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Saturday, April 16, 2005

VA-Gov: Tim Kaine Supporting Theocracy

Posted by Bob Brigham

From Raising Kaine:

The GOP, under the leadership of the Far Right, is now attacking Democrats for lacking Christian Faith. This is deplorable politics, and quite frightening to see. These sorts of attacks should not surprise us though. The GOP has found that the best way for them to win has been to attack Democrat’s patriotism (as in the case of both Max Cleland and Tom Daschle), and now they are just upping the ante. If they are successful here in Virginia, this will only encourage them to escalate these attacks further.

Agreed. So what does Tim Kaine do? Does he blast the Theocrats like Sen. Majority Leader Reid or make theocracy a campaign issue like DNC Chair Howard Dean? No, he joins the religious war by trying to triangulate himself as being holy enough to be part of the theocracy.

Tim Kaine has gone a great distance to try to undermine the GOP’s strategy. He’s been ahead of the game, putting up radio ads all across Virginia, but most especially in the rural areas of the state, talking about how his religious faith has guided his life.

Instead of criticizing the theocrats for starting a Holy War, Tim Kaine is helping them by joining their Holy War. This selfishness is actually undermining Democrat's national effort to stop the Holy War.

Here are some more resources:

Tim Kaine: Virginia: Tim Kaine campaign rejects reason; rejected by voters

Tim Kaine: 2005 Virginia Governor, who is running Kaine's campaign?

MyDD Tim Kaine: More Self-Hating Democrats

Posted at 02:12 PM in 2005 Elections, Democrats, Virginia | Technorati


Being the person from Raising Kaine who actually wrote the post being cited, I'd like to take a moment to point out why the premise of the above post is completely inaccurate.

First of, Kaine is not at all becoming or legitimizing the Far Right. Instead, he is simply making sure that the language of religion is not completely coopted by the Far Right. There are Progressives who happen to be Christian after all, and the message of the Gospels, as many have said, are far more concerned with the poor and the downtrodden than they are with abortion or gay marriage.

Kaine speaks of faith in more progressive terms, focussing on the passage 'Faith without works is dead'. Allow me to quote my own post (a part that you may not have read):

What Kaine is doing is showing how faith has moved his life, which tells voters that his values are based in the same thing as theirs (and let’s face it, most of the electorate in Virginia is Christian). This gives Kaine the ability to forge a connection with these rural voters (you know, the working white men and women who used to vote Democratic regularly but are now, for social reasons, voting more Republican). With a connection established, later in the campaign, Kaine will be able to talk about other issues, such as economic ones, that will resonate further with these groups of voters. If no connection were made now, then these voters wouldn’t even listen to him.

What we are really seeing here, is at attempt to make the religious issues and values work for us Democrats. Kaine is laying the groundwork for reframing the debate over values here in Virginia. If he does not establish his bona fides first though, he will never be successful. Kaine is not in the least moving to the right, he's preparing the voters to follow him back to the middle (which is where Democrats have to be to win elections statewide these days).

Democrats would do well to at least address issues of faith and morals. But we should do it in a progressive fashion. We will not make ourselves theocrats by any stretch of the imagination, for faith at its heart is truly voluntary. True faith is never compulsive.

I recommend looking at the work of Jim Wallis and Sojourners, one of the leading voices for Progresive Evangelicals. His most recent book is titled, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It".

Posted by: Matusleo [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 16, 2005 05:29 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

There is a huge difference between talking about one's own faith and trying to make the Bible the law of the land.

As Democrats, we should vigorously oppose the would-be theocrats, but that does not mean we have to oppose every person or candidate who talks openly about their faith.

Bob, do you intend to offer even a single quote from Kaine that suggests he supports the efforts of Frist, et al.? Because if you are suggesting a litmus test where any candidate who talks about their personal faith is automatically aligned with the theocrats, then I respectfully decline to impose such a test.

Posted by: Steve M [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 16, 2005 05:54 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Washington Post:

"Sometimes our candidates have trashed the religious right, when what we meant to trash is a bad idea," he said, prompting more than a few hard-core Democrats to squirm in their seats. "We should never, never label people who are from the religious right."

The GOP is going "nuclear" as part of holy war. Meanwhile, we have a "Democrat" in a major race using the word "never" -- twice -- in telling the rest of the Party what we can't do while framing the debate. Hearing that he's spreading his triangulation on religion across the airwaves right now doesn't please me -- to say the least.

It is a self-defeating strategy and I don't what to see someone in a 2005 race be selfish enough to screw up our message in 2006. The zealots are the bad guys, not the people we are courting. But Kaine is painting the rest of the Party as the bad guys while kissing up to the theocrats.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 16, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm not sure what all of the fuss is about. The joke in VA is that you need two things to win a state election: a lobotomy and religion.

Kaine has several large hurdles to overcome. First and foremost, he's historically outspoken against capital punishment in the #1 per-capita state for executions, ahead even of TX. Kilgore can kill (no pun intended) him on that issue.

Kaine also has Warner to deal with. While the sitting governor is very popular, he might have been too successful in cleaning up VA's fiscal problems -- he leaves nothing for Kaine but a "if you liked Mark Warner, wait till you see Tim Kaine!" tag line.

What Kaine also seems to be aware of is the Democratic problem of the Southern Albatross. Look at the last 40 years. The Democrats have failed to take the White House on their own power in every election since 64. Carter won in 76 because of Watergate; Perot really had it in for Bush 41, and helped Clinton win. Only Clinton in 96 is an aberration in that trend, and that was a RE-election.

Until the Democrats can win in the South, they cannot win nationally, period. I may be giving Kaine too much credit, but he seems to be intuitively on to the multiple traditions of faith in the Bible, and thus the multiple avenues the Democrats have to attract people of faith. They could, for instance, focus on the Biblical message of the prophets and turn things like poverty into moral issues -- which Kaine seems to have an idea about. What Kaine is saying, as I read it, is that painting with too broad a brush makes it only too easy for the GOP's schtick that the Democrats are "anti-religion" to seem plausible. In order to expose that for the charade it is, the Democrats have to be able to reach out to people of faith, and a logical first step is to be more selective in how they publicly define the "religious right."

Look at the opposition Bush has from mainline religious groups. Look also at the growing number of Evangelicals against Bush. Kaine's on to something, and some of the criticisms of him floating around are absurd.

Posted by: Quaternarian [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2005 11:27 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Until the Democrats can win in the South, they cannot win nationally, period.

Nope. The Democratic Party's history is in the south, the future is out west. Let's just make sure we don't screw up the message in dozens key western races while trying in vain to win a southern mansion.

I care more about winning the message war every day then screwing up our message to try to win a single race.

Look at the writing on the wall. Dean says Schiavo will be a 2006 campaign issue. Everyone from Reid to the NYT is complaining about the Holy War. We need to focus on attacking the fundamentalists every chance we get between now and 2006. It is our values vs. their zealotry. Kaine needs to stop giving the wackos cover, stop preaching about what Democrats' message should be, and join the team. There are larger issues at stake than Tim Kaine.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2005 01:06 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

In an ideal world, we should not be labelling people. I grant that this is not an ideal world, of course. But Kaine did also state that we should be attacking a bad idea, not the person who said it. Which truly is what we should be doing, again.

His use of the term 'religious right' was calculated. Virginia is the home of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. Religious Right is not a dirty word here sadly. Liberal is. Anti-death penalty is.

Kaine's insistence on attacking bad ideas though is the right idea. It is not in opposition to the efforts of Reid and national Democrats. Quite frankly, Reid and national Democrats are attacking some really bad ideas, all cobbled together in a theocratic fashion. They are not attacking religion, religious groups, or people of faith. They are attacking a perversion of religion that seeks to enthrone itself in government. And rightfully so.

What Kaine is doing in Virginia is simply showing the voters here where his values come from, and by such, form a connection with voters across the state that he will need to win. If he can make those connections, then he can introduce them to progressive ideals they may not have had much exposure to, or may not have seen from a religious standpoint.

Quite frankly, Kaine's efforts may do quite a bit to help build a progressive network in Virginia. Reid and national Democrats need to keep right on doing what they are doing. Down on the ground, folks like Kaine will show folks that religious faith is a far vaster universe than the right would allow.

Posted by: Matusleo [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2005 05:32 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It isn't about religion, it is about theocracy. It isn't about ideas, it is about people. It isn't about positions, it is about framing. It isn't about one race in Virginia, it is about winning in 2006. My hope is that I don't see Kaine triangulate against Democrats again -- I'll call him on it.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2005 06:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Are you making any distinction between talking about one's faith and triangulation? Do you even consider it possible for a Democrat to do one without doing the other?

Posted by: Steve M [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2005 07:51 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

How about this.

Framing as Social Justice. Draws the line where the Democrat is on the same side as the rest of the Party. Big difference.

Posted by: Bob Brigham [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 17, 2005 08:16 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Certainly, I agree with Matusleo. Kaine *is* saying to attack the idea, rather than the person, and he has a good reason for that in his state -- because the Religious Right is very, veru successful in painting the Democrats as the anti-God party in a very religious state.

"The Democratic Party's history is in the south, the future is out west."

Out west? Where the Democrats will never win Utah or Alaska, and will have an unfathomably difficult time winning in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana? Where they *should* be able to win in places like Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, but can't? Where Washington and Oregon aren't nearly so solidly Democratic as their state politics would indicate?

Looking at the West, the heretofore reliable Democratic states (CA, OR, WA, HI) are worth only 77 votes. The mountain west, which the Democrats certainly cannot sweep and would be lucky to break deeply into, is worth a total of 44.

The South, taken in total, is an electoral prize of 177 -- almost 2/3 of what a Republican would need to win the White House. That's too big a pot for the Democrats to leave alone -- if they want to win in 2008, they have to be able to break into the South, period.

2006 is a different story, because the politics will be as *local* as they are *national* -- that's the problem the Democrats have to overcome between now and then. Let's be honest about the party -- until recently, and this has yet to be proven otherwise, the Democrats have suffered from a leadership void, and they have *no* message; the Democrats are trying to be all things to all people and wind up being nothing to anyone, except, well, they're not the Republicans (but they can't articulate what that *means*, exactly).

When the GOP was out of power and trying to get back in, they had a big-tent philosophy, and the Democrats have something of that, however grudgingly. What I mean is that if Reid weren't so powerful, the DNC would never, ever tolerate his pro-life views. This is a mistake. The Democrats are letting small things divide them. When your message is poverty relief, lowering the GINI index (put into lay terms for campaigns), improving working conditions, etc. -- when your message is directed at working Americans, does it matter if it has a secular or religious pacakging? The Democrats seem to think it does, and it will continue to kill them.

Big picture? Let's look at the big-picture elements of this 2005 election. VA [i]always[/i] elects a governor of the opposite party from the President -- if Kilgore wins, it will mark the first time a sitting President had an incoming VA governor in his party. Not too much, but loads of hay to be made with that.

What it also would mean is that the Democrats failed to hold on to a vacant governorship in a state whose outgoing Democratic governor was successful beyond all expectations and whose outgoing approval rating (as of now) is flirting with 70%. Lose [i]that[/i] "southern mansion," and the effect will be incalculable -- whomever runs for President in 2008 can forget about campaigning [i]anywhere[/i] in the South -- and that would include John Edwards (I can't imagine Warner being the Dem nominee for either P or VP in 2008).

What you seem to be advocating is a party-line approach. That only works for the party IN power, not the party aspiring to power. Big tent, not exclusive message. Let's not overlook the irony of the message-less party insisting that its members hold the line. When the message is there, it can be left to the state-level party to package it as appropriate to that particular constituency. 80% of American consider themselves religious; much as the Democrats don't like that, don't respect that and somehow manage to talk themselves out of being able to make use of that, it's not going to change in time for the 2006 midterms.

Incidentally, recent polls have Kaine picking up on Kilgore. He keeps gaining ground, and he may just pull it off.

Posted by: Quaternarian [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 18, 2005 01:04 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Bob, I'm going to have to (at least somewhat) disagree with you on this one. The Republicans are on a campaign to cast the Democrats as the party that hates religion. Any party that is seen as hating religion has no chance to win in elections. For better or worse, a large majority of this country is religious. I think that efforts like George Lakoff's "Social Justice Sunday," and PastorDan's Affirmation Project are two great ways to counter that. Both of these involve openly talking about religion and how it affects oneself.

I think it's great that Reid and others are out there attacking the Republicans for declaring Holy War. However, I think Democrats can put up a second front to this battle. Rather than just saying "how dare you do that!" I think it would also be wise for Democrats to show that we are religious and don't hate the faithful. I don't think Tim Kaine talking about his religion is at all a bad thing for his campaign OR for the Democratic party.

That being said, I do agree with you that Tim Kaine should not beat up on fellow Democrats by saying stuff like what you blogged about a week and a half ago.

Posted by: Fran for Dean [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 18, 2005 02:37 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment