Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Burns Strider Headshot

Manning Up to Sharing Our Testimony as Democrats

Posted: Updated:

Democracy is truly a beautiful thing. In America we fight it out, folks vote and our government shapes itself accordingly. We move forward.

Democracy can be hard, too. The harsh realities of money and its undue influence on working folks and middle class Americans simply seeking what's best for their families, communities and the American dream becomes nakedly apparent at times.

Americans often feel empowered, get involved, become part of a movement and they win. Then the sausage-making of policy and governing elongates the envisioned road map of their hope and change. Folks become disillusioned and step away. They are not naïve. It's incumbent on the political process to properly discern their vision and create the space for it to remain alive and active.

I do politics centered within faith and values. And I do it as a Democrat. "Narrative" is a word I hear and use several times a day. Back home, in Mississippi, the operative word would "testimony." I've joined fellow believers at many Sunday night services when the floor was open for anyone to stand and share their testimony -- they tell their friends what's happening in their lives, how their faith is supporting and informing them and share the work of their God in their lives.

Everyone has a testimony. In the public marketplace of ideas and politics we don't cotton to the testimony of any one faith. All can share their testimonies as Americans from the standpoint of their values and how they shape their public views.

In fact, to be successful, candidates must share their narratives -- their testimonies -- in order to win. Any candidate can knock on a door, but only candidates who have connected, personally, with common values, will get into the living room where they can share their plans once elected.

A candidate can drone on for hours about policy and trillion dollar debt and reducing deficits. A candidate can talk about how many people will be served by health care reform or how much money will be ultimately saved by that reform. But, unless that candidate has shared their personal values, showcased who they are and connected on the common ground - person to person, family to family -- of shared goals for America then all the wonkish, faceless talk is fruitless.

We, as Democrats, sometimes miss this foundational set of building blocks that leads to Election Day success. It's not a cynical overture to voters but rather a rational, valid part of sitting down with Veterans, clergy, labor, business leaders and others to tell them who you are, what you believe and why you share common values with them.

Faith often plays a central role. Another term I often use and hear being used is "authenticity." It's not about being of a certain religious belief, but it is about not hiding that belief under a bushel. It's about a candidate letting her light shine in a way that consecrates their faith, or non-faith as it may be, as being in tune and in touch with the values of the voters.

There's a growing chorus of voices bemoaning the ongoing losses, by Democrats, of the support of working class Americans. Many drive pickups and hunt and fish. And, most hold fast to a belief in God. They also hold fast to a belief in the predominance and promise of America. Democrats, too often, simply fail to connect on personal levels with these important Americans. So, when we begin espousing disconnected policy and wonkish legislative goals we have no common ground for hanging our hat. We're still on the front porch.

Republicans are often good at sharing their testimonies and being invited off the front porch into the living room. They freely share their faith, make the relational meetings stick and connect on the common ground of shared values.

Sadly, when doing this, Republicans take extraordinary and improper steps, and turn God into a secular icon and Christianity into a civic religion. A false litmus test forms demanding a certain type of, just not faith, but Christianity, for candidates to fit into.

This is bad for America, and creates a false assumption about the narrative of faith and values that turns off many progressives.

Republicans, their leaders and politicians, sadly bow at a false alter in this respect. But not before they manage to solidify the foundational set of building blocks that helps them attain Election Day success.

We, as progressives, as Democrats, shun the secularizing and politicizing of faith. We should. But, we go too far and allow that concern to build a wall between authentic and needed narrative.

We must man up to sharing our testimony.