Having spent most of my time so far in religious events I decided to go to a “secular” event to see if the excitement that religious based activist are feeling here in Denver is translating into the general conversation.
The answer, in short, is no. I attended three panels supported by Air America Radio and the Progressive Book Club with such luminaries as Arianna Huffington, Paul Krugman, Ted Sorensen, Eric Dyson, Van Jones, Anne-Marie Slaughter and Thom Hartmann with hardly a word about religion or its role in this moment in American history.
The two exceptions were Jon Podesta, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff who mentioned Jane Hull as a religious example of inspiration for the new progressive movement; and Ted Sorensen, JFK’s speech writer who compared the distrust of Kennedy’s Roman Catholicism with the racial distrust that many hold against Barack Obama. He said it was extreme and vitriolic and stopped many Protestants from voting for Kennedy. Responding, Jon Alter opined that Obama had to go into the polls leading by 5% to allow for the racism that would be a part of the electorate’s decision. The equating of the racial discrimination of Obama with religious discrimination of JFK was a first for me and I am still considering its implications.
While God or any other religious word was absent from the discussion, the word of the day was “progressive.” It is nice to have our blog’s name vindicated in such a repeated way. The word was used to exhaustion avoiding such ugly words as liberal or left that leave so many feel uncomfortable. Check out Progressive Revival’s Randall Balmer for his take on the L-Word.
More interestingly was the belief put forth by Huffington, Podesta, and Krugman that echoed Alexia Kelley’s point about the Catholic vote from the morning’s panel – that the majority of Americans are progressive if you can remind them what progressive politics mean which include, among other things, social security and universal health care. While religion might not have made a revival at this afternoon’s panel, progressivism is back with a vengeance.