their heart do) that all politics is just a matter of will. It makes even greater sense when you read on and Jackson makes it plain what he means by "piety."

He is right to say that insincere demonstrations of piety--like simply going to Church and advertising your faith--are not going to impress anyone if they are not supported by substance. But the substance of what Jackson thinks is piety (i.e., ever greater expansion of government spending on social ills--did you know that the "nation’s budget is a moral document"?) is not something that the Democrats need particular help in making known to the public either. They’ve been at that for 70 plus years.

The time is ripe then for an open and fair discussion both of the meaning of piety and the purpose of politics. Democrats are vocal and insistent about the need for the separation of church and state when it comes to imposing standards on public behavior but their objection to expressions of piety don’t ring as loud when those expressions involve spending other people’s money and getting more votes for themselves. Funny how that works.

Discussions - 6 Comments

I think that to a large extent the examination of "what the dems are doing wrong" suffers from a case of extreme over generalization. Speaking of what ails something like a political party is like blaming global warming for my troubles as a gardener.

The point I’m trying to(poorly) make is that blaming the Democrats for a lack of will or a lack of religion misses the point. Few elections turn on how the electorate feels about a party in general. Rather it is the case that people will (or will not) vote for Ted Strickland based upon his specific views on issues or as a way to address what they perceive as wrong in the state.

It is a mistake to call the failures of a national figure like Senator John Kerry the failures of the Democratic Party.

My take on this new religiousity in the Democratic party is that they see the Religious Right as some kind of political phenomenon which they don’t understand and which is growing in power (or at least is impervious to their superior IQs and educations). So rather than fight this faction, they have decided to convert it (after all, Christians are supposed to help the poor!) Here’s what I think their problem is: for conservative Christians in America the number one issue is abortion, and the most important group of issues are social. Whether or not the religious right in America is right to do so, they will never believe any Democrats who vote pro-choice are "good Christians" and therefore will never support them. This, of course, is why President Bush still has the support of this particular faction even though there is much grumbling in the rest of the GOP.

RWN cites this LA Times article, the first 4 paragraphs of which are silly (I especially liked this quote of Obama: Barack Obama gave a speech to a group of liberal Christians in which he called on his fellow Democrats to tear down the party’s self-imposed wall between religious faith and State...er...politics. (non-italicized added) The fifth paragraph begins with this: That was not always the case. Some scholars point to the Democratic National Convention of 1972 as not only the moment Democrats edged toward secularism but the event that created the religious rift in American politics.

That article gives some perspective to Rev. Jackson’s "poppycock" piece about acts of faith in throwing more money at the dependent classes and taking more of it away from the job providers.

Both articles do seem to suggest, however, that photo-ops at places of worship just don’t fool anybody anymore.

What happened to this man? Reverend Reggie Jackson, who called for a “Rainbow Coalition” and in the ’88 primary talked more about individual duty through faith (charity) rather than moral budget imperatives (not to mean that he didn’t want strong social programs then). At the time he understood politics; he ran in the primary primarily to ensure that enough black votes were cast so that they would have a voice in the national party political scene, and he postured himself through his position as a reverend and calling for a moral rebirth.

Now it seems a black man can’t trip on a curb without the Jackson entourage riding into town to demand better lighted streets through charges of racism. How can this man claim religion ought not be used for political posturing? A man who groomed himself in the image of a certain (much better and good) man, and did so in part by becoming a reverend? He is no longer what he once was. Examples: Al Gore won the popular vote of the majority who cast ballots in Florida on Election Day. Oh! The sweet yet sinister seduction of wishful thinking (make it change history!). [In 2004] once again, a majority of people set out to vote for Bush’s opponent. Do not posture, but note the pretty use of my rhetoric; I said a majority set out! Too bad we’ll never know just how many.

Fred - "Reverend Reggie Jackson"?? What are you talking about? The baseball player and the political activist merged? What’s up with that, do they look the same to you?

Whoops. The meathead in me never lets me distance myself too far from sports. Sorry. Of course it should read Jesse Jackson.

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