Friday, December 19, 2008

So Obama's picked Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Rick Warren's a Christian whose teachings are more based on the Pharisees than on Christ, and a conservative who thinks that government needs to be more involved in limiting access to marriage and controlling women's medical decisions. Gay right proponents and feminists are pissed off, as is that particular group of evangelicals who think Obama is the antichrist, or a secret muslim, or a baby-killer.

I'm a member of the first group, and could care less about the second. So how do I feel? I couldn't care less about this, either. Some of it is probably post-election politics fatigue. And this really is nothing but politics. Nobody thinks Warren is going to use this opportunity to rail against gay married baby killers. Nor is there any suggestion that Warren will be in a position to influence policy. The groups on the left are upset that Obama is 'legitimizing' Warren, and on the right, that Warren is legitimizing Obama.

In other words, this is about feelings, not policy, which probably explains why I could give a rat's ass.

So who gains and who loses? Both of them lose a bit of cred with people who will not be going to the opposition, while not really gaining any cred with the other side. Obama loses a bit more, as the group that's upset with him is both larger and more mainstream, but I doubt it will do him any lasting damage. And the people upset with Warren over this are the evangelical equivalent of indie music snobs who have probably long since dismissed him as a sell out. In terms of purely negative, Obama loses more than Warren.

On the positive side, Warren gets to maintain his image as a political insider, even as the country shifts away from his more extreme views (his views on poverty are much more Christ-based), and gets to be seen, by those of us who pay no more attention to evangelical Christianity than we have to, as mainstream. Obama gains reinforcement of his core message in two ways: Rick Warren is considered by many to be "America's Preacher". Most of those who would call him that didn't vote for Obama, but having him give the invocation drives home to those people that Obama is going to be president of the entire country, not just the 52% that voted for him. After the wedge-driving of the last 8 years, that's a welcome message to me. The second bit of Obama's core message this reinforces is that you don't have to agree with him on everything to be an ally. That bodes well for his legislative agenda.

Any party that insists on ideological purity is hamstringing itself, and we're looking at some huge challenges just in the next year that are going to require the political will of significantly more than 52% of the populace to get them done. Reforming health care is crucial to our economy, and Obama will need to have people on his side that, like Warren, consider abortion to be a silent holocaust and someone else's gay marriage to be an assault on their religious freedom. If this helps, I'm cool with that.

Update: Yglesias with the other hand.

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