With one voice?
My buddy Fribur sent me an observation that tied in with some opinions of my own:
Tonight, I just watched Jim Wallis, Jesse Jackson, and Kim Gandy all speak at a progressive political conference of some kind on C-Span, and I was a little dissappointed that even with three well known progressive leaders, each directly
disagreed with each other within their speeches.
Jim Wallis (editor of Sojourners magazine, national speaker, pastor) spoke charismatically of the need to take the stranglehold on moral values and religion away from the Right, and show America that it is ok to be a Christian and a Progressive.
Kim Gandy (president of NOW) spoke next, naming Jim Wallis specifically and among others as a part of the problem of trying to look too much like "Republican-lite," with the bulk of her discussion about bringing the democrats back to being democrats and not just watered down Republicans. She specifically mentioned the popular campaign term "widening the tent," denouncing it as a watering down of essential doctrines of progressive thought.
Finally, Jesse Jackson spoke, introduced by the organizer of the conference as one who is a great progressive precisely because of his ability to "widen the tent." Yes, they both used the same words. It was like the organizer never heard the speech just given a few minutes before.
As much as I dislike the Republican party and everything it stands for, their ability to present a unified message to the American public is something I envy, and which I sometimes wish progressives could better emulate. That said, even among Republicans we are starting to see cracks in the facade; Republicans are clearly breaking rank on some issues in Congress right now; from Social Security to stem cell research. Part of me is warmed by the existance of clear differences between self-proclaimed progressives. Perhaps this is indicitive of the tolerance inherant in the Left. One can only hope.
My thoughts mirror those presented quite eloquently and forcefully in a video of Arianna Huffington giving a bring-down-the-house kind of speech at the very same "Take Back America Conference." I think that every Progressive in this country should print and tape it to their refrigerator. Here is an excerpt from the printed version on Arianna's website (emphasis mine):
This is the time now for a vigorous debate among progressives… no more tongue biting, no more holding back. It's time that progressives took on the hard work of solving the greatest unsolved mystery left in Washington now that Deep Throat has been unmasked: what does the Democratic Party stand for? It's up to the progressive movement to offer an absolutely unambiguous answer to that question, both on the domestic front and on the foreign policy front.
Read or watch the entire speech - it's a barn-burner! I wish I had been there, stomping and screaming my agreement. Progressives and Democrats MUST stop trying to define themselves based on what the Republicans are saying...doing so is giving the Repub's observations even more weight.
However, I don't think that the "Republican-lite" accusation can be accurately directed at Jim Wallis. He is bringing up is a very important and sensitive issue to those spiritual-minded progressives. We cannot allow the Republicans to establish the definition of what religion/Christianity is or stands for. (I have many more comments and thoughts on that particular topic that I will save for my next post.)
By the way, thanks for the comments, Fribur!