A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

Democrats elevate faith – and forgiveness – on campaign trail

Dear reader:
 
Our top story today looks at how some of the Democratic presidential candidates are trying to reclaim religion from the far right, by openly discussing their faith on the campaign trail.
 
Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, has been at the forefront of this trend. At a forum last month, the openly gay mayor took on the religious right’s opposition to gay marriage, saying he wishes the “Mike Pences of the world” would understand “that if you’ve got a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me – your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”
 
Yet some of Mr. Buttigieg’s most powerful rhetoric may be found in simple expressions of grace and non-condemnation.
 
In a recent Time Magazine profile, he says this about former colleagues in the military who “probably still” tell gay jokes: “Bad habits and bad instincts is not the same as people being bad people.” Having seen “once disapproving parents dance at their gay son’s wedding,” Time’s Charlotte Alter writes, “he believes in the power of redemption and forgiveness.” 
 
In this, Mr. Buttigieg is somewhat reminiscent of another Democratic politician – former President Barack Obama. During the 2008 primary campaign, when then-Sen. Joe Biden called him “the first mainstream African American who is articulate and bright and clean,” then-Senator Obama gently shrugged it off. “I didn’t take it personally and I don't think he intended to offend,” he said.
 
Later, when he put Mr. Biden on the ticket with him, it sent an unmistakable message to “white voters who might at some point have spoken or thought the sort of casual racism that had come out of Joe Biden’s mouth,” BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith writes. Mr. Obama was telegraphing that, as the nation’s first African American president, he would be “the kind who didn’t mind the occasional screw-up, who knew you meant well.”
 
Modern politics, particularly as it plays out on social media and cable news, often seems to be all about finger-pointing. But the best politicians understand that it’s easier to build a winning coalition with a spirit of forgiveness than with harsh rebukes.
 
Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

Why We Wrote This

Democrats like South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg are talking openly about their religious beliefs, and emphasizing inclusiveness over rebukes.

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