Friday, November 02, 2007

"No Separation of Politics and Ethics"

This is a great manifesto of religious progressivism by Tom Perriello, Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia's Fifth District.

It is worth noting a third group that I do not consider part of the movement – pundits who say values voters are a reason for Dems to run to the middle and quote the Bible more. This argument is morally and strategically bankrupt. My argument earlier this week was for conviction politics over poll-driven politics both because the former is a better way to win and a better way to make a difference once we win. Far from endorsing centrism, the vast majority of progressive faith organizers I know are furious with Dems for not being progressive enough on poverty, health care, living wage, FISA, torture, the War, climate change, and other issues. ... The work of people in this spirit is not new. From abolition to worker's rights to civil rights, this version of the religious left has been a leader in American progressivism since our founding.

Perriello cites the role of theologians who signed a letter decrying Alberto Gonzalez's AG nomination, on anti-torture grounds, as breaking the logjam for progressives who were afraid to oppose Gonzalez due to his Latino heritage. I particularly like the fact that Perriello disconnects the Religious Left from "centrism."

Another snippet:

One woman was defending me last night by telling a couple of the critics to give me a break since I was trying to win in a religious Southern district. I sincerely appreciate the solidarity, but let me be clear that this is not a strategy for winning elections. These are my convictions. I genuinely believe that a culture of instant gratification is part of what enables a bomb-first foreign policy, torture, and a Wal-Mart economy. It is my faith that makes me more likely to oppose torture in all its forms than to get into a pragmatic debate about whether it helps or hurts our national security.
I have one reservation about Perriello's candidacy, and that reservation led me to scour TPM and Perriello's own website and Google, looking for his position on abortion. He never states that position clearly, which says something in itself. By his associations I infer that Perriello is not strongly pro-choice. He may be somewhere in the neighborhood of Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey, who disapproves of abortion-on-demand, but isn't a full-on woman-hating pregnancy enforcer; for instance, Casey favors the availability of the morning-after pill. But the point of Perriello's career as an activist has been to define the Religious Left broadly, as concerned with social justice issues, including a "consistent ethic of life" which presumably includes reducing unwanted pregnancies as well as opposing capital punishment.

Perriello wants to address issues of "private" behavior such as consumer culture and pop culture, which are going to be hard to advance in some quarters of the Democratic Party. I'm willing to hear him out (stay tuned for a post on sustainability and anti-globalism--coming sometime in the month of November, I promise!) but it will get some liberals' anti-religion guard up.

That said, I'm rooting like hell for Tom Perriello, because I know his district (I'm heading up there for the long Thanksgiving weekend) and I was really pissed at the GOP incumbent there, Virgil Goode, who demagogued on the election of Keith Ellison, the first-ever Muslim member of Congress, in 2006.

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