Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Crewcuts, Crosses, and Clinton? Hillary's Got Religion

VIRGINIA BEACH – For quite some time, a broad swath of Democratic strategists have been arguing that the Democratic Party and religious faith need not be mutually-exclusive – and that Dems of faith might actually have an advantage in rural and exurban America. Clearly, the Clinton campaign has been paying very close attention.

In what must be one of the more interesting media flourishes of this campaign, or any other, Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody, cites with abandon Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet's September 1, 2007 Mother Jones article, which details Clinton's long-term involvement with an ultra-elite prayer group known as The Fellowship:

“Clinton's God talk is more complicated—and more deeply rooted—than either fans or foes would have it, a revelation not just of her determination to out-Jesus the GOP, but of the powerful religious strand in her own politics. Over the past year, we've interviewed dozens of Clinton's friends, mentors, and pastors about her faith, her politics, and how each shapes the other. And while media reports tend to characterize Clinton's subtle recalibration of tone and style as part of the Democrats' broader move to recapture the terrain of "moral values," those who know her say there's far more to it than that.

CBN citing Mother Jones? Who would have thunk it. In fact, both pieces reflect exceptionally well on the senator. While the Mother Jones article maintains:

"...[T]he senator's project isn't the conversion of her adversaries; it's tempering their opposition so she can court a new generation of Clinton Republicans, values voters who have grown estranged from the Christian right..."
Brody goes one step further:

"Politically, Hillary Clinton's critics can paint her as a liberal. But there is a resume of material here that portrays her as more moderate than you might think. Sometimes Hillary's critics spend so much time trying to demonize her that the entire picture isn't properly represented."

More importantly, Joyce and Sharlet view Clinton's Fellowship participation as more transcendental than political, opining, "In her own way, she is a true believer."

Clearly, Clinton is already positioning herself for the general election. In the world of political brand-building, the Clinton campaign either hit the trifecta – with props from Mother Jones and CBN all in one day – or it is positioning Clinton for a soft launch as a "Democratic woman of faith." Both sources convey an aura of authenticity about Clinton's recently-discovered positioning. The question is whether Magenta State voters will be able to slice through two decades of the GOP counter-framing Clinton as a "Secular Humanist Ultra-liberal" and take her acts of faith – on faith. Or, more importantly, in the near-term, will liberals, labor, and the Netroots see Sen. Clinton's faith as the margin of victory in the general election of 2008, or validation of a their own fears that the real Hillary Clinton might still a bit too much of a Goldwater Girl to protect their social and economic interests.

No comments: