Michael Wear was one of the youngest-ever White House staffers when he was nominated by former President Barack Obama to serve in the Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships — but that’s only one attribute that differentiates him from many of the other employees who served in the Obama administration.
In fact, Wear is a theologically conservative, evangelical Democrat, which is perhaps one of the reasons the Obama camp also tapped him to head up faith outreach during the former president’s 2012 re-election campaign. Four years after taking on that role, Wear is now speaking out about his experience in the White House.
He released a new memoir this month titled, “Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America,” and recently told Faithwire about his personal political experience as well as his views on where Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign went wrong leading up to her stunning loss to Donald Trump.
“My first sort of reaction is it was a lost opportunity … it was not an election that Democrats should have lost,” he said of Clinton’s 2016 electoral misfortune. “We were facing an opponent with negatives that were so high, and, unfortunately, we put up a candidate who basically was the only person whose negatives came close to matching his.”
Rather than broadening the tent, he said the Democratic Party seemed to rally around an ideological agenda that focused on “issues that concern a lot of people of faith.” While much has been said about white evangelicals’ overwhelming support for Trump, Wear said the problem is much broader than that.
“This isn’t just a story about white evangelicals,” he said. “There are only two religious groups Hillary Clinton performed better (with than Obama — Jews and Mormons).”
Listen to Wear break it all down below at the 1 hour, 15 minute mark:
One of the big problems, Wear said, was the fact that the Clinton campaign did very little outreach to evangelicals and Catholics — and those two groups collectively make up nearly half of the country.
“If you’re going into an election … and you have appealed all kinds of different folks on their terms, but evangelicals and Catholics are two of the only groups you haven’t said … ‘I want your vote,’ then that’s going to be a problem,” Wear said, explaining one of the issues that he believes hampered Clinton’s campaign.
When asked to explain why the Democrats are increasingly attracting the “nones” — those unaffiliated with faith or who are atheist or agnostic — Wear said the party has a “longstanding tradition of upholding civil rights,” dealing with issues of poverty and tackling a diversity of issues, perhaps making the party more appealing to that cohort.
As has been reported, the nones now outpace every other individual faith group among Democrats.
Wear said that his book “Reclaiming Hope” is an effort to take readers inside his experience in the White House, while showing how sincere disagreements over faith and public policy were handled within the administration. In the end, he’s hoping people will realize they don’t have to agree with every piece of their party’s platform.
“What our parties would benefit from are pepople who are willing to call themselves (Democrats and Republicans) and maintain their conscience in that, and press their party on issues where they disagree,” Wear said, decrying the idea that many people simply leave the party when they disagree over key issues.
He’s also hoping Democrats learn some important lessons from their stunning 2016 loss.
“If we run a campaign that is based on winning with the smallest, most concentrated section of voters that will just get us over 50 percent … if you operate by ignoring large swaths of the American population, not only is that bad politics, it’s also bad for the country,” Wear said.
In the end, despite being a Democrat, Wear said his real community “is the church,” as he believes there are “things that are more important than politics.”
And he hasn’t held back in pushing back against the Democratic ideals he opposes or finds wrong-headed. Just consider the July 2016 USA Today op-ed he co-authored with Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The piece called the Democrats’ plans to add a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment — a law that bans public funding for abortion — to the official party platform “radical” and pleaded for liberals to reject it. The platform did end up including the repeal measure, despite Wear and others speaking out against it.
In the end, Wear — who said that, unlike some of his Democratic peers, he also has no problem with the current Electoral College system that determines U.S. presidential winners — is hoping people can take away some positive lessons away from his book.
“The big takeaway is that you can see politics up close, you can know how it works … and still have hope,” he said. “If your hope is grounded in a place that is secure, then you will have the resources you need to engage in politics for the good of your neighbor and for the good of your country.”
Find out more about “Reclaiming Hope” here.
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