The following is based on a promise I made.
I talked with members of ResCom at ACS. I read Jesus for President. I'm reading Thinking Points (one chapter at a time, because there are so many ideas per chapter that you really need to take the time to digest them before pressing on). What I keep coming to is that, in spite of what Jim Wallis says, someone needs to organize the religious left. If it were going to be me, here's what my four-point plan would look like:
1. Values, not endorsements
The Matthew 25 Network is a PAC that endorses candidates and makes radio ads in support of those candidates. I did not know this when I first heard about it. So when I went to their website - which at the time contained a place to sign up for emails, a giant endorsement for Barak Obama, and nothing more - I was deflated instantly.
It's not that I disagree with an endorsement of Barak Obama. As a matter of fact, I fully plan to vote for him in November. The problem is that I didn't yet know that this was a PAC. It was pitched to me as a place where liberal Christians could come together and share ideas. We need this more than we need a group buying radio time in a desperate attempt to counter-message the religious right's statements(if you've read any George Lakoff, you know that this is wasted effort anyway).
The other problem is that there was no statement about why The Matthew 25 Network was endorsing Barak Obama. Is it because McCain is unacceptable? Is it because they think Obama is the Jesusiest? Is it based on his stance on one single issue? Who knows? There is no values statement other than whatever you can glean from reading Matthew 25. You might think that's a no-brainer, but I've seen some wacky interpretations of that passage.
By just showing a picture of Obama with "endorsement" slapped across it, you're aligning yourself with everything about the candidate, whether you believe in every part of their platform or not.
What we need is a list of values. Just a list of the things we believe in, and why we believe them. We need this list to be created independently of political frames. No politicians. No political language. This will not always be easy. It's hard to approach an issue such as abortion without having to weed through all of the frames that have been generated by each side of the debate on this issue. I do think, though, that in this initial stage it is important to try.
By having a list of values rather than a list of politicians, we are leaving no ambiguity about what it is we stand for. By not miring it in political language, we are setting ourselves up as having an agenda larger than politics. In the end, it should never be about getting "our people" in power, just showing what we think those we trust with our votes should be made of.
To be continued...