Interesting story about local Democrats looking to make in roads with religious voters.
I think this county is headed for a complete Democratic take over. Democrats already control the Board of Supervisors 3-2 ( with one liberal R) and I believe they have more mayors too ( any easy way to fact check this?). The state senate next year for East County might even be in play. Add to that an aggressive drive to undermine the GOP base and if we see another perfect storm on the national scale the Democrats locally will make strong gains if they make long term plans now.
Democrats exploring ways to reach faithful
By Tom Kisken
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Democrats in Ventura County are coming together to talk about connections between politics, faith-based values and morality.
That's right, Democrats.
As part of a ramped-up effort to reach into territory once all but conceded to the GOP, members of the Ojai Valley Democratic Club will meet today to explore ways of reaching out to Jews, Muslims, Christians and others. A week ago, Democrats and faith leaders had a similar conversation in Thousand Oaks.
"The right wing has sort of hijacked Jesus," said Sue Broidy, president of the Ojai club. "This is a chance to remind people that the Democratic Party has traditionally represented the New Testament values of freedom and justice for all."
The California Democratic Party is one of the few state Democratic organizations in the nation to employ a full-time interfaith outreach director. That faith liaison, Jerl Laws, has been on the job about a year, journeying around the state to lead roundtable discussions and Religion 101 workshops that party leaders say are intended to level the playing field.
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"We haven't done a good job. It's because we haven't been out there educating people on where we stand," said former state Sen. Art Torres, chairman of the California Democratic Party. He added that the goal is to show people there is more than one way to think about faith values. "We don't believe God is a Republican, Democrat or a Green Party member."
Expanding discussion on faith
Some Democrats argue too much of the political debate on morality and faith focuses on a handful of red-ember issues such as abortion and gay marriage. They want to expand the discussion to include the war in Iraq, global warming and the uninsured. Some leaders argue even the federal budget should be seen as a moral issue.
Similar discussions are going on throughout the nation, at least in part because of the belief that the faith vote four years ago helped deliver the presidential election to George Bush. Diane Winston, a USC scholar interested in connections between faith and politics, said Democrats believe they can make inroads into Catholic and evangelical communities that are making priorities of environment and poverty.
But while some Republicans focus on very conservative Christian communities, the challenge for Democrats is figuring out how to talk to a diverse array of faith groups without overdoing it.
"It's going to be a delicate balancing act because Americans seem a little bit fatigued with religion," said Winston. "It's kind of a Catch-22. People want their leaders to speak in religious language, but they don't want too much religion in actual policymaking."
What some people want is less campaigning about morality and more action.
"I want politicians to function above any one religion but to reflect the values of all religions," said Rabbi Lisa Hochberg-Miller of Temple Beth Torah in Ventura. "I don't think we see that at all."
The Rev. Rob McCoy is pastor of a conservative Christian congregation in Thousand Oaks who often talks about government from the pulpit and invites faith-driven politicians to talk to his congregation. He, too, feels disillusioned.
"You know when you're being played," he said. "Whenever you look at the church as a voting bloc and you're trying to garner or muster votes by saying the right thing to those people, then you do not understand the church in America."
Faithful looking for consistency
Republican political consultant Wayne Johnson of Sacramento argues people in his party sometimes fixate on just the litmus test issues. They believe they'll gain and hold religious support just by mentioning issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Faith conservatives want certain stances on those issues, but they also want a consistent approach to anything that addresses the family, Johnson said.
As far as the Democrats, the party should strive for the days when it symbolized morality for many people. But some politicians may have to change their beliefs to renew that connection, Johnson said.
"When the Democratic Party in the 1950s and '60s embraced the civil-rights movement, it was good for the party and it was good for the country," he said. "But you can't replace racial equality as an issue with making the world safe for partial-birth abortion and expect to maintain the moral high ground."
Democrats emphasize they're not trying to advocate the beliefs of one religious group but rather to explore the moral and spiritual implications of environmental stewardship and foreign policy.
They say they want to acknowledge that religion is as important to their party members as to anyone else.
When Law first started as the party's interfaith director, he told people his job was to talk in public about the two things most likely to start arguments: politics and faith.
Now the 34-year-old Christian who has on his own studied Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism sees his work as more of a marriage counselor. He works to get faith and political leaders together so they can understand the issues that unite them.
His job is to show people the links between political issues, morality and faith. If that's achieved, he said, votes will come naturally.