James Carville has suggested, in light of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s scheduled appearance at the Republican National Convention (update below), that the Democrats invite the Nuns on the Bus to theirs. While of course if the sisters’ bus showed up at the convention no one should turn it away, the Democrats should not extend an invitation. Here’s why:
1. James Carville is the man who said this.
2. While the nuns do admirable work helping the poor and the needy, and their bus campaign has helped raise awareness that Paul Ryan’s claim that his budget is in line with Catholic social teaching is—to say the least—a stretch, Democrats shouldn’t play the Republicans’ game of obtaining religious imprimaturs on legislation and policy.
3. Democrats should be the party of secular government. The nuns are nice people and all, but if the Republicans seek Dolan’s (explicit or implicit) approval of their budget, the answer isn’t a tit-for-tat. The answer is the budget is not a religious document. This, of course, would be an implicit and welcome rejection the longtime mantra of Jim Wallis and others that the “budget is a moral document.” The budget is an economic document that reflects the nation’s priorities; if individuals’ religious preferences factor into how they evaluate those priorities, that’s one thing. But elected officials should not base legislation on any particular religious view, or any particular religious figure’s approval or disapproval.
4. Speaking of religious imprimaturs, the Obama campaign has inexplicably publicized 600 Rabbis for Obama. Clergy endorsements? Don’t go there. Besides, on the Jewish vote, Obama’s got that. Also, see this.
5. As Frances Kissling points out, progressives’ sudden affection for the nuns overlooks the reality that the nuns avoid issues relating to sex, gender, reproduction, and LGBT equality. These nuns—the ones targeted by the Vatican for promoting “radical feminist themes”—are hardly radical feminists. Why showcase the nuns and not pro-choice Catholics, or pro-marriage equality Catholics at the convention?
6. The Democrats, while they banned corporate donations to their convention, are still mum on who the bundlers underwriting it are. Wouldn’t it seem more than a bit awkward to have fancy parties financed by unknown rich people while using the nuns for political cover?
7. In the D.C. metro radio market, the Obama campaign is currently running an anti-Romney-Ryan budget ad that appeals to voters’ most selfish instincts. It focuses exclusively on how Republican budget cuts would make traffic in Northern Virginia far, far worse. Way to appeal to the homeland-security-defense-contractor-navigating-terrible-traffic-in-their-Range-Rover vote! Is the budget still a moral document?
9. Inviting the Nuns on the Bus will only serve to highlight the Obama campaign’s so far lackluster faith outreach. Just to be clear, if it’s not already, the campaign shouldn’t pander to religious groups. But—in case you didn’t know—there is a group called People of Faith for Obama, led by National Faith Vote Director Michael Wear, a young staffer moved from Obama’s White House faith-based office. Wear, who was considered by insiders to be too young and inexperienced to lead such an effort, is fond of tweeting how much he loves conservative evangelical figures like Kay Warren, T.D. Jakes, and Tim Keller. So far, the People of Faith for Obama page consists of nothing more than platitudes like “faith keeps our country moving forward” and, regrettably, video of Obama’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. Something tells me that there’s a significant part of the campaign that doesn’t even want people to notice.
UPDATE: Now Cardinal Dolan has announced that he will deliver the closing benediction at the DNC as well. Which obviously will shield him from charges that he favors the Republicans and will … well, I don’t know what the benefit is for the Democrats. Perhaps shield them from charges they are anti-Catholic? I doubt this will calm the “war on religion.” Maybe Dolan and Sandra Fluke can have a photo op together, and they can discuss how Dolan thinks the HHS mandate is “un-American.”