May 24, 2009
Two days ago, Liberty University revoked the charter for the campus branch of College Democrats, continuing the religious right’s Republican Death Spiral.
May 12, 2009
Richard Posner: “Religious Criteria in the Selection of Public Officials” (Partially) to Blame for Death of Conservatism
Seventh Circuit Judge Richard Posner has a new blog post up entitled Is the Conservative Movement Losing Steam?, in which he laments the current state of conservativism in the U.S. (as being “at its lowest ebb since 1964”). The cause?
The major blows to conservatism, culminating in the election and programs of Obama, have been fourfold: the failure of military force to achieve U.S. foreign policy objectives; the inanity of trying to substitute will for intellect, as in the denial of global warming, the use of religious criteria in the selection of public officials, the neglect of management and expertise in government; a continued preoccupation with abortion; and fiscal incontinence in the form of massive budget deficits, the Medicare drug plan, excessive foreign borrowing, and asset-price inflation.
Lawyers know Posner as the guru of the law-and-economics movement, an unbelievably smart guy who always seems to be on the short list of potential Republican Supreme Court nominees. But before reading this, I would not have associated Posner with any sort of sympathy towards secularism; I’ll have to go back and read his Establishment Clause decisions.
Shorter Posner: “Monica Goodling? You’ve gotta be kidding me….”
May 6, 2009
You’ve all probably seen this tape of Chris Matthews doing his usual Hardball shtick interview of Indiana Rep. Mike Pence:
The money quote, in my opinion, is this: “This is why people don’t trust Republicans. … I think you believe in evolution, but you’re afraid to say so because your conservative constituency might find that offensive.”
Thus the Republicans […] are in something of a death spiral. The more conservative […] their message becomes, the more they alienate non-base Republicans. But the more they alienate non-base Republicans, the fewer of them are left to worry about appeasing. Thus, their message becomes continually more appealing to the base — but more conservative, partisan, and strident to the rest of us. And the process loops back upon itself.
For me, I replace the word “conservative” — which is not a dirty word in my book — with “catering to the religious right,” and I see a party that is incapable of appealing to libertarian and other would-be right-leaning atheists. That’s why — if you click on a random theist blog — you’ll probably find yourself also reading about the conspiracy between ACORN and black liberation preachers to destroy democracy or how Barack Obama is a secret Muslim who wasn’t born in the U.S. or other parroted, right-wing talking points that strike me as, frankly, crazy.
(Another case in point: Christian commenter Phil calls Cass Sunstein a ‘fascist.’ I can’t begin to process how one would think a left-leaning, somewhat iconoclastic law professor is in the moral vicinity of Adolf Hitler.)
It wasn’t always this way. It doesn’t have to be this way. But for now, we appear to have a Republican Party that is interested in becoming nothing more than the Right-Wing Evangelical Christian Party. With atheism, agnosticism and freethought on the rise, that is indeed a recipe for a “death spiral.”
May 2, 2009
Given the undeniable influence — some would say “control” — that the religious right has over the Republican Party in the U.S. today, people generally assume that atheists are liberals and evangelicals are conservatives. It’s as wrong as any overgeneralization (there’s liberal evangelical Fred Clark and the conservatives over at Secular Right, just to name two quick exceptions), but it’s as understandable as any overgeneralization given our current politics.
Below the Beltway reminds us that it hasn’t always been this way with this delightful quote from Barry Goldwater:
And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of “conservatism.”
Although there are commentators (like the aforementioned John Derbyshire and the rest of the Secular Rightists) who strive to carry on Goldwater’s legacy, there are damn few politicians on the American political right who are willing to say what Goldwater said. And I think all atheists — left, right and center — would benefit from having both major political parties willing to take them seriously and seek out their votes.
March 6, 2009
In a piece entitled, “Our Hail Mary Pass,” Elizabeth Dole’s 2008 campaign manager, Marty Ryall, defends and explains his campaign strategy, including the “Godless Americans” attack ad ran late in the cycle insinuating that Democrat Kay Hagan was an atheist.
This is the money quote:
We were on a losing trajectory and we had to change the topic of discussion. The only option we had that could accomplish that was an ad on the Godless Americans PAC issue.
We had polled the issue in mid-September and found that it tested very well among the key groups that we needed to win. We needed to raise intensity among Republican voters, as well as shift the focus of Independents and conservative Democrats from our negatives to Kay Hagan in an unfavorable way. We needed something that had some shock value and would also generate an earned media component—and that was the “Godless” issue.
Hagan’s response, of course, was to vociferously deny that she was an atheist (and she’s not; she’s a Sunday school teacher), and not to defend those “Godless Americans.” Like me.
HT: Hemant Mehta.
February 17, 2009
If you turned on any cable newschannel this weekend, you probably saw a story about C-SPAN’s Ranking of the Presidents, with Abraham Lincoln on top and James Buchanan at the bottom.
On the one hand, these kinds of lists are meant to spark casual debate — like, say, VH-1’s “100 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time. On the other hand, the Presidency is at least a little more important than whether the Eagles are better than the Rolling Stones (answer: yes), so perhaps it’s worth a blog post….