Obama is the New Huckabee?

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Feb 29, 2008 8:13 AM

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Never mind the Muslim middle name uproar -- in Texas, Barack Obama is now positioning himself as the Christian candidate ...  Dwayne Horner alerts us to this flier -- which has been distributed by Obama's campaign in Texas. [# More #]
"My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want, but I won't be fulfilling  God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's Work ..."

(Paid for by Obama for America).

This sort of line will play very well with church-going folks, regardless of political ideology (though I wonder what the liberal secular-humanists think of it.  Probably they hope it's just a campaign ploy).  And I think it's very possible that this will not only work in Texas, but that Obama might actually be able to wedge some of the purpose-driven-life-type Evangelical voters away from McCain, if he continues in this manner.

It works especially well for Obama, because he is very comfortable using this style of religious language and imagery that appeals both to liberals and Evangelical Christians.  

Here's an example from his speech in Selma that I think highlights his ability to use ideas that an 80-year old conservative might be familiar with, to explain the civil rights struggle:

So I just want to talk a little about Moses and Aaron and Joshua, because we are in the presence today of a lot of Moseses. We're in the presence today of giants whose shoulders we stand on, people who battled, not just on behalf of African Americans but on behalf of all of America; that battled for America's soul, that shed blood , that endured taunts and formant and in some cases gave -- torment and in some cases gave the full measure of their devotion.
By using Moses and Joshua as a metaphor for civil rights, Obama appeals not only to African-Americans (who vote disproportionately Democratic), but also to Evangelical Christians (who tend to vote Republican, and who may also feel the need to to expiate for past injustices).  Usually candidates who want to appeal to diverse audiences will target different messages to different constituencies.  This, of course, can lead to contradictions and other messy problems.  But Obama has shrewdly found a way to appeal to both audiences -- with the same speech!

While much has been made of his having a Muslim background (some of which was legitimate, and some of which was probably put out by the Hillary campaign), Obama's conversion to Christianity apparently came when he worked as an organizer in the South Side of Chicago:

Obama, his mother a nonbeliever and his father absent, grew up without religion. But as he worked with South Side ministers and devout volunteers, he became interested. Eventually, he began attending Trinity United Church of Christ, a church — not affiliated with his project — whose pastors honored African history and preached the importance of giving back to the community.

In other news, the IRS is currently investigating Obama's church over a speech he gave at their national convention.  While this could hurt certainly Obama, I can also envision a scenario where his standing up to the IRS -- and essentially arguing that a political leader has every right to speak at a church -- might endear him to some conservatives who view the "separation of church and state" as an assault on religion. 

But the real question, for me, at least, is whether or not Obama is enjoying a double-standard here.   Clearly, his campaign is seeking to associate him as the Christian candidate.  As you'll recall, Mike Huckabee was criticized for wearing his religion on his sleeve.  My question is whether or not Obama will have to answer similar questions due to this overtly religious flier ...