Commonly Used Strategies

Faithful Democrats Adopting Fundamental Dogmatic Practices


Jeff Wismer

January 2007


Special thanks to Frederick Clarkson of Talk to Action for bringing this issue to my attention…


When you click on this…


This is what’ll you’ll see..




First of all What is Common Good?


According to Wikipedia:


The common good is a term that can refer to several different concepts. In the popular meaning, the common good describes a specific "good" that is shared and beneficial for all (or most) members of a given community. This is also how the common good is broadly defined in philosophy, ethics, and political science.


In ethics and political science to promote the common good means to benefit members of society. Thus, in essence, helping the common good equates with helping all people, or at least the vast majority of them. In that sense, the term could be synonymous with the general welfare.

However there is no strict definition of the common good for each situation. The good that is common between person A and person B may not be the same as between person A and person C. Thus the common good can often change, although there are some things such as the basic requirements for staying alive: food, drinking water, shelter that are always good for all people.

The common good is often regarded as a utilitarian ideal, thus representing "the greatest possible good for the greatest possible number of individuals". In the best case scenario, the "greatest possible number of individuals" would mean all humans.

These definitions of the common good present it as a quality which is convertible, or reducible, to the sum total of all the private interests of the individual members of a society and interchangeable with them. Another definition of the common good, as the quintessential goal of the State, requires an admission of the individual's basic right in society, which is, namely, the right of everyone to the opportunity to freely shape his life by responsible action, in pursuit of virtue and in accordance with the moral law. The common good, then, is the sum total of the conditions of social life which enable people the more easily and straightforwardly to do so. The object of State sovereignty is the free choice of means for creating these conditions.

Some assert that promoting the common good is the goal of democracy (in the sphere of politics) and socialism (in the sphere of economics). Also, a central tenet of free-market capitalism going back to Adam Smith's Guiding hand.



Their mission states:


Common Good Strategies (CGS) provides Democratic elected officials, candidates, state parties, and non-profit advocacy groups with the expertise, understanding, and resources that will allow them to authentically engage and connect with America's diverse religious communities. We strive to help candidates better understand the complex American religious landscape and to create opportunities for building relationships with people of faith from across the ideological spectrum on the local and national level. By rediscovering how to communicate Democratic values, CGS is working to help Democrats reframe and expand the national religious debate and focus attention back on the common good and social justice issues that are central to American faith traditions and Democratic strengths.


Doesn’t Sound that bad does it?


Well let’s see what action they have taken so far…


From the New York Times:


Consultant Helps Democrats Embrace Faith, and Some in Party Are Not Pleased


December 26, 2006, Tuesday



As Democrats turn toward the 2008 presidential race, a novice evangelical political operative is emerging as a rising star in the party, drawing both applause and alarm for her courtship of theological conservatives in the midterm elections. Party strategists and nonpartisan pollsters credit the operative, Mara Vanderslice.


“In an interview, [Vanderslice] said she told candidates not to use the phrase "separation of church and state," which does not appear in the Constitution's clauses forbidding the establishment or protecting the exercise of religion.

"That language says to people that you don't want there to be a role for religion in our public life," Ms. Vanderslice said. "But 80 percent of the public is religious, and I think most people are eager for that kind of debate."





Mara Vanderslice’s Business Partner, Eric Sapp wrote the following blog in Faithful Democrats




Why Our Humility Makes Us Better


Oct. 07, 2006

In case anyone doesn't know, "separation of church and state" is not in the Constitution. It shouldn't be in our vocabulary as Democrats either. There are two main reasons for this. First, the political answer: many moderate-to-conservative Christians recoil at the term because it is often misused by secularists to attack any use of faith in the public sphere. Second, the legal/policy answer: this phrase is a very imprecise and misleading shorthand for a beautifully crafted section of the First Amendment. Rather than "separation of church and state," our Constitution has an "Establishment and Free Exercise Clause," and that's the language Democrats should use to describe the legal principles that define the interaction of church and state in this country.

Our Constitution guarantees everyone a right to freely exercise their religion and forbids the state from establishing a single religion. On the other hand, the "separation" language used by many Democrats implies the complete exclusion of faith from the public square, thereby creating restrictions on the free exercise of religion.



Jesse Lava, Co-founder of the so-called “Faithful Democrats”  came running to the aide of Mara & Eric and in doing so slammed Frederick Clarkson of Talk to Action




Mara Has It Right


I'm just now reading all the borderline-vicious reaction (see here, here, and here) that the NY Times piece on Mara Vanderslice's faith-based outreach has generated.  I wish I could have responded sooner, but I've been on vacation and away from the Internet for the past week. 


Most of the criticism -- in the liberal blogs, at least -- seems to come in one of four forms: (1) Mara hates the separation of church and state, (2) there is no actual contingent in the Democratic Party that disrespects faith, particularly evangelicals, or tries to remove faith entirely from public discourse, (3) paradoxically to #2, no one should dare desire any mention of faith in the public square, and (4) Mara didn't really help her candidates as much as the New York Times said she did. 


All off base, all unfair to a great strategist. 




America's Greatest Danger: Progressive Faith Outreach?


It's not a habit of mine to respond to every criticism about me or this site that appears in the blogosphere.  I will make an exception in the case of Frederick Clarkson's selective treatment of my defense of Mara Vanderslice and faith-based outreach, though it will probably be my last word on the subject.  I presume that Mr. Clarkson and I both have bigger fish to fry than other Democrats who agree on the vast majority of issues and principles.



These three (3) Ultimate PC Progressive Christian Warriors are just the latest in the line of so-called Liberal Christians who think their brand of christianity is the best. 


This started with Jim Wallis, and his “RED-LETTER Christians” if you recall my article back in October 2006…




This is just more empty rhetoric from fanatical idealists who think they can change the world with their words that are deliberately pleasing to the ear, but are as empty and shallow as the dead sea.


How did they get here?


Mara Vanderslice:




Mara Vanderslice has been appointed Senator John Kerry’s Director of Religion Outreach.  Catholic League president William Donohue finds her a curious choice:

“Here’s what we know about John Kerry’s religious outreach person.  Mara Vanderslice was raised without any faith and didn’t become an evangelical Christian until she attended Earlham College, a Quaker school known for its adherence to pacifism.  When in college, Mara was active in the Earlham Socialist Alliance, a group that supports the convicted cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal and openly embraces Marxism-Leninism.  After graduating, Mara spoke at rallies held by ACT-UP, the anti-Catholic group that disrupted Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1989 by spitting the Eucharist on the floor.  In 2000, she practiced civil disobedience when she took to the streets of Seattle in a protest against the World Trade Organization.  In 2002, she tried to shut down Washington, D.C. in a protest against the IMF and the World Bank.


“At first, John Kerry was considered too moderate for Mara, which is why she became Howard Dean’s Religion Outreach Director.  She admits that she was a freak in the Dean campaign: her colleagues dubbed her the ‘church lady,’ informing her that Dean was liked precisely because he didn’t talk about religion.  ‘How in the world did you get hired?’ is how one staffer put it.  Unfazed, Mara contends we have a ‘collective commitment to protect the integrity of God’s creation,’ specifically citing the needs of the ‘least of these.’  Yet she supports John Kerry, a man who has never learned of an abortion he couldn’t justify.
 “All the polls show Kerry getting whipped badly by Bush among practicing Catholics, Protestants and Jews.  Moreover, the latest edition of Time magazine reports that only 7 percent of likely voters think Kerry is a man of strong religious faith.  Given all this, his choice of Mara Vanderslice as his religious point woman is confounding.  Her resume is that of a person looking for a job working for Fidel Castro, not John Kerry.  Just wait until Catholics and Protestants learn who this lady really is.”


She joined an evangelical Bible-study group at Earlham College, a Quaker school in Indiana, and says she was born again one day while singing the hymn "Here I Am, Lord."



Eric Sapp:


Eric Sapp, pushed sometimes-reluctant Democrats to speak publicly, early and in detail about the religious underpinnings of their policy views. They persuaded candidates to speak at conservative religious schools and to buy early commercials on Christian radio. They organized meetings and conference calls for candidates to speak with moderate and conservative members of the clergy.


"As fallen creatures living in a fallen world, even those individuals with the best intentions will always fall far short.  That is why our wise founders were so careful to craft a system that avoided the temptation of using the sword of the state to try to enforce or spread the gospel.  Our founders did this not because they had lost their faith in God but rather because their faith allowed them to understand that we are all sinners, and therefore we will never be able to align our priorities and wills perfectly with God's." - Eric Sapp, from Faithful Democrats post previously cited, giving his version of the original motivations behind the Establishment Clause.



Jesse Lava:


To say both that I am a Democrat and that I trust in Jesus Christ should be a rather uncontroversial statement. But somehow the Christian-Democrat combination has come to seem paradoxical among the political chattering classes.

The truth is millions of us Christians are Democrats not in spite of our faith, but precisely because of it -- and millions more would be open to the Democratic Party if it engaged them on their level, presenting political ideas in the context of religious values.

That's why today, as reported in USA Today and the AP, I and numerous others are launching an online community called This site will help redefine what it means to be a religious voter -- moving the nation's values debate from tired wedge-issue politics to the Christian principles of justice and the common good.



It’s painfully obvious that these people want nothing more than to replace the likes of James Dobson, Ted Haggard, and Laura Ingarham with themselves, nevermind the lessons learned by David Kuo (although the idealist he still remains) in his book Tempting Faith.  I guess we should make a dinstinction between a fanatical idealist and a casual idealist.  David Kuo has become a casual one after his experience in the White House.  The movement of the “Faithful Democrats” is more of a fanatical idealist one because of the strategies they have employed, taken right out of the Sycophantic Fundamental Christian Right’s Playbook. 


Maybe the lesson learned here, and David Kuo can atest to this, is that no group, including atheists, should have as much access as the recent Christian Right has had in the White House.  That the White House should run more autonomously…ok that’s just idealistic talk…what I mean is the White House should have more sit downs with politicians and global economic leaders than with theocrats or anti-theocrats of any brand.