June 30, 2006 by Marc Lamont Hill
On Wednesday, Senator Barack Obama criticized the Democratic part for not competing for the support of evangelicals and other church going Americans. At a recent faith based conference, he said:
“Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation. Context matters,” the Illinois Democrat said in remarks to a conference of Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome poverty… It is doubtful that children reciting the Pledge of Allegiance feel oppressed or brainwashed as a consequence of muttering the phrase `under God. Having voluntary student prayer groups using school property to meet should not be a threat any more than its use by the High School Republicans should threaten Democrats.”
On its face, Obama’s commentary is a thoughtful and appropriate response to the Democratic Party’s post-Clinton political practices. In many ways, Obama was rearticulating the suggestion made by Howard Dean in the 2004 election –without the racist overtones—that Democrats begin to court people “with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.” The reality is that religion is a central part of American life and Democrats would be fools to continue conceding control of moral and religious discourse to the Right. To do so would not only be counterproductive but unethical.
Unfortunately, few decisions in politics are made on principle alone. Obama’s recent moves have me worried that he’s positioning himself for a spot on the nation ticket by moving even closer to the center than before. While this is not fundamentally problematic, his tactics raise serious questions about the price he’s willing to pay for the ticket.
Like Hillary Clinton, Obama’s comments are sounding more and more foreign to progressive ears. I’m suddenly desperate to figure out how far he’s willing to bend to please alienated conservatives. How much ground is he willing to give on so-called moral issues? Will he hold his ground on Iraq? Only time will reveal the answers to these questions, but his comments don’t inspire hope.
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