Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Campaign Position: Director of Religious Affairs
Campaign Turf: Chicago
New Washington Gig: Executive Director, White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Throughout campaign 2008, detractors accused Obama of harboring a messiah complex. If Hollywood ever adapts the jeers into a feature film, Josh DuBois would play John the Baptist. The senior political aide started out in Obama’s U.S. Senate office, which was then the only Democratic one to have a full-time staffer devoted to faith outreach. Before that, DuBois, a Princeton and Boston University graduate with a master’s degree in public affairs, was an associate minister at a small church in Massachusetts “looking for a way to fuse the two interests” of politics and faith. That’s when he saw then-state senator Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic convention: “When he talked about worshiping an awesome god, I said, ‘Well, here’s a guy who gets it.’”
He then worked with Obama on his widely praised 2006 “Call to Renewal” speech on religion in America, which DuBois calls “a watershed moment for Democrats and faith.” As director of religious affairs for Obama’s presidential campaign, he oversaw an unprecedented effort to reach out to regular churchgoers, whom Democrats had been losing for generations. He developed a curriculum for faith forums and voter house parties, and for online religious social networking and rapid response messaging—and he traveled across the country, to Iowa, Colorado and Montana and elsewhere, making the case that “it’s not just one set of political actions that define what religious means.”
The push was successful—Obama made up ground among evangelicals and Catholics lost by the last two Democratic presidential nominees. Now DuBois is renovating President George W. Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, “going out to all the 12 agencies where we have faith-based centers and learning all their different missions.” DuBois is working, as part of the office’s four main missions, to reduce poverty and promote responsible fatherhood, which he says is the president’s pet issue. It’s a big job, especially in a recession, but if DuBois’ quiet campaign successes are any indication, Democrats—and the country—may end up with a whole new playbook on faith politics.
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