Recently DuBose Porter raised a few eyebrows by accepting an invitation to speak at a Governor's candidate forum hosted by the Georgia Christian Alliance. Eyebrows were not raised because Democrats are not Christians, but because in the past Democrats have not reached out to organizations of faith, as they have been branded as Republican. DuBose felt he should go speak before this group to share his message. DuBose is strong in his Christian beliefs. He and his wife, Carol, were reared in the church and they have reared their children in the church. DuBose has served on the Administrative Board at First United Methodist Church and Carol has served as Bible School Director, is on the Worship Committee and teaches an adult Sunday School class. DuBose's faith has been a large part of his life. To accept an invitation to speak before this group was an opportunity to spread DuBose's message of educating instead of incarcerating; of managing Georgia's transportation and water based on the need instead of the wishes of campaign donors; and of keeping taxes low, while maximizing existing revenue sources, like DuBose's point of sales bill, that will enable Georgia to attract jobs and industry, instead of waving them away. (Read, the blog #55, below for a great example of waving industry and jobs away.)
Johnathan McGinty, who writes for Beyond the Trestle in Athens, sent in a request for an interview with DuBose about his going to speak to the Christian Alliance. The following questions and answers below are the results:
Rep. DuBose Porter was the only Democrat to accept an invitation to participate in a forum hosted by the Georgia Christian Alliance. The conservative religious organization has a habit of supporting Republican candidates, but Porter - in a move I initially disagreed with - opted to share the stage with his opponents from the other side of aisle in, arguably, a rather hostile environment. Porter used the opportunity to defend his faith and his political beliefs, earning widespread praise from many conservatives there.
In a recent exchange with me, Porter elaborated on some of his thoughts regarding the role faith and politics play in the public sector ...
1. There aren't many Democrats who would venture over and address a gathering of individuals under the umbrella of an organization headed up by Sadie Fields. Politically, that's a tough road to hoe. What made you decide to address this group, and what were you hoping to accomplish?
The branding of Republicans with the Christian religion has cut off many Georgians from hearing the truth about what is going on in their government. Do you think they know the point of sale bill (HB 356), which I cosponsored last session (2009) would have found up to $1 billion in unreturned sales tax, was killed in committee by elected Republican leadership? Do you think they realize the largest property tax increase in Georgia history (HB 143) was passed by the elected Republicans in the 2009 session? Do you think they knew that for six years the Hawk System, another brain child of elected Republican leadership, took away representative government in Georgia? Do you think they knew that the speaker and his enforcers could go into any committee at any time and change the vote without having read one word of the bill?...
2. Speaking as a politically progressive Christian, I was impressed to see you open your comments with, quite frankly, some frustration. You said that you were tired of people not accepting that you could be both. I was hoping you could expand on that sentiment somewhat.
I feel because of some of the national branding by the Republican operatives, Democrats have been portrayed in the national media as Godless. Democrats are not Godless. I have yet to go to a Democratic meeting that has not opened with a prayer. It is time the Democrats enlarge their tent to welcome more people of faith, and I am ready to be the one to do it. My goal in speaking before the Christian Alliance was to open up a previously closed off, large group of the population of Georgia. Democrats have a strong faith too and I believe our message is often more closely aligned with the parables of Jesus. Quite frankly, I am a Democrat because I am a Christian.
3. Much of the discussion, it seems, always seems to trickle back to issues connected with social conservatism (i.e. abortion, gay rights, etc.). There are broader themes involved in Christianity, however, that aren't neatly limited to that realm. There's economic justice. There's civil rights. I remember reading that President Franklin D. Roosevelt liked to call the New Deal 'applied Christianity.' With that in mind, how does your faith guide you in areas like budgeting, education and all the other areas of policy?
I could not agree with you more. Take No. 7 in the Ten Commandments, "Thou shall not commit adultery." The Republicans are never seen in the streets getting people to the polls against adultery, yet adultery has probably done more to undermine family values (and political careers) than any of the Ten Commandments. I believe, many of the Republicans who would not think of campaigning on policies to stop adultery, are still Christians. Life is complicated. We as Democrats believe economic justice and civil rights will be helped by a strong education system and through job creation. Is this because we believe “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? I think so. Is that a religious influence? It probably is.
4. All of that said, given the existing political climate, it is difficult to escape those hot-button issues. What would you tell social conservatives who have concerns over your positions on those issues?
I think they need to look at what the Republicans gave them when they controlled all branches of government in Washington and Georgia at the same time for more than a year. A lot of what they go to the polls on cannot be legislated in Georgia. It is time for them to realize the difference between a state and a national issue and quit allowing our transportation, our water, and our educational systems to be run into the ground while we continue to have the highest percentage of our population in the correctional system in the entire United States. Should prisons be Georgia’s number one growth industry? It is time for Georgians to face reality and quit voting rich and living poor.
5. You closed your comments asking that if those in the crowd couldn't vote for you, you hoped they would pray for you. Speaking in a more theological sense, I suppose, how does the Christian community move past what is, in some ways, the same partisanship and distrust that plagues our political process?
Get more information. Become deeply informed on the issues. People must get more engaged in their government. Corruption is rampant and corruption often has the most money to publicize their side of the issue. With the internet it is often possible to find the primary source of information and make informed decisions for one’s self. Individuals have to start taking on an active role in understanding the real issues behind the rhetoric.