Delegate Diversity

By Jim Wallis 9-03-2008

Most of the speeches at the Democratic National Convention were politically predictable; the same was true on the first night of the Republican National Convention. Sarah Palin's speech tonight will be worth watching, considering all the attention her nomination has received, and of course John McCain's acceptance speech on Thursday night will be very important, just as Barack Obama's was in Denver.

But one thing looked very different on the first night of the Republican Convention from the first night of the Democratic Convention: the diversity of the audience. Having seen the racial diversity of the delegates gathered in Denver, it was striking to see a sea of white faces on the first big night of activity in St. Paul. While 13 percent of the Republican delegates are minorities, only 36 are African American -- about 1.5 percent of the total delegates, down from 7 percent in 2004. One-third are women, also down from 2004. Last week at the Democratic Convention, the delegates were a record 25 percent African American, along with 12 percent Latino, 5 percent Asian-American, and 5 percent American Indian. Half were women.

As I've said before, committed Christians will be voting both ways in the upcoming election, and while we should have a vigorous discussion about how we each apply our faith to the imperfect choices of politics, we should also fully respect the different conclusions that Christians will come to. Good Christians will be voting for both Republicans and Democrats this year, and many independently-minded Christian voters may be voting for both, depending on the candidates, the offices, and the issues.

But we all should affirm the central importance of racial reconciliation in the life of the church, to racial diversity in our parties and political processes, and to the inclusion of all Americans in our political discourse. Christians should exemplify that commitment to both racial and gender diversity in their respective parties. As Christians on both sides of the aisle have appropriately said, the Democrats should be commended for nominating the first African American for the office of president of the United States, and, similarly, Christians on the Democratic side of the aisle should applaud the selection of a woman by the Republican Party as their nominee for vice president. Those choices for diversity can be praised without necessarily voting for either candidate. Both Barack Obama and Sarah Palin should be evaluated on the basis of their records, ideas, and leadership

But we Christians should be the ones working hardest for diversity all across our society -- including in our political parties, which both have a long way to go.

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