This post was co-authored by Chris Crawford, Program Associate for the Governance team.
In this age of intense polarization, Americans have a habit of retreating to their comfortable political corners. Our institutions of government and our media both suffer from low approval ratings. In an era of cynicism, teamsmanship, and distrust, The Faith Angle Forum has shined brightly as an example of civility, understanding, and deeper learning. Its leader, Michael Cromartie, was a champion of democratic values.
For three years, Democracy Fund has been a lead investor in the Faith Angle Forum, a project of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Twice per year, Faith Angle Forum gathers the nation’s top journalists to discuss the issues facing the nation – an opportunity for journalists to engage with religious experts on topics of the day. Shortly after the election of Pope Francis, Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute and John Carr of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought discussed the ways in which Catholic teaching responds to poverty, from the political Left and the Right. Last spring, journalists gathered with author Kate Bowler to discuss the Prosperity Gospel, the faith tradition in which President Donald Trump was raised. And each election year, Faith Angle Forum has gathered polling experts to discussed the way in which voters from different faith traditions voted in the election.
It is obvious to all observers why this project is important. But to the participants, the project was made especially important by its leader. Michael Cromartie was deeply dedicated to democratic values. In addition to his deep religious faith, Michael had faith in the ability of the American people to process information when presented with the facts. He dedicated his career to creating a deeper understanding between the American media and the American people.
On August 28, Michael Cromartie died after a heroic battle with cancer. He was the rock on which a significant segment of our political class rested. He valued deeper understanding. He exuded joy. And he never tired of forging partnerships to strengthen our collective institutions.
Memorials have been pouring in from our nation’s stop media outlets, praising Michael for his life’s work. Carl Cannon of Real Clear Politics, a frequent attendee of Faith Angle Forum, wrote an especially precise summary of Michael’s impact on American politics:
“Mike Cromartie did more to ensure that American political journalism is imbued with religious tolerance, biblical literacy, historical insight, and an ecumenical spirit than any person alive. No one is a close second. This man was one of a kind.”
Peter Wehner, Michael’s colleague at EPPC, wrote that Michael “enriched the public dialogue and helped shape American culture.” In addition, he noted that Michael, “was a man who left a deep imprint on people’s hearts and souls.”
Peter’s word are appropriate and accurate. His understanding of Michael both as a human being and as a leader in his field have prepared Peter to continue the Faith Angle Forum project this fall in Miami.
Michael’s genuine desire to learn from others, and to bring the rest of us along with him, made him an ideal convener. His good nature was evident whether talking with titans of the media industry, think tank presidents, or with the hotel staff at Faith Angle Forum, all of whom he knew by name. In addition to his work with Faith Angle Forum, Michael was a central part of Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group. With Michael’s help and unique ability to bring people together, we gathered researchers and analysts from a broad section of the political spectrum to collaborate on a project designed to listen to the American people.
With the passing of Michael Cromartie, Democracy Fund has not just lost an incredibly valuable grantee; we have suffered from a death in the family. Our thoughts are with Michael’s wonderful wife Jennifer, his EPPC colleagues, and the countless people who were honored to call him a friend. Our work would be unnecessary if our country was filled with men and women like Michael Cromartie.