OBAMA GOES TO WARREN.

Sarah's post critiquing Alan Wolfe's essay in TNR is interesting. The whole Rick Warren kerfuffle (actually it may have reached windspeeds high enough to upgrade it to a brouhaha at this point) has inspired a lot of fuzzy thinking (not from Sarah though) -- one reason I haven't written anything is that I couldn't quite explain to myself or anyone else why I wasn't that bothered by it. But I think Ed Kilgore does a very good job of summarizing the politics here:

Warren's motivation seems to be to reestablish the political
independence of conservative evangelicals. Best I can tell, he dislikes
the "marriage" between his religious flock and the secular-conservative
GOP because (a) he is a more thoroughgoing fundamentalist than others,
and takes seriously biblical injunctions like "creation care" and
anti-poverty efforts, along with the usual social-conservative agenda,
and (b) he thinks the Christian Right hasn't gotten much from its
relationship with the GOP, and needs to regain some leverage. [...]

If Alan Wolfe is right, and Obama is trying to split the
conservative coalition, and perhaps tempt its membership into a more
moderate position, then both Warren and Obama have very similar
motives: cooperating with the enemy of their enemy for purely tactical
purposes.

Maybe Barack Obama is the United States of the 1970s, Rick Warren is Red China, and James Dobson is the Soviet Union. Obama and Warren have lots of reasons to make nice with each other, with an eye towards the maddening effect it's having on Dobson. But let's don't confuse this with some real convergence of views, actual or probably even potential. Obama's and Warren's views on some very fundamental aspects of moral and political life are irreconcilable.

This is a key point, I think. Warren may sometimes get involved in politics, as with Prop. 8, but he's not in favor of the religious right being a subsidiary of the GOP in the way that, say, Mike Huckabee or James Dobson are. Meanwhile, Katha Politt makes a comprehensive case against Warren in the LA Times but, to my eyes, ends up undermining her own point with this:

To understand how angry and disappointed many Democrats are that Barack Obama has invited evangelical preacher Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural, imagine if a President-elect John McCain had offered this unique honor to the Rev. Al Sharpton -- or the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. I know, it's hard to picture: John McCain would never do that in a million years. Republicans respect their base even when, as in McCain's case, it doesn't really return the favor.

But the GOP's habit of avoiding offending the base hasn't accomplished anything! In fact, it has resulted in a national consensus in favor of all the things the GOP base hates!

Is there something repugnant about inviting Warren? Sure, just like negotiating with mass-murderer Mao Zedong was repugnant in its way too. Nor was it either strictly necessary or really fair to the staunch anti-communists who'd backed Nixon. But I think history will judge this as an attempt to make the issues evangelicals will never agree with liberals on, like abortion, less toxic to political cooperation in other areas, which at least seems like a plausible goal to me.

--Sam Boyd

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