Rev. Derrick Harkins, National Director of Faith Outreach for the DNC
It's hard to believe that the election ended less than two weeks ago. I didn't post much the last few weeks of the campaign because I was knocking doors in Florida, and there's one thing I must say:
THANK YOU to Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee for keeping Governor Romney's Mormonism and mine off the table this campaign! I never doubted President Obama's or Chairwoman Wasserman Schultz's commitment to steer clear of religious attacks, but presidential campaigns are gigantic operations. For Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee to keep the message that tight required serious dedication on the part of staffers and surrogates to resist the urge to "go there."
In the most high-profile anti-Mormon maneuver by a surrogate of which I am aware, she quickly announced her regret for her remarks. I recognize this effort didn't prevent Bill Maher, Andrew Sullivan, and other pundits from attacking the Church, and that we read some news stories that were uncomfortable-but-accurate, but I think these things further underscore the tremendous amount of work the campaign did to keep Mormonism a non-issue in its own operations. Throughout the campaign, Latter-day Saints on the other side of the political aisle would ask me, "What are you going to do when they attack Mormonism in late October?" I told them, "Not going to happen." Thank you again, OFA and DNC, for proving me right and for running a great campaign.
Too often we fail to recognize what goes right in politics. If you (Latter-day Saint or otherwise), want to express your thanks to Obama for America and the Democratic National Committee for keeping Mormonism out of it, I encourage you to leave your name and state in the comments.
For those of you who are unaware, Mormons for Obama, LDS Dems, and the Scott Howell for Senate campaign all had a presence at the DNC. We had a fantastic gathering Tuesday afternoon, where we got to hear from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. (Crystal Young-Otterstrom, chair of LDS Dems, introduced him. Scott Howell also spoke, introduced by Dr. Greg Prince. I said a few words at the beginning.)
This was only the beginning of the LDS presence at the DNC. The Democratic Party has a robust faith outreach team, and they sponsored panels and gatherings throughout the week where we talked about how our faith influences our politics and policy preferences. The panels were moderated by Reverend Derrick Harkins, head of DNC Faith. (He also had a stern rebuttal to those who tried to make a story out of dropping of God from a turn-of-phrase in the Democratic platform.) I participated in a panel Wednesday morning, talking about how we Latter-day Saints care for the poor and needy. That afternoon, Scott Howell spoke to a room of hundreds about being our brother's and sister's keeper, including a quick overview of the Articles of Faith and quoting President Hinckley before closing out by bearing his testimony. (He concluded his talk with, "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen." This man is running against Hatch. He's accomplished in private industry and government. You should check him out.)
After these discussions (and brunch with a Rabbi from Greensboro who had been on my panel that morning), it was very strange to get online and see the "controversy" over whether the Democratic Party had space for religion or people of faith.
Now this concern about secularism is working its way into the Governor's stump speech in various ways. The disconnect is bizarre. Ah well. There's campaigning to do, and a President to re-elect. As many speakers at DNC faith events quoted, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."
The DNC is over; it is like saying goodbye to a good friend. But before I say how much I love and respect President Obama, and how inspired I felt listening to him speak Thursday night - "like General Conference come early," (if I can be egotistical enough to quote my own tweet,) and how I felt like his speech renewed hope for America and brushed aside the RNC's mockery and derisive comments of Obama's call for change, like chaff driven before the wind - before I say all of that, I have a couple of complaints to make.
But don't close your browser - it is not what you think. I realize that some might have found the tone of the DNC to be too harsh and critical, like this blogger at 1MormonDemocrat, but that's not what I'm complaining about. (I took a bit of a drubbing for my "I like Mitt" post from several days back, so I have no interest in being "nice" and getting more feedback like that.) My problem with the DNC is: WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE CAMERAMEN? Did anyone noticed how the side view cameras started shaking anytime they panned back from the speaker? It felt like one of the Bourne films, or even worse, that some Republican-leaning small business was trying to sabotage the DNC. Additionally, the camera seemed to find their audience pan shots at the most inopportune times: when a woman was rubbing her nose, or a child was biting his nails, or Michelle was talking to the Castro Wonder Twins, not paying attention at all. And some of the cuts to the audience were so quick, I was constantly wondering if there wasn't some subliminal advertising in there. That said, they seemed to have it figured out by President Obama's speech on Thursday night.
But back to the other speakers: John Kerry and Joe Biden unleashed a flurry of attacks on Mitt Romney and the Republicans. (Ask Osama Bin Laden if he is better off now than four years ago!) and (I found it fascinating last week — when Governor Romney said, that as President, he’d take a jobs tour. Well with all his support for outsourcing — it’s going to have to be a foreign trip.)
But the prize of the night was hearing our President spell out what four more years would look like. And I dare not comment too much on his near perfect oratory excellence. Instead, I will just be lazy and post the whole thing here:
In a post script to Thurdsday night, we all woke up Friday morning to some stagnant job numbers; this proved a brisk cup of coffee for the Romney campaign: "If last night was the party, this morning is the hangover." (He probably should have said "this morning is the withdrawal," because we are all missing the DNC a lot.) Regardless, I love it when we Mormons make drinking analogies - I mean, it's the one thing we know so much about. Romney might also have been rumored to say, "Obama's jobs plan is about as effective as giving a cup of sacramental wine to an inebriate," and "the Obama stimulus had money bouncing wildly around the country like a game of beer pong," and finally, "what was in that glass anyway?" And so the campaign continues.
President Obama may get a bump in the polls after three days of great speeches (that actually talked about the President, rather than one's self,) but at this point America is just sitting around waiting for the debates: the two men together on stage with no pesky barriers between them - having to answer each other's claims face to face - without Twitter, Fox News, or Cutter and Priebus to answer for them. (And based on Thursday night, I think Obama is going to do just fine.)
Post by Joseph M -
Bill Clinton spoke truth this evening; the mists of darkness that covered the land have dispersed and scattered, and America's collective memory of last week's confusion and half-truths (and even lies) at the RNC has cleared. Clinton solidly reviewed and dismissed the misinformation from the RNC speakers, and he highlighted Obama's record in so many areas. View the speech or read the transcript, if you have not already. By the way, the pundits keep referring to policy wonk, and they're saying that Clinton's speech was full of it. Can I admit that I am already tired of the word, "wonk?" When Romney or Ryan say wonk or wonky, it seems like a desperate attempt to sound cool, but it's completely uncool instead. However, Bill Clinton took cool into the 21st century: he had swag. Paul Adams tweeted: "Usually they tell you not to cram in too many statistics. Different rules apply to Bill Clinton. He makes them sing."
But beyond the wonk or the wonky, Bill Clinton gave us inspiration like this:
"Now -- but he has -- he has laid the foundations for a new, modern, successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you will renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it. Folks, whether the American people believe what I just said or not may be the whole election. I just want you to know that I believe it. With all my heart, I believe it."
This doesn't bode well for Romney and Ryan. President Clinton has given President Obama a load of talking points to take to the debates and every campaign rally from here until November. (And FINALLY we even heard about the proposed cuts to Medicaid!) Having watched three days of the RNC, I am surprised by the tepid drone of the Republican speakers compared to what I have seen in just two days of the DNC. (I am biased here?) I don't think so - check out this article from Smart Politics that reports that Michelle Obama's DNC speech was seven grade levels higher than Ann Romney's. This also is fascinating because Michelle Obama's speech was "written at a higher grade level than all but 11 of the 70 orally delivered State of the Union addresses delivered since 1934." Of course, the Democrats have an advantage because their convention was held a week after the RNC, but more than that: they have the lucky benefit that Truth is back in style and trending on Twitter this week.
And we Mormons are taking to the internet, (Twitter and Facebook), our phones, and even to the streets (of Charlotte NC!) to make clear our message: we are Mormons, and we are voting for Barack Obama for a second term. (See our previous post for links to news articles about the Mormon Democrat gathering in Charlotte.) This article from the Las Vegas Sun may have misunderstood a portion of our purpose when it wrote, "having a Mormon candidate at the top of the Republican ticket will only make it that much more difficult for Democrats hoping to win over the Mormon vote this year. But some felt that even if winning over LDS voters was a longshot, the political circumstances make it worth trying."
You see, Mormons have voted for the Republican ticket in high numbers for some time, and having a LDS candidate doesn't necessarily change that. Besides, change, as Bill Clinton aptly pointed out tonight, is a "long, hard road," and each of us will find our own way. (I haven't always voted Democrat, and neither have many Mormon Obama supporters.) So our goals are beyond convincing other Mormons to vote for Obama - (seriously now) - but we aim to add our unique voices to the wealth of diversity of those supporting President Obama; we understand that we are breaking from the expected, the norm, or even the stereotype. However, this also is part of why we hope to make ourselves heard - and to find strength from one another, because we are "all in this together," and we are not "on (our) own."
With so many reasons to vote for Obama this November, (and thank you Pres. Clinton for spelling it out so clearly,) we Mormons also feel to press forward and do what we can to get him that second term. In this regard, Bill Clinton asked this question during his address: "Are you willing to work for it?" We answer with the delegates at the Charlotte convention: "Four more years!"
Read Hannah's post here to find out how you can get involved.
MormonsforObama.org will have more coverage of this event in the next several days - so stay tuned.
Michelle Obama took the stage tonight, and she proved her amazing ability to connect with America. But we wish to post a speech tonight that may have been buried in all the other convention coverage. This address by Iraq war veteran and US House candidate Tammy Duckworth shed light on what this election is all about: