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10/08/2004

Faith Based Initiatives

Amy Sullivan writes about the hollowness of Bush's "faith based" agenda, characterizing it as a political ploy to enhance the conservative Christian sense of persecution. She's right, of course - but the dynamics are much more interesting than that. I read a great piece of analysis somewhere yesterday (I'll find the link later, I need to get ready for a debate watching party) on the way that conservative persecution (victimology, even), is advanced by electoral, legislative, and legal losses. I have long been an acolyte of the Tom Frank school, so this isn't a particularly novel argument, but it's really necessary to understand conservative electoral and legislative strategy.

On a related note, the New Democrats' skewering of Bush's record on "compassionate conservatism" almost makes up for Mark Penn's obnoxious oped in Tuesday's WP [Yglesias at Tapped takes down Penn].

Sullivan's analysis leaves out an important consideration in Bush's "faith based" plan. John Diulio made clear that political gain was all that mattered to the Mayberry Machiavellis running the program, but there are two ways it does so: by increasing persecution and by rewarding supporters with pork. It is a classic case of Bush using public money to advance his electoral interests, much like giving the Independent Women's Forum a $10 million contract to educate Iraqi women on democracy. The quid pro quo is apparent: send me your parish directories, stump for me from the pulpit, register voters for me, and you will get $$$.

 

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