Thursday, April 10, 2008

It's the Theocracy, Stupid

As you know by now, Barack Obama declined to participate in the Science Debate, and both Hillary Clinton and John McCain just sort of ignored it until it went away. The Democratic candidates, however, have agreed to attend the so-called “Compassion Forum” — originally billed as the “Religious Compassion Forum,” so don’t be hornswoggled — which takes place this coming Sunday at Messiah College.

According to the college’s press release, to which I've added only some emphases, the event will be:

an unprecedented bipartisan presidential candidate forum dedicated to discussing pressing moral issues that bridge ideological divides within our nation.

The Church Communication Network (CCN) will broadcast the event to tens of thousands of people of faith in at least 1,000 congregations nationwide on April 20, the Sunday evening before the Pennsylvania primary.

Now more than ever, Americans motivated by faith are bridging ideological divides to address domestic and international poverty, global AIDS, climate change, genocide in Darfur, and human rights and torture. The Compassion Forum will provide the opportunity for candidates to discuss how their faith and moral convictions bear on their positions on these important issues....

The Compassion Forum is supported by diverse religious leaders and Democrats and Republicans alike.
There then follows a series of quotes from various pulpit bullies: Mike Huckabee, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Frank Page (President of the Southern Baptist Convention), William J. Shaw (President of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.). The text ends with a long list of pious godpushers who make up the Forum’s board.

For many years, the Republican party has been the main governmental arm of the religious zealots in this country. Therefore, many atheists, freethinkers, and secularists have increasingly identified themselves with the Democrats.

Of course, voting for a political candidate is usually not just about one issue. If you’re an informed voter, you weigh dozens of factors before deciding who best represents your views.

However, the way to achieve any political clout is to refuse to stand for repeated “Screw You”s from the powers-that-be. Most African-Americans would never dream of voting for a candidate who attended a White Supremacy Forum. Gays would rightfully shun a political contender who spoke at a Defense-of-Marriage Forum. Women — at least those who haven't been religiously indoctrinated to be submissive — would refuse to support a vote-seeker who attends a Male-Domination Forum. Jews wouldn’t vote for anyone who participates in a Hitler-Had-Some-Good-Ideas Forum, and Muslims would surely steer clear of contributing to the campaign of a person who took part in a Crusades-Forever! Forum.

But we atheists — we oh-so-rational skeptics — will watch and shrug as both Democrats cozy up to the nation's ignorant and superstitious masses, make who-knows-how-many implied promises to them, actively inject more and more woo into the nation's discourse, while simultaneously telling us that our ideas and values are irrelevant.

There’s no other group in this country that would allow itself to be kicked in the teeth like that. They’d be organizing from now until Election Day and beyond.

That’s why I urge every person who values the Constitution, who believes in the Separation of Church and State, who knows that Religious Freedom means the right not to have someone else’s beliefs rammed down his or her throat day after day after day ... that’s why I urge all of us to loudly start making it clear on our blogs and in our personal lives that we will not vote for the Republican OR the Democratic candidate unless our priorities get some small degree of respect.

We are a potentially viable political force, but we all need to publicize our concerns. And make political threats. The Christian Right used just such tactics, and they continue to flourish.

In November, unless one of the candidates has spoken about issues that are the most profoundly important to me — namely, the value of critical and rational thought in governing the country and relating to the rest of the world — I’ll march into my polling place and write “The Exterminator” and “The Chaplain” proudly on my ballot. Perhaps you’d like to do that, too, or write in your own name. Or vote for a third party candidate, or a cartoon character, or your dog.

But please don’t furnish anyone with the boots to kick us again.

44 comments:

the chaplain said...

I don't know if you've seen my post about this yet. I'm thoroughly pissed off by this and I hadn't even read the college's promotional blurb yet. I'm going to write to both the Obama and Clinton campaigns, which are more than happy to send me repeated emails asking for campaign contributions, to share my disgust.

PhillyChief said...

What's worse is Obama refused the Science Debate. Hillary merely ignored the invite.

The only positive I see coming out of this is with both parties playing 'who's the bigger, better christian', then the Republicans can't lock the christian vote. In fact, the two most religious candidates left are on the Democratic side. I can only hope that the christians grow completely disillusioned with both parties once thy get a heaping helping of them pandering to them and not delivering on their promises.

I agree that we need to organize to force change, but every atheist writing in some fanciful name is simply stupid. What does that accomplish aside from some personal (and completely unknown to the rest of the world) "fuck you" to the candidates? I can do that easier and more comfortably here at my desk and accomplish the same thing. ONLY IF every atheist writes in the same fanciful name will there be any hope in catching some attention.

Brendan said...

Actually, I hadn't heard this news yet.

Put me down as mildly disappointed but wildly unsurprised. I share the emotions that you and The Chaplain expressed. However, we're supposed to be the flag-bearers for the reality-based community, so let's all take a few deep breaths and reflect upon reality, distasteful as it is.

There are two pieces to this.

First: like it or not, the American electorate is dominated, numerically, by people who care about matters of faith. Most Americans do not care about a candidate's views on science policy nearly as much. And even leaving aside faith, most Americans want to hear about other issues.

Second: like it or not, people who do care about science policy, whatever their points of view, are highly unlikely to change their minds as a result of listening to two Democrats debating this topic. There are those who think "science: bad -- it kills babies" and there are those who think "science: good -- it kills superstition" and never the twain shall meet.

I'm certain that Clinton and Obama are pretty much aligned in their points of view in this regard, and I'm certain that they both belong to the "science: good" camp. From a political point of view, then, there is little upside to the two of them having a debate. They don't have much to disagree upon, and at this point, neither is going to push the envelope at all, for fear of giving the other a sound bite for the next round of attack ads.

The potential for a downside, on the other hand, is obvious. The slightest suggestion that, say, Creationism has no place in the classroom would do nothing but energize the wingnuts. Ditto acknowledgments that global warming has an anthropogenic component, that stem cell research is an important area of investigation, or that the US sucks at teaching kids science. On the other side, people who already believe these things would overwhelmingly react by saying, "Well, yeah, obviously. But how does hearing this help me decide who is going to be the better president?"

The better time to have a science debate, I think, is during the general election. Here, real differences between the candidates might be presented. The wingnuts will still go mental (redundant, I know) over every little phrase of "liberal secularism" expressed by the Democratic candidate, but McCain will have to choose right then and there whether to spout the wingnut point of view or punt. Unfortunately, I expect McCain to punt preemptively. He'll come to the same conclusion that Clinton and Obama have: no political upside and plenty of potential land mines, and say: thanks for the invitation, but no thanks.

As far as tossing your vote on a matter of principle, I think I've already gone on about this in other comments on this site, but please allow me to reiterate.

To the extent that a political leader can positively affect Americans' views on science, it is through a long and patient program of education, and not by trying to score zingers in the infotainment forum that are modern candidate debates. You know which party is going to be more aligned with your point of view on the importance of science. McCain, at best, will be slightly less worse than Bush. Either Democrat will be far better. So, if this issue is that important to you, I'd say the better strategy is to accept the reality of American politics for what it is, get over your snit, do what you can to get the right candidate elected, and then put the pressure on once he or she gets elected.

PhillyChief said...

Do they REALLY care about matters of faith, or are they motivated by the idea that most of the voters care about matters of faith? You don't know, do you? None of us can, which is what the faith motivated voters need to learn, that they are open marks for con artists.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

This is really disappointing, but to a certain extent, I agree with Brendan. What do you expect from politicians trying to get the most bang for their campaign bucks? It doesn't make much sense to them to debate something that they probably both agree on, and that if you believe the polls, is of little concern to the relatively ignorant public. I do think that both Clinton and Obama will be more attuned to scientific thinking if they make it to the White House. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that McCain will be better in that regard that Bush has been, because he's a smarter man that Bush, and I think there's a correlation between relative intelligence and religiosity.

Atheists, secularists, rationalists, and scientists as a political block just don't cut it. We have less clout than the Green parties, and that's not saying much. It's nice to talk about what we need to do to coalesce around some power point, maybe a candidate, or a particular issue, but how? I agree with Philly that voting for the dog does nothing. If everyone starting voting for the Exterminator (And Chappie as VP) the country would stand up and take notice.

This so-called Compassion Forum (the title make me want to hurl) is right down the road from me at Messiah College, a small Christian college. I checked to see if I could get a ticket to get in. No dice, they've already been distrusted to students, faculty and employees, and selected invitees. You know what that means. No one, NO ONE, with a non-religious outlook will be there to ask the pointed questions.

the chaplain said...

I fully expected the candidates to blow off the science debate. There's no way they were going to display their ignorance on that set of issues.

What annoys me to no end is the stupidity of two Democratic candidates attending a forum on "moral issues" that is hosted in an unabashedly conservative, evangelical Christian venue just days before a party primary. They are being played for fools by the forum organizers and the RR, and they're falling for it. As I noted in today's post, there is a certain block of voters who will never vote for a Democrat. Additionally, and definitely at play in this election, there are certain voters who won't vote for a woman, and there are certain voters who won't vote for an African-American. Some of these voters overlap with and are contained within the conservative Christian community to which places like Messiah College appeal. These particular candidates are wasting time and energy participating in this event at this time. The fact that they can't see this is infuriating.

Brendan's contention that a science debate would be more appropriate in a general election has some merit. I think the same standard applies to this forum. Do Clnton and Obama really expect this debate to have a tangible effect on an internal party primary? Maybe it will, but I'd need to see some persuasive evidence before buying into that line of reasoning. McCain has no reason to participate in either a science or values debate at this point. He can rest easily on the sidelines and watch his opponents behave like idiots. At least he's smart enough to know where his interests lie.

PhillyChief said...

One of many ironies is not long ago I read rating of each of the candidate's apparent understanding of science and Obama was head and shoulders above the rest, yet he immediately refused the invite to the Science Debate.

Spanish Inquisitor said...

One thing you shouldn't overestimate is the locality. This is central PA, which is more akin to Alabama (as it's been noted by others) than it is to the two ends of the state, Philly and Pittsburgh. This will play BIG on the local news, both in the papers and on TV. From a political point of view, it's actually a good deal for both of them, because the middle of the state will probably vote Republican. If they can draw any voters away from the Republicans, it's a win for them, because the Dems will carry the two ends. Both of them need to convince the middle of the state that they pose no threat to their god-fearing values.

the chaplain said...

SI:

You said, the middle of the state will probably vote Republican. If they can draw any voters away from the Republicans, it's a win for them....

That's a big if. It's also a bit early in the game for Dems to be playing for Republican votes. Since neither candidate is the nominee yet, it seems to me to be a waste of time pandering for Republican votes when Democratic votes are still at stake in the primaries.

PhillyChief said...

Both are stuck in a position of both having to defeat another Dem as well as trying to campaign against McCain, so in the big picture I think SI's view is more beneficial to them.

The Exterminator said...

chappy:
I'm glad you share my disgust.

Philly:
I'd be happy if every atheist wrote in "The Exterminator."

But it's not really the act of writing in a name that's of primary importance; it's the concerted effort by atheists, skeptics, freethinkers, and secularists to let the Democratic candidates know that we will NOT vote for them unless they recognize our concerns. I think if enough people blogged about this, word could spread. Then, if our issues are not addressed, we have to follow through. It's a long shot, but what else can we do?

So you may be right. I'm going to be more assertive about my "candidacy." Vote for me!

Brendan:
I'm certain that Clinton and Obama are pretty much aligned in their points of view in this regard, and I'm certain that they both belong to the "science: good" camp.
That sounds like a faith statement to me. Can you support your certainty with any evidence?

I don't have the same animus against McCain that you do. I don't see evidence to show me that either democrat will be far better. I think that's a Go-Team! attitude, and not based on any facts whatsoever.

Bear in mind, though, that I'm not suggesting we "toss" our vote or -- yikes! -- vote for McCain. I'm suggesting that there are enough secular people in this country to take the reins for once and insist that ALL candidates stop pandering to the theocrats.

SI:
What do you expect from politicians trying to get the most bang for their campaign bucks?
I expect them not to constantly and consistently show bias against my views.

Everyone:
You're all focusing too much on the religious right. Both Clinton and Obama know that they'll get no votes from those people in November. But what about the so-called Christian moderates or religious left? Let's not underestimate exactly how much our national political discourse is permeated by religion. And, the corollary to that: for most people, the Constitution is trumped by the bible. I'm very uncomfortable with this situation, and think we ought to take immediate steps to rectify it.

And ask yourself: Why would I want to support a candidate who siphons off votes from the theocrats by posing as, and catering to, the theocrats? Doesn't that just feed the nonsense?

PhillyChief said...

Why would I want to support a candidate who siphons off votes from the theocrats by posing as, and catering to, the theocrats? Doesn't that just feed the nonsense?

Or exploits it.

Ordinary Girl said...

I'm disappointed, but I expected it. Maybe though what's said during the "Compassion" debate will be more educational for me from the standpoint of a voter. I really want to hear how far their pandering will go. Will they get lost in the crazy?

Spanish Inquisitor said...

I expect them not to constantly and consistently show bias against my views.

Yes, but your views are in a distinct minority. Pandering (acquiescing) to your views won't get them the best bang for their campaign buck, now will it?

The Exterminator said...

SI:

You're twisting my words a bit. I didn't say that I expected them to pander to, or acquiesce in, my views. I merely said that they needed to stop showing bias against those views.

Example: A candidate doesn't need to practice Judaism, or pander to Jews, in order not to show anti-Jew bias. All the candidate needs to do is refuse to participate in Christians First! activities -- or join any country clubs that restrict membership.

Clinton AND Obama are appearing at a Forum in which the membership is restricted. As far as we can tell, there are no antitheists, atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, skeptics, or doubters represented.

If the Forum didn't have a few token non-Christians on its Board, non-Christians would rightly be able to accuse the candidates of being exclusionary.

So where's the atheist on the Board? Nowhere. Fuck us! We'll vote for the Democrat anyway, right?

You may. I won't.

The Ridger, FCD said...

I can't join you, not not. The fact is that most of us are not Republicans. I will not stand by (which is what refusing to vote is) and allow John McCain to win the election. Sorry if you take that to mean my atheistic principles don't match up to the standard; there are other things more important to me.

the chaplain said...

Philly said, "Both are stuck in a position of both having to defeat another Dem as well as trying to campaign against McCain, so in the big picture I think SI's view is more beneficial to them."

I think that's precisely Ex's complaint. The candidates believe it's beneficial to pander to the right wingnuts (most of whom are conservative Christians) and ignore those with neither money nor political numbers to throw their way. IIRC, all three of the candidates were invited to speak at the American Atheist Conference in Minneapolis last month. All of them declined the invitations. The obvious reason for is that they figured the risks were far greater than the potential gains. That will be the case as long as they perceive that
a) the religious are more unified than the rationalists and
b) most of the rationalist votes automatically default to the Dems.

I know that candidates often have to campaign in less-than-optimum venues. But I'm not convinced that this forum in this venue at this time is worth it. I think the Dems are hoping to cash in on McCain's
a) unpopularity with the wingnuts and
b) weak religiosity.
I'm not convinced that, absent speaking in tongues, holy rolling and performing faith healings on a weekly basis, the Dems will siphon away very many votes from hardcore Republican wingnuts. The hardcore folks will either suck it up and vote for McCain or stay home on election day. They won't go Democratic. Period.

So, yes, the Dems will be campaigning in some hellholes. I could accept that if they at least made some courtesy appearances at venues like the American Atheist Conference. Non-theists are going to have find some ways to make their voices count. Unity and significant numbers of votes that are not slam-dunks are two ways to achieve that.

It's something to consider.

Having said all that, I'm really torn because I sincerely believe that this country and the world need the USA to boot the Rethuglicans out of office. The only viable alternative will be a weak-kneed, spineless Democratic political animal. At the very time when religiosity is poisoning politics to a degree not seen in decades, we may have to bite the bullet. This is really fucking depressing.

The Exterminator said...

Ridger:
The fact is that most of us are not Republicans.
Most of whom? Do you have any statistics?

And does not being a Republican mean that you automatically must be a Democrat? You're willing to accept limits on your right to vote, aren't you?

You hate those dirty Republicans so much, because they're oh-so-different from the Democrats. But can you show me how that difference manifests itself? I'm afraid I'm too thick to be able to tell the parties apart just because they use slightly different rhetoric to bamboozle the electorate. Remember the '06 election, and how hunky-dory everything was going to be once the Democrats had control of the House and the Senate? Well: The war in Iraq continues, the economy has gone down the toilet, the educational system still sucks, civil rights are under attack from all sides, and one of the Democrats has restored race-baiting to its historically honored place in Democratic politics. Did I miss something?

I will not stand by (which is what refusing to vote is) and allow John McCain to win the election.
I'm not suggesting that anyone refuse to vote. I thought I'd made that absolutely clear. Definitely: go to the polls and vote. But do refuse to go along with the current Hobson's Choice system. (Hey, new term: A Hobsonocracy.)

PhillyChief said...

I'm not suggesting that anyone refuse to vote. I thought I'd made that absolutely clear. Definitely: go to the polls and vote. But do refuse to go along with the current Hobson's Choice system.

But if you're going to write in Exterminator, Mickey or your aunt Pearl or that hot asiany looking chick on Dancing with the Stars it's the same fucking thing.

You know when all this would have been appropriate? Like maybe a year ago. All this "I'm not going to play by their rules" bullshit is like objecting that you only have the choice between shuffle board and sun bathing on the Leto deck. You're already on the fucking boat, Sparky. Too fucking late.

1. Unless ALL dissatisfied with pandering at our expense voice a UNIFIED dissent (ie - write in the same fucking name) yours and everyone's personal little protest is shit
2. Not voting or writing in your own choice could help McCain
3. Best shot at not getting more assholes on the Supreme Court is not with McCain.

Ordinary Girl said...

1. Unless ALL dissatisfied with pandering at our expense voice a UNIFIED dissent (ie - write in the same fucking name) yours and everyone's personal little protest is shit

Yeah, I've heard that statement a lot. But how do you think it's just going to spontaneously happen? Are you just happy to jump on the bandwagon once everyone else has singed off on the idea? Come on, how else do movements get started except through excising "crazy" ideas like this.

I'm sick of people belly-aching about the politicians in our country and yet when they have a chance to do something to show their dissatisfaction, they think it's not fucking good enough. Well, you know what? Neither is electing one of the three presidential candidates.

It may not be your bag of tea, but why continue to tear down Ex over it. It reminds me of the atheists that go crazy over Hitchens, Dawkins, and Harris.

The Exterminator said...

Philly:
... you only have the choice between shuffle board and sun bathing on the Leto deck. You're already on the fucking boat, Sparky. Too fucking late.

Yeah, but I brought a deck of cards with me. Anyone for bridge?

Spanish Inquisitor said...

It's an imperfect world and an imperfect political system. In Utopia, things would work out with my one vote counting. In the good old US of A, at the moment, it is a Hobson's choice. I can't remember an election where I didn't have to hold my nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. Usually there was at least some difference between the two, (though my vote for Carter was just a reaction to the last 8 years of Nixon/Ford) so it was not that difficult.

I hate Bridge. Get some women and let's play strip poker.

PhillyChief said...

Yeah, I've heard that statement a lot. But how do you think it's just going to spontaneously happen? Are you just happy to jump on the bandwagon once everyone else has singed off on the idea?

Well I don't see you or anyone else offering any fucking gameplans. Have you done anything about this yet? Mass emails? Snail mail? Some other form of advertising? Written any atheist and/or freethinking organizations about this? How about any christian moderate groups? Non-christian groups? ANYONE? Have you worked something out on your blog perhaps? Some stab at organization? Strategy? Well then, here ya go.

Before you can give me shit about waiting for a bandwagon to jump on, how about actually doing something about creating the fucking bandwagon, cupcake.

I will keep giving Ex shit about this for the same fucking reasons I spell out every fucking time which you can read above here and everywhere else instead of asking me to spell it out AGAIN and comparing me to a fucking theist. If anything, both of your are guilty of that since you're both being irrational and exhibiting some stupid faith that your personal little fuck yous will matter any fucking bit NOW except possibly further fucking the Supreme Court some more.

Ordinary Girl said...

Philly, I've never given you shit until now and I've never compared you with a fucking theist.

And no, I haven't done most of the things you listed above, but I don't have the resources for a mailing list or the leadership abilities to lead a movement. But I'm certainly willing to help or to even consider what someone says when they start talking about this subject instead of just dismissing it out of hand. If you've been paying attention, I've been sitting on the fence between the practicality and idealism of something like this.

But what I'm not doing is trying to fucking shut it down every time it's brought up.

PhillyChief said...

I said all this is a year too late. What part aren't you following? Also, if you're going to break my balls about putting this half-assed idea down, then either make it not be half assed or back off.

Ordinary Girl said...

So I either have to be the messiah of this movement or shut up? Is that it? Let's just talk about a call to perfection, why don't we?

And even if Ex or Chappy or someone else (me?) got something going and had people all right in Charles Darwin and got 1 million votes you'd complain then that we were the ones that caused the Republicans to win the election.

Yeah, we need a game plan. But don't put it all on my shoulders because I think it's an idea that's worthy of exploring.

Ordinary Girl said...

Grrr....

write, not right

:)

PhillyChief said...

I just think it's stupid to break my balls for having a problem with an idea with no gameplan.

And yeah, I misread the theist thing. Sorry.

Brendan said...

T. Ex:

Regarding my assertion that either Dem is certainly in the "science: good" camp, you said:

That sounds like a faith statement to me. Can you support your certainty with any evidence?

I don't have the same animus against McCain that you do. I don't see evidence to show me that either democrat will be far better. I think that's a Go-Team! attitude, and not based on any facts whatsoever.

I'm halfway to thinking you're just throwing out a debating stunt -- demanding evidence for something that is patently obvious. There's a big difference between making a "faith" statement and having a clear sense based on observations. I could equally well ask you to give me evidence that Obama and Clinton are not in the "science: good" camp, since it seems to me that your suggestion that they're not is even more of a reach.

But, for the record, you might look at Obama's site in the Issues section: start with his statements on science and energy, and see also his technology page, especially this section. See also Phil Plait for a quote and link regarding Obama on evolution, and Obama's Senate site for his statement on stem cells

I can't bear to wade through Clinton's site for reasons unrelated to the issue at hand. Here is a statement she made on stem cells. Here is a post on Physics Today, with a quote and a link regarding her views on evolution.

McCain I'll cop to, a little bit. I don't know his stance on science vs. religion issues. I'm not sure anyone does, for that matter. I'll give him this much: he wasn't one of the GOP candidates who raised his hand to signal disbelief in evolution. But there does remain the inescapable fact that he has openly courted the evangelical vote and made clear his positions on abortion and what type of judges he'd appoint to the Supreme Court. It's all of a piece. There is evidence that he's one of those "teach the controversy" types. Example 1. Example 2. He seems squishy on stem cells: what he says appears to depend on what year he was asked.

You went on to say:

Bear in mind, though, that I'm not suggesting we "toss" our vote or -- yikes! -- vote for McCain. I'm suggesting that there are enough secular people in this country to take the reins for once and insist that ALL candidates stop pandering to the theocrats.

To the first part, I note that in your original post you proposed:

In November, unless one of the candidates has spoken about issues that are the most profoundly important to me — namely, the value of critical and rational thought in governing the country and relating to the rest of the world — I’ll march into my polling place and write “The Exterminator” and “The Chaplain” proudly on my ballot. Perhaps you’d like to do that, too, or write in your own name. Or vote for a third party candidate, or a cartoon character, or your dog.

That's not a vote for McCain, but it is tossing your vote.

To the rest, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. I don't believe we strong non-faith types have anywhere near the national clout to affect the vote. It seems to me that I could ask you to provide evidence that I'm wrong, since it's brain-dead easy to find survey results showing how many people claim to be religious and how few people would vote for an atheist.

Do I think we should do something? Of course. I am just saying that the way to win this battle, politically, is the way the fundies have been winning their battles: at the grassroots, in local elections, and especially on candidates for the school board. I'm with you 100% on agitating in other ways, as well. I'm just saying that voting for "none of the above" for president in 2008 isn't going to be effective, and such a choice won't be noticed by any of the candidates. Your best strategy in the vote for president is to vote for the candidate who is closer to your views.

The Exterminator said...

Philly & OG:

Well, I'm going to concur with Philly's point about a game plan. I'll give that some thought and post about it in the next few days. Everyone else visiting here can be thinking about it, too, and add some ideas to your comments or email me. Maybe I'll wait until Monday, so I can find out what the candidates actually say at the Compulsion Forum.

I do disagree with Philly on the timing, however. I don't think an atheist political movement is a year too late. In fact, I think now is a perfect time, while we're all aware of the shivs being shoved into our backs. American rationalists ought to be exploding with outrage just about now. We need to figure out how we can organize quickly and threaten -- as a sizeable bloc -- to vote for the Exterminator/Chaplain ticket unless Democrats (or Republicans) become responsive to our issues. We'd certainly be able to demonstrate our political clout that way; if we did, we'd probably never be shunted aside again.

Note to literalists: No one will expect the Exterminator-Chaplain ticket to win, so please don't leave a comment about that. We're looking for a protest vote: a huge one that will effect real CHANGE, instead of lip-service.

So, my next post on this will be a press release, which I'm hoping all my readers will spread around as best they can. If we can involve any of the atheist, humanist, secularist, and freethinking organizations, that would be fantastic. If not, we'll do what we can at the egrassroots level.

One further observation about any Democrat who would have won by pandering to religionists: A Supreme Court opening is exactly the kind of situation in which I'd expect the godthugs to call in their debt.

Brendan
Thanks for the multiple links. I'd point out to you that lots of the text you cited is meaningless campaign rhetoric.

You're quick to say that Clinton and Obama both belong in the "science: good" camp. But what do you mean by that? Do they fall into the "science ALWAYS takes precedence over the bible" camp? Do they fall into the "we will NEVER sacrifice medical advances because they make some theists uncomfortable" camp? Do they fall into the "our government MUST NOT lie about scientific evidence just because it conflicts with some people's faith" camp?

I think the depth of their commitment to science when and if it's opposed by great numbers of the prayerful is just the kind of question that might have been asked at the science debate -- and to which we ought to demand an answer.

I don't believe we strong non-faith types have anywhere near the national clout to affect the vote. It seems to me that I could ask you to provide evidence that I'm wrong, since it's brain-dead easy to find survey results showing how many people claim to be religious and how few people would vote for an atheist.

Well, I'm trying to provide evidence that you're wrong. My working hypothesis is that the number of rationalists in America is consistently undercounted, maybe even grossly so. The grand experiment I'm proposing is to organize that apathetic mass into an outspoken bloc of voters who refuse to be ignored any longer. Those people are my version of the "Silent Majority" -- the "Muffled Minority."

infinity said...

It's so fun to read all of you getting worked up over this issue. I'll admit that I skimmed over some of the comments as I am suffering from a little ADD this morning.

I lived in an extremely conservative state in 2000, so I voted third party. My vote wasn't going to count as Bush was going to take the state easily.

I lived in a less conservative state in 2004. Kerry won the state and was projected to win it easy. Again, my vote didn't really count.

Unless you live in a "battleground state" as the 24-news networks like to call them, your vote won't really count- in my opinion. In fact, I think that those votes don't really count either.

The candidates are trying to get the most bang for the buck. I don't blame them. That's the problem with our two-party, representative system.

I don't see any harm in making a statement.

Brendan said...

T. Ex:

I concede that neither Obama nor Clinton is as pure as we'd like them to be. Again, though, I urge you to reflect on the reality of the political scene: (a) they have to cater to other types, as well, in order to get elected, and (b) you are unlikely to get a perfect choice for a national candidate, so all you can do is pick the best available.

I also concede that some of the links I offered are campaign rhetoric, but I don't agree that they're meaningless. Remember, again, that in order to be politically viable, a candidate has to couch some statements and avoid the appearance of stridency. Also, I think the on-the-record statements about teaching evolution and stem cells, for example, are about as unambiguous as one could ask for, from a politician.

I agree with you that rationalists are undercounted, and I think the reaction in the past couple of years to the books by Dawkins, et al, strongly supports this thinking. I also agree that it's worth trying to organize such people for political effect. I think that is already happening, in fact.

However, I still believe it will be a long time before our point of view has clout in national elections, so I continue to believe the place to concentrate is at the local level. I also think that efforts to organize rational thinkers are going to meet a lot of resistance. By our very nature, we are resistant to being in a herd.

PhillyChief said...

Well I had enough of this and expressed more on my blog, but honestly I feel like I keep saying the same things over and over, be it this blog, my blog or other blogs.

As far as a vote being meaningless, I don't think that's true, although the current state of the Electoral College certainly makes it appear that way with the 'winner takes all' approach for each state.

Anonymous said...

I thought about this issue for some time. I came to the conclusion that I really don't have anything valid to add to the discussion that hasn't already been voiced rather eloquently by Brendan. This fact does not warm my heart. How I wish Ex's view of the situation were more an appeal to the possible, rather than a spleen venting by one who feels betrayed. Knowing as I do what a pragmatist he is in most things, I have no doubt that he was hoping to see either or both Democratic candidates step up and at least pay lip service to the importance of rational thought as opposed to sucking up to the superstitious. As Brendan and others have pointed out, there's no political up side for them to do so; for all of the already stated reasons. Personally, I'm through throwing away my vote. Having done so in the past beginning with that vote for Barry Commoner in '84. He was my guy as far as his stance on the issues. But I might as well have written in Howdy Doody.

Catherwood

The Exterminator said...

Catherwood:
I hate to tell you this, but you, Spanish Inquisitor, and I may be the only people in this discussion old enough to remember who Howdy Doody was.

So I think you should explain that he was the Democratic candidate in 1984. His running mate, if I remember correctly, was Princess SummerFallWinterSpring.

Brendan said...

PhillyChief:

As far as a vote being meaningless, I don't think that's true, although the current state of the Electoral College certainly makes it appear that way with the 'winner takes all' approach for each state.

I'm glad to hear that you don't think a vote is meaningless. I would augment that, and argue against the tone of your follow-up, by saying that it's not just how you vote that counts. What matters more is your mindset prior to voting, paricularly as it's given voice in discussions such as the one going on here. There is a ripple effect, and in states like Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, this ripple effect can make all the difference in the world.

Catherwood:

How I wish Ex's view of the situation were more an appeal to the possible ...

I agree, especially in my heart. Despite my cynical assessment of short-term political realities, I value the idealists. I hope T. Ex.'s view will prove out eventually, and in the long run, I believe it will. And you're right -- it would have been nice to see the Democratic candidates "step up and at least pay lip service to the importance of rational thought as opposed to sucking up to the superstitious." Perhaps, in addition to my urging for people like us to concentrate on local elections, we can raise enough of a hue and cry to make something like this happen in the next decisive national election.

T. Ex.:

I am almost old enough to know who Howdy Doody was. I am at least old enough to know what it meant when Fonzie said Richie had a Howdy Doody face.

The Exterminator said...

Brendan:
Well, learning about Howdy Doody from the Fonz IS second-hand, but you're definitely gettin' up there. How's your hairline?

I want to correct something everyone says about Florida in 2000, and how it made "all the difference in the world." It didn't. Gore lost a number of states that Clinton had carried in '96: Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia. With the exception of Nevada and New Hampshire, both of which were needed, Gore would have been president if he'd carried any one of those states -- regardless of the results in Florida. So you can just as easily say that West Virginia made all the difference in the world, or Louisiana, or Tennessee. Carrying a grudge against Floridians who voted for Nader, as you imply that you do, is silly. Gore lost that election because he was a sucky candidate; it wasn't taken away from him by Nader's puny votes.

On the other hand, the Democrats do make sure that they now address environmentalists' concerns, don't they?

the chaplain said...

Ex.:
Uh-oh! I'm agreeing with you again! I agree with you about the 2000 election, with one small modification. Gore's problem had more to do with the fact that he ran a terrible campaign than with his candidacy. That may be splitting hairs, but I think the distinction matters in this case. He was a good candidate: qualified, experienced, intelligent. He was a far better candidate than Kerry was on 2004. Gore's campaign just didn't highlight those qualities. He lost a whole lot of states he should have won, including his own home state! Who loses his own home state? Only a Democratic candidate, that's who!

When people were going on and on and on about Bush-the-beer-buddy, Gore should have been upfront and said, "Yeah, I'm a nerd, I'm boring as hell, and I hate beer...but at least I know WTF I'm doing most of the time, and I can even explain it to you in good English!" He wouldn't have fared any worse at the polls by being (gasp) honest about who he was.

The Exterminator said...

chappy:
Gore's problem had more to do with the fact that he ran a terrible campaign than with his candidacy.

Point well taken. Gore lost the election because he ran a sucky campaign.

Actually, we're using two different connotations of "candidate." For you, "candidate" refers to the person who's running (in light of his ideas and qualifications). For me, "candidate" refers to the person who's running (in light of his effectiveness as a runner).

vjack said...

It irks me too that our candidates would rather debate superstition than science. It makes me think that attitudes such as those expressed by Rep. Davis in Illinois are more common than we may want to acknowledge.

As for not voting for a Democrat in this election, I'm not sure that is a solution. I'd join you if I truly believed that Obama or Clinton would be no better than McCain. However, I do not think this country can afford a McCain presidency. His Iraq policy alone is worth voting for a Democrat.

Anonymous said...

Ex, et al, I need to make one slight correction. Princess Summerfall Winterspring was Mr. Doody's running mate. But only as a 2nd choice. She was selected to replace the disgraced Phineas T. Bluster. They tried to keep it quiet and we were told at the time that the problem had to do with some mysterious "entanglements". It later came out that Bluster, Buffalo Bob and Clarabell were caught in a Motel 6 with 3 hookers and the nearly empty tin of Dr. Sigmund's Bolivian Coca Powder. It was hoped by the powers behind Mr. Doody's candidacy that the Princess' photogenic quality and lovely voice might help carry the day. But voters couldn't get past the idea that the candidate came with too many strings attached.

Catherwood

Brendan said...

T. Ex:

Well, learning about Howdy Doody from the Fonz IS second-hand, but you're definitely gettin' up there. How's your hairline?

Heh. Actually, my hair is one of the poorest indicators of my age, possibly second only to my baby face. I still have all of it, and very little of it is gray. In disposition, unfortunately, I have been combing over for decades.

I want to correct something everyone says about Florida in 2000, and how it made "all the difference in the world."

Your points in this section are all well-taken. Yes, Gore ran a bad campaign. There is no doubt that he should have won as handily in 2000 as Bush I did in 1988, just by riding coattails. I blame him for running away from Clinton, for trying too hard to move to the center, and especially for being clueless in dealing with the media, particularly the proverbial boys on the bus. My only real aim in mentioning Gore and Florida was to illustrate how, in fact, one or a few people can make all the difference in the world in a national election. Yes, he coulda/shoulda won other states. But he lost Florida by a vanishingly small margin, something that needn't have happened had people forced themselves to chose the better (less bad, if you like) of the two viable candidates. This is all part of my argument against your making a case for not voting for whichever Democrat wins the nomination. That's all.

On the other hand, the Democrats do make sure that they now address environmentalists' concerns, don't they?

Not nearly enough, in my view. And, to the extent that they do talk about it, I am not sure how much Nader has caused this by running in the general elections, either. I give him all the credit in the world for his work as an activist, and I think he could add to his effect in boosting environmental concerns by running in the primaries, but I don't think his vanity campaigns do much to help. In fact, they might even have hurt. I wonder how much his presence in 2000 caused Gore to chose not to emphasize environmental concerns, just to maintain contrast between him and Nader.

The Exterminator said...

brendan:
I agree that Nader's vanity campaigns don't ever do much to "help." But why should they? He's not obliged to aid the Democrats. I'm definitely not a Nader fan, but I do agree with him that both major parties are pretty much the same.

Brendan said...

T. Ex.: I could sort of buy that "both parties are the same" meme in 2000, when Gore was running as fast as he could to the right, and we had yet to be aware of the evil that lurked behind the smirk.

I even still accept some elements of similarity. Politics being what it is, both parties are controlled by who they can get to give them money, and most people who have a lot of money give to both parties. There is something in this Zinn-like view, that our system is ultimately designed to let the powerful maintain their hold on power.

But really. Think about where the two parties stand in a woman's right to choose. Or gay rights. Or any other minority group's civil rights. Or the environment. Or global warming. Or just how much clout James Dobson should be permitted. Or how the tax code should be structured. Or whether politics should stop before it infests NASA, the EPA, or the Justice Department. Or what to do about Social Security. Or torture.

The Democratic Party's flaws are legion, and one of the worst of them is trying too hard, lately, to be almost like the Republicans. But they'll never come close to being anywhere near as bad.