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At DNC, the God-Fearing Meet the Otherworldly

by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Thu., Aug 28, 2008
Filed under: Democratic National Convention 08

DENVER–In the generic meeting-rooms of the Colorado Convention Center, a revolution is taking place in the Democratic Party. The people of faith have arrived.

Every day has seen a panel or gathering or both of religious and spiritual leaders, some gathered together by

And it doesn't end with church-mosque-temple-synagogue crowd. Add in the unchurched but spiritual set, and you've got a negotiation of the higher power in politics unlike any ever tried before.

To the mainstream media, Oprah Winfrey, who will attend Barack Obama's acceptance speech tonight, is spoke this way of making the choice to, for the first time, publicly endorse a presidential candidate: “I feel like I’m out of my pew.”

Because of the diversity of the Democratic party, the Obama campaign’s concerted outreach to what are called “faith voters” is not without risk. In the GOP, the religious faction have a broadly shared agenda, centering mostly on issues of sexuality and women’s freedom. Among the leftward-leaning religious and spiritual types, you find a pretty consistent agenda on poverty, health care and the social contract, but wild divergence on reproductive freedom, same-sex marriage and how far to take faith values into the political arena. And then you have some of the religious types simply dismissed the “unchurched” believers — the spiritual types — as “secular”, when they are anything but.

In the past, the spiritual types — often the refugees of the church experience — have stayed far from people in collars, yarmulkes and kufis, practicing a very individualized form of faith in an almost underground fashion. Now, thanks in no small part to Oprah Winfrey, spiritual leaders like <a href=””>Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson are part of the mainstream, with significant numbers of followers of their own, and a moral system that demands expression in policy, if not politics.

Yesterday, I attended a panel on “New Faith Voters” convened by the organization Faith in Public Life that truly blew my jaded mind. At one end of the spectrum sat Jim Wallis, the anti-abortion, centrist evangelical minister who founded Sojourners. Wallis is among those who sought to influence the Democratic party platform on the matter of abortion. (The platform language about reducing abortion did not go as far as Wallis would have liked.) On the opposite end of the spectrum sat Marianne Williamson, the spiritual teacher who is now featured on the Oprah & Friends XM radio channel.

Williamson left no doubt that she and her constituents have an agenda based in their own theology of love. The United States, Williamson said, needs to apologize to the world and the people of the world for the harm it has caused. The nation will not find the path to recovery, she said, until official mea culpas are issued in contrition for such sins as the oppression and killing of Native Americans, African-Americans and others — for starters. Then she blamed the degradation of the environment on the early church for its claim of man’s dominion over the earth.

Wallis, on the other hand, is looking for national redemption through the reduction of poverty and the weakening of the Democrats’ pro-choice rhetoric.

At another, more practically-oriented panel today, convened under the auspices of the Obama campaign’s Faith Council, an array of clergy addressed the challenges of staying on the correct side of the tax code when entering the political fray. Among the strategies suggested by DuBois is the faith-based house party, whereupon people of faith gather in someone’s home for a fundraiser or get-out-the-vote effort.

It’s easy to scoff at the surface absurdity of spirtualists and religionists negotiating anything, and I certainly find humor in the sight. But Obama really has done something here that hasn’t been done before. Now, when somebody decides to host an evangelical yoga party, I’d like an invite, please.

–Adele M. Stan
The Media Consortium

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Michelle Obama: Hillary Made Barack a Better Candidate

by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Thu., Aug 28, 2008
Filed under: Democratic National Convention 08Media Consortium: journalism project

DENVER–Today’s meeting of the Democratic Women’s Caucus featured a surprise guest: Michelle Obama.

The potential first lady is making a concerted effort, it seems, to reach out to the different women’s constituency groups in the Democratic party, including those closely allied with Hillary Clinton.  (Earlier this week, Michelle Obama spoke to a gathering sponsored by Emily’s List, the organization that bundles donations to fund pro-choice candidates.)

In today’s remarks, Ms. Obama offered Hillary Clinton some major props, saying, “Thanks to her, my husband is a better candidate.”  The ballroom full of women echoed with cheers and applause.   “Thanks to her,” Michelle Obama continued, “his campaign is a better campaign.  And thanks to her, my daughters — and all of our daughters — have the freedom to dream bigger dreams…”

Michelle Obama went on to list the causes dear to the hearts of caucus-goers:  healthcare, equal pay, reproductive rights.  She spoke rather poignantly of the tensions of being a mother who works outside the home, saying she often feels she short-changing her daughters when she’s at work or on the campaign trail, and feels she’s giving the job and the campaign short shrift when she focuses on her girls.  “We all known that guilt,” she said, “and I know I can get an ‘amen’ on that.”  The audience shouted back, “Amen.”

Her remarks ended in an appeal to the party’s women activists to redouble their efforts on behalf of the Obama campaign.  Predicting the upcoming election to be “a tight contest,” Michelle Obama told a roomful of admirers, “Women are going to make the difference in this campaign…I am going to need you every step of the way.”

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Donna Brazile Votes to Place Hillary’s Name in Nomination

by addiestan, The Media Consortium: Tue., Aug 26, 2008
Filed under: Democratic National Convention 08

DENVER–At the DNC Women’s Caucus meeting at the Colorado Convention
Center, Donna Brazile whipped the crowd into a frenzy with stirring
remarks that invoked a host of iconic African-American women leaders
in the Democratic party, and expressed respect for Hillary Clinton, as
well as pragmatic politics.

Throughout the primary season, Brazile, the CNN commentator who ran Al
Gore’s popular-vote-winning presidential campaign, remained neutral.
Many assumed a certain sympathy toward Obama, and Brazile was one of
the first to publicly object to Bill Clinton’s remarks in South
Carolina, when the former president compared Obama’s prospects in the
state to those of Jesse Jackson in 1984 — remarks Brazile called “depressing.”

At today’s gathering of Democratic women, Brazile made an announcement
that began with a bit of a fake-out. “I am honored that I had the
chance now to circulate a petition some 24 years ago to put Jesse
Jackson’s name in nomination,” she said. “Last night, I signed my name
to place Hillary Clinton’s name in nomination.” The crowed roared in
appreciation. “I did it in honor of the woman who was unbought and
unbossed: Shirley Chisholm,” Brazile continued. “I did that in honor
of the first black woman to ever deliver the keynote speech at a
Democratic National Convention: Barbara Jordan. ” And then, calling
the name of one of Hillary Clinton’s most stalwart supporters, the
late Ohio congresswoman who broke barriers of race and gender, she
added, ” I did that in honor of Stephanie Tubbs Jones.”

But always pragmatic, Brazile made a point that seemed to be directed
at the early Obama supporters in the room, saying she signed the
petition for Clinton’s nomination “because Barack Obama understands
that a united Democratic party is a victorious Democratic party in

–Adele M. Stan
The Media Consortium

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