Back in May of 2010, intrepid WaPo religion reporter Michelle Boorstein disclosed
the surprising news that the Democratic National Committee had
disbanded the six-person religious outreach team that, under previous
DNC chair Howard Dean, helped flip Congress to the Democrats in 2006.
Dean’s successor Tim Kaine lamely insisted that religious outreach would
get cranked up again for the midterm elections, but it never happened.
the 2012 election cycle under way, new chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz
has sent a signal that religion will again figure in the DNC operation.
To wit: Last Thursday, a press release announced the appointment of
Derrick Harkins, pastor of Washington’s 19th Street Baptist Church, to
head an outreach effort. Harkins has a good resume–for a pastor. But there’s no evidence that he has ever done any political work. By contrast, his predecessor, Leah Daughtry,
came to the job after serving as Acting Assistant Secretary for
Administration and Management at the Department of Labor, and left to
become CEO of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Harkins mostly
seems to be a pal of Joshua DuBois, director of the White House Office
of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Be that as it may,
since the party effort will be spearheaded by a sitting president this
time around, the true indicator of the Democrats’ seriousness about
religious outreach is not who’s got the portfolio at the DNC but who’s
got it at Obama campaign headquarters in Chicago. In 2008,it was DuBois
who had it, but if he or any of his minions assume the position again,
the president will end up like George W. Bush–besmirched by a
faith-based initiative that looks like it’s all about electoral
politics. And that would be almost as bad as no religious outreach at