Wednesday, October 15, 2008 12:11 AM
With a notoriously “faith-based” presidential administration in its last throes and a race for the White House boasting a varied slate of Christians—a man who’s been called a “semi-Baptist,” a Pentecostal conservative, a Catholic Democrat, and a member of the United Church of Christ whom some insist is a “secret Muslim”—it’s surprising that faith and religion aren’t playing a more central role in the presidential and vice-presidential debates.
There’s been a relative lack of religious talk during the presidential face-offs, and various spirituality blogs are wondering if tonight’s will be any different. Both Christianity Today and the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life noted a dearth of religious talk in their liveblogs of last week’s debate, with the notable exception of Tom Brokaw’s zen question. GetReligion also called attention to the fact that the latest presidential debate’s only spiritual reference was to Buddhism, after the website live-blogged the Palin-Biden debate and its own lack of religious language.
One explanation is that Iraq and the tanking economy have largely pushed aside religious and social issues that dominated previous debate cycles. Nathan Empsall at the Wayward Episcopalian is glad the candidates are addressing the economy, but still frustrated by both candidates’ remarks in that regard. With McCain foundering in the polls and in need of a game changer, it’s questionable whether Christianity will make an appearance in tonight’s debate.
Image by Ricardo Carreon, licensed by Creative Commons.
Thursday, February 28, 2008 3:16 PM
By now, you’ve no doubt heard that Senator Barack Obama once dressed in the traditional garb of a country that he was visiting, a country that happens to be predominantly Muslim. If this sounds like a non-story to you, brace yourself for eight more months of non-news—the Obama/Muslim narrative is far too tantalizing for it to go away.
Responding to such a smear is delicate: One has to be both adamant that Obama is not and never has been a Muslim and clear that the suggestion shouldn’t be so appalling. But it is appalling to many Americans, and, as Firas Ahmad writes in Utne Independent Press Award nominee Islamica, this puts American Muslims in an odd position: While many admire Obama and see him as sympathetic to their particular struggles as Americans, they also know that if he openly sought their support, it would cause his campaign more trouble than it’s worth.
Ahmad doesn’t call for Obama to throw caution to the wind and embrace the Muslim community; the problem is not with the Obama campaign but with public opinion. Ahmad argues that the American Muslim community should invest more money and energy in the sorts of institutions that can actually change public opinion—journalism scholarships, publications, think tanks that engage the general public. He also insists on confronting the fact that few black American Muslims have leadership roles in the U.S. Muslim establishment, even though many of them have been politically and socially engaged far longer than other American Muslims. Such steps could bring the country closer to a place in which it isn’t shocking to suggest that a presidential candidate is a Muslim, in which a candidate is anxious to court Muslim voters just like everybody else.
See also Omid Safi on why Muslims prefer Obama and Juan Cole on the 14 American presidents who, like Obama, have Semitic names.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008 2:02 PM
If you’ve picked up a newspaper anytime since the 2004 election, you’ve likely read some breathless write-up of this story: apparently, there are evangelical Christians in this country who aren’t theocratic, homophobic nuts. In fact there are a few who aren’t even conservatives—and the Democrats have noticed.
It being election season again, you’d think the mainstream media would be interested in seeing how this evangelicals-and-Democrats relationship is going. You’d be wrong. After the Iowa caucuses, the nonprofit resource center Faith in Public Life observed that CNN and NBC exit polls asked Republican voters whether they were evangelicals, but they didn’t ask Democrats. When it happened again in New Hampshire, a group of evangelical leaders protested in a letter to the networks.
A couple dozen state primaries later (having seen little improvement in this lopsided polling) Faith in Public Life, along with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, commissioned a post-election poll in Missouri and Tennessee. The poll, released yesterday, includes a variety of questions about religious affiliation, issue priorities, and candidate preferences. One in three white evangelical voters in the two states voted in Democratic primaries. Among all white evangelicals, jobs and the economy far outranked abortion and same-sex marriage as priority issues. And Hillary Clinton had far more support from this group than Barack Obama did.
These provocative findings could add nuance to the old Dems-and-evangelicals narrative—especially if the networks bother to get this sort of information from the rest of the country. Instead, after three years of the same persistent trend piece, they seem to have lost interest altogether.
Image by Steven Fruitsmaak/Wikinews, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 5:21 PM
CBS News and Digg—the social news-sharing site where members vote to determine which stories make the front page—have teamed up for the 2008 election, reports Mike Shields in Mediaweek. CBSNews.com will allow its election coverage to be Diggable (linked to on Digg), and Digg will begin featuring CBS News video content.
This new-media/old-media alliance may do its part to freshen up 2008’s political coverage, hopefully avoiding the traditional 24/7 crawling ticker of presidential race updates. But it might also snowball into an uncontrollable media mutant, joining the mainstream perspective of CBS News coverage with that of Digg users, who tend to favor Internet sensations. Which means we’ll probably be seeing a lot more of Ron Paul.
Photo by Bennett Gordon.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 2:56 PM
Or rather, Whom would Buffy slay? Utne.com uberintern Brendan Mackie just pointed me to Cogitamus’ expertly assessed lineup of Republican candidates as Buffy the Vampire Slayer villains.
John McCain is tagged as The Master, Buffy’s season one threat and a recurrent lurking danger:
The oldest vampire. Got killed early, but there’s some talk about how he might rise again.
And Ron Paul stands in as Moloch the Corruptor, an ancient demon that finds new life haunting the Internet:
He’s been around a long time, but he only recently absorbed himself into the internet, where he now has a bunch of overexcited followers who spend too much time online.
If Buffy’s not your pop-culture point of reference, you should 1) rethink your pop-culture frame of reference, and 2) enjoy the more accessible slate of Star Wars candidate analogies posted on Craigslist.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 11:42 AM
Today, Michigan Democrats go to the polls to help choose a presidential nominee—either Hillary Clinton, Mike Gravel, or Dennis Kucinich. Barack Obama and John Edwards are not on the ballot; they withdrew their names following the conflict between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the state party over the date of the primary.
So what’s an Obama or Edwards supporter to do? A few creative suggestions have come up. Voters could check “uncommitted,” as the two leading no-show campaigns are urging, according to the state’s Democratic party chairman, Mark Brewer. Or Democrats could take a page from Michigan Republicans’ historical playbook with strategic cross-over votes for Mitt Romney, as Markos Moulitsas Zúniga suggests on the Daily Kos blog.
The editors of News Hits, a department of the Detroit alt-weekly Metro Times, have a more straightforward idea: Vote Kucinich. They argue that Kucinich’s positions on the issues—more than any other candidate’s—actually reflect those of many liberals before they do all the political math and settle on some other, more viable candidate.
The column also notes that today’s primary presents “a perfect opportunity for progressives in Michigan to make a statement without taking any risk.” While the plan probably won't win Kucinich any delegates at the national convention (he's not likely to get the 15 percent of Michigan Democrats he needs, and the DNC is still holding out on alloting the renegade state any delegates), it could establish him as a new brand—Kucinich: The Candidate of Risk-Free Political Statements.
Monday, January 14, 2008 10:27 AM
Which presidential candidate has the best plan for dealing with the affordable-housing crisis?
It’s a tough question, mostly because there’s so little information available to base an answer on. Section 8 vouchers and new development set-asides haven’t exactly been prominent themes on the campaign stump. Writing for City Limits Weekly, an electronic newsletter from City Limits—the bastion of housing coverage—and their affiliated think tank Center for an Urban Future, Jarrett Murphy argues that they should be:
War and terrorism were bound to loom large in the 2008 race, but even among domestic issues, housing has gotten short shrift. In the most recent New York Times/CBS News presidential poll, for example, voters were asked to rank seven issues in order of importance. It turned out that five were domestic issues, but housing problems weren't even among the options, despite their broad impact. "A third of Americans [households comprising about 105 million people] are paying more than they can afford for housing. Compare that to health insurance," says Occidental College politics professor Peter Dreier, who has written about the role of domestic policy in this campaign. "Something like 45 million Americans lack medical coverage – and that's, like, a big scandal."
City Limits contacted a variety of housing experts and stakeholders and put together a survey of questions, which it then sent to each of the campaigns. It didn’t get any responses. So Murphy cobbled together the candidates’ perspectives by gleaning information from their past statements and records on some of the major housing issues.
The piece makes for a slightly wonkier read than, say, a transcript of candidates arguing about who represents real “change.” But it’s fairly important to understand the candidates’ ideas and views on a situation that finds an enormous number of Americans in an utterly vulnerable position.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008 9:08 AM
For the kid inside of you who still dreams of being president, take note. It seems the bar for getting on the ballot in Arizona is mighty low. Jim Nintzel of the Tucson Weekly announced in November:
It turns out that all you have to do to get on the Feb. 5 presidential primary ballot in Arizona is fill out a nomination form. You don't have to pay any fee; you don't have to gather any signatures. Yes, that's right: The state of Arizona will take anybody. There's no political party with veto power to cock-block our fun this political season.
With that opening shot, the alt-weekly began its strange and entertaining train wreck called Project White House, an ongoing feature that showcases a weird, self-selected menagerie of real dark horse candidates, all vying to capture the paper’s endorsement, while they soak up some free coverage.
With tongue securely in cheek, on January 3 Tucson Weekly ran a “Meet the Candidates” article profiling all 25 of their participating candidates, none of whom chart on the national stage.
Presidential hopeful Col. Karl E. Krueger stumps: “You may have noticed that I am not a good-looking man. In the electronic age of visional media, we are voting more and more for the best-looking. Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t stand a chance today.”
Candidate Sean Murphy “considers himself an old-school Republican. Like John McCain once did, he believes agents of intolerance like Pat Robertson have no place in the nation’s dialogue. Like Rudy Giuliani once did, he believes that hard-working immigrants, whether they’ve crossed the border legally or not, are the sort of people we want in this country. Like Mitt Romney once did, he believes that a woman should decide whether to have a child, rather than leaving the decision in the hands of government.”
Watching real people launch themselves into the presidential electoral circus makes for a great show. Unfortunately for that kid inside of you, your bid will have to wait until 2012: The deadline to file passed on December 17. Tucson Weekly’s endorsements will be announced in their January 31st edition.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!