Thursday, August 22, 2002

Blogrolling on Religion

Patrick Nielsen Hayden--who proves that while good authors are a dime a dozen, a great editor is a rare and wonderful thing--picked up and linked to last week's Tribune column about religion in politics here. A number of people have added comments, which I commend to you, on whether there is a moral difference between "vote for me, I'm one of us" and "don't vote for him, he's not one of us." If you want to follow the discussion, click on the "comments" link right below his headline ("I make distinctions; you're a bigot").

I put in my two cents worth into the thread:

It's an appealing argument, that there's a moral difference between "Vote for me, I'm one of you" and "Don't vote for him, he's not one of us." However, I don't think it works in practice. In a campaign, you only make the "Vote for me, I'm one of you" argument if the other candidate isn't. During my time in politics, I faced opponents who talked about religion, ostensibly generally, but clearly in ways that made both arguments. As a Jewish candidate, is it proper for my opponent to talk about how he has accepted Jesus as his savior--thereby making the comparison that I haven't? I think that tactic is really making both points, the positive and the negative simultaneously, so there's no distinction.

The other objection is that candidates use religion as a way to avoid talking about values and principles in a way that might actually help voters understand what the candidate might do in office. E. J. Dionne wrote about this during the 2000 campaign, comparing the answers given by President Bush ("well, if they don't know, it's going to be hard to explain") with Gary Bauer's explanation, in terms not freighted with sectarianism, about how his faith shapes his views on poverty, hunger, and the death penalty. (There's something you don't see everyday--me complimenting Gary Bauer.)

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