Wednesday, November 08, 2006

About Ford's Concession

Junior's concession speech last night was impressive, stirring, and more than gracious in defeat. At the end I surprised to see him return to the language of Zion now that the race is over when he did not have to (excuse my cynical side). But his comments came across as Janus-faced to me, indicating the challenge for Democrats in expressing faith-based values: Democrats should engage religion without morphing into religious candidates. On the one hand, Ford inductively turned to Christian scripture in encouraging his followers to accept the results and move on from the election, quoting Ephesians: "We struggle not against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities." That passage strikes a chord with me as a progressive Christian just as much as it would any more conservative Christian. Ford should have left it there.

On the other hand, he looked up to heaven in a style popular with evangelical athletes after the big play and uttered a prayer to the sky. At that very point he overreached and became the religious candidate rather than the candidate who happened to be religious. As I put it elsewhere, the suit was wearing him. He went too far and not just because he was not being faithful to Jesus' actual instructions that when you pray you should not stand on street corners but retire to your prayer closet in secret. He went too far because he took a unifying and unobtrusive appeal to scripture that would have brought conservative and liberal Christians together and threw a wet blanket on it with an overt attempt at piety (misdirected at outer space as if God were an astronaut).

And that is Harold Ford's primary problem with a voter like me who happens to be Christian. He pushes the faith-based envelope too far. He becomes excessive. He starts transgressing all kinds of moderate bounds that would never be confused with full-blown secularism. That is not a good look for a Democrat.

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