« Will an interfaith service attract religious votes? | Main | First faith caucus focuses on common good »

August 26, 2008

Who's on Tonight: Not Just Clinton

All of the buzz today is on Hillary Clinton's big speech tonight (and, to a lesser extent, Bill Clinton's speech tomorrow night).

But this is also a fascinating night at the Democratic podium for a several other reasons. First, this is the night of Bob Casey Jr.'s address. It's an important symbolic moment because of the decision in 1992 to deny then-Pennsylvania governor Bob Casey Sr. a speaking spot at the convention. Casey had wanted to talk about his opposition to abortion. Some suggest that the invitation to Casey Jr. demonstrates a Democratic Party that's more open to prolifers. Others say he's not as prolife as his father was.

It's unclear whether Casey will talk about abortion, but a few hours before his speech you'll almost certainly hear the subject come up as Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards addresses the convention. A big difference: Casey is speaking in prime time. Richards is on around 4 p.m. (Casey also has a much better slot than Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, Casey's opponent in the tumultuous 2002 primary race for governor. Reckon that has more to do with Casey's strong support for Obama over Rendell's major backing of Clinton than it does with either's views on abortion.)

Another speech tonight that could be more conservative or more religious than usual: that of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. The United Methodist minister did very well among evangelicals in 2006.

Mara Vanderslice and Eric Sapp won't be speaking tonight, but their presence will be felt. Their old organization, Common Good Strategies, is credited with helping Strickland, Casey, Kansas Gov.Kathleen Sebelius, and Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm -- all of whom are speaking tonight -- win election in 2006 by emphasizing their religious backgrounds. All the podium is missing is Sen. Sherrod Brown (Oh.) and Rep. Heath Shuler (N.C.), but if they did that they'd probably have to make one of those video tributes to Vanderslice. (Vanderslice is now with the Matthew 25 Network. Sapp is at the Eleison Group.)


With McCain's VP choices having rumblings of Pro-Choice persuasions (Ridge comes immediately to mind), a primetime speech by a Democratic Pro-Lifer might continue to accentuate the evangelical conundrum that is coming to a head that our faith doesn't line up on either side of the political table.
Besides, I'm holding my breath for Dobson's response to a Pro-Choice VP nomination; I'm hoping it includes prayer, rain and youtube.

I think it is great that the Democratic Party is making an effort to show that of course there is room in the big tent for people of faith. I am proud to say I am a Democrat because I am a Christian. That's not to say that all good Christians must be Democrats, or that the party perfectly reflects my faith - no political party can do that. But the Gospel calls us to care for the least, the last and the lost and it is that responsibility I see being carried out in many Democratic stances. Democrats are once again demonstrating their great strength is bringing people together of all backgrounds and persuasions - including people who disagree with traditional party stances because of their faith - to work together for the common good. We must no longer allow our faith to divide us, but, while acknowledging our disagreements, find the common ground - which Mark Warner called "sacred ground" - where we can come together.

Those who choose to support or join a political party in our country have to make very uncomfortable choices. I do not know how some of the excellent people who attempt political office decide which party to join, but those who are the least attached to the things I find morally repugnant are the most likely to get my vote. I am afraid a lot of Americans who would love to be more positive feel just as politically awkward as I do.