How To Take Back the Moral Turf from the Right
By Rob Kall
The right wing did not just snap their fingers and tens of millions of fundamentalist, evangelical Christians hopped into their camp. It took years and tens of millions of dollars invested in research and outreach by think tanks that are really policy promotion and evangelization organizations to build the juggernaut that help the Bush campaign pull out a dubious, election-fraud-tinged claim of success in what should have been an embarrassing rout of a defeat.
For at least ten years, right wing policy promotion "think tanks " have been working on building policies and pitches that engage the fundamentalist Christian portion of the population. All those years, they had just about no competition from the democratic, left side of the political "playing field. "
They were able to try out different policies and different slogans, different issues and different buzz words to determine what would get the most mileage and the highest percentages.
They invested millions to present their ideas to ministers and preachers, reverends and pastors, priests and bishops, offering seminars and trainings in exotic locations, providing literature, testing the strength and efficacy of the pitches they were honing.
They didn 't just approach the idea of recruiting the religious right directly. They took a broad, comprehensive approach to seducing, recruiting, evangelizing the various fundamentalist and other susceptible religious groups. They came up with one age-old strategy --bribery --and called it by other names, like "faith-based initiatives. "
Here 's a report, for example, from the Hudson organization on combining Faith-Based organizations and Crime Prevention and Justice, and another on collaboration between faith communities and job placement. These reports show a long term, deep commitment to finding a multiplicity of ways to get religious organizations to feel that they are appreciated, respected and valued as players in the implementation of social programs, in the government 's vision of the connection between the state and religious organizations. This isn 't just about installing monuments to the ten commandments in government buildings or using the word God in the pledge of allegiance in the classroom. Those are the battlefront issues that have ensnared democrats in traps that have been devastatingly effective at deepening the connection between the religious right and Republicans.
At the same time, the right wing has been influenced by the religious world they sought to influence. For example, the Trinity Forum describes itself as "is a leadership academy that helps leaders engage the key issues of their personal and public lives in the context of faith. Founded in 1991 as a nonprofit organization, it fosters strategic programs and publications that further its mission: to contribute to the transformation and renewal of society through the transformation and renewal of leaders. "
Then there are organizations that work directly on influencing legislation and government policy, like the Family Research Council, James Dobson 's Focus on the Family, Christian Coalition, the Rutherford Institute, which funded Paula Jones ' harassment litigation of Bill Clinton (they called it sexual harassment, but they did it to harass Clinton.)
These are big, very well funded organizations supported by hundreds of thousands or millions of individuals as well as other organizations. We 're talking budgets of tens of millions of dollars ... that EACH of these organizations spends to move their goals and missions forward annually. Some have been in existence for over 30 years.
What do liberals, progressives, greens and democrats have to stand up against these multiple brigades, battalions and divisions of right wing political military might? Not much. Let 's face it, 65% of the people who voted for Kerry don 't go to church regularly. There are plenty of atheists, Deists, Buddhists, Muslims and Jews among the heterogenous groups that comprise the left. But just because they don 't go to church every week and don 't go to the same kind of charismatic, evangelist, fundamentalist churches does not mean that they don 't have values, morals and spiritual ways of seeing the world. The problem is, the liberal, left, progressive perspective on these has not been clearly spelled out. There 's no liberal bible (though the Jefferson bible might be a start) that we can refer to, no Vatican to lay out specific edicts, no Baptist convention or Episcopal board we can refer to. That doesn 't mean we can 't set down some clear, agreed upon values and issues.
But look at how the right wing developed dozens of think tanks, councils, foundations, institutes all aiming at just that goal. They have a 20 to 30 year head start on us. They have hundreds of millions, if not billions of dollars of funding under their belts. But remember how George W. Bush had that $200 million dollar lead on Kerry and we caught up with him. Between the primaries and the election, hundreds of millions of dollars were raised by the campaigns and 527 groups. We can 't expect to just start talking about faith or spirituality and get anywhere.
We need to build at least one well funded think tank that studies the current situation and start envisioning long and short term plans. We need to develop strategies and projects to reach out to the faithful. We offer a more positive vision, one based on hope rather than fear. But we have to take this approach to multiple fractal levels, with projects within projects. We must develop, as George Lakoff has clearly described, our own reframing of the language used to describe morals, values and faith-based themes.
We must begin to develop allies in the religious world who are willing to sign on with our projects, our think tanks, foundations, Institutes, etc.. For example, there were three or four Bishops who were really tough on Kerry, saying they 'd refuse to give him communion. But there were over 150 other Bishops who did not bash Kerry. Perhaps some of them will show up on the other side of the aisle. Even the ones who supported Bush might be willing to get involved if they are convinced they will be listened to and respected.
We have a long, expensive road to travel to catch up with the right wing on the moral highway. But at least we know what we need to do. Now we have to raise the funds to found the organizations and get them up and running in a healthy way. Howard Dean showed us how to do that on the web. Perhaps George Soros and others will see the need and value for these projects, now that the election is past.
A month ago, Anthony Wade wrote an article, The Christian, Pro-Life, Pro-Kerry, Anti-Bush Argument aimed at persuading Christians whose main reason for voting for Bush was the anti-abortion issue. And here 's a web page loaded with articles covering the issue of religion, Christianity, church and state, Catholicism, etc.
So far, the left has one solid, well funded policy promotion think tank --John Podesta 's Center for American Progress. It 's a winner and their daily email newsletter is a must read. But we need more progressive think tanks --at least one, for starters, for faith and religion outreach, another for media balance, another for voting and elections, another for business --restraining big business and strengthening small businesses that respect and honor the commons and workers.
Rob Kall is editor of www.OpEdNews.com Read over 150 of his articles at Rob Kall's article archive Read his blog at www.opednews.com/robsblog.htm Rob lives in Bucks County PA, which, went for John Kerry in the 2004 election.
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