Friday, November 19, 2004

Clinton Got It

I was never a huge fan of Bill Clinton's, in large measure because I felt he lay down to the Republicans far too much. (How come the metaphors always seem to say too much when you write about that guy?)

But what no one doubts -- indeed, it's a cliche -- is that Clinton was a master politician. One example of that brilliance was his effortless ability to speak a language -- now seemingly absent from the front ranks of the Democratic Party -- that spoke to the Christian community. And he was able to do so not by embracing the cultural politics of hate and exclusion and intolerance, but by invoking that part of the Christian tradition that calls on the fortunate, as Clinton put it shortly before he retired: "to lift the fortunes and hopes of those who deserve a better hand than they have been dealt -- whether in Africa, Asia, Latin America or Appalachia, the Mississippi Delta, the inner cities or the Native American reservations... Christ admonished us that our lives will be judged by how we do unto the least of our neighbors."

George Bush quoted from this last sentence during his eulo--er, tribute to Clinton today, and it's an exact clue to how the Democrats ought to talk. The Democrats need to understand that to reach out to the Christian community, they need to speak to this part of their faith. Bush refers to his party's compassion; the Democrats actually stand for it. The difference boils down to one word: credibility. And that matters as much in Red states as in Blue ones.

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