Back to Politics…

Above: Obama in St. Louis (via the Daily Kos). Compare that to the McCain rally I attended (2000-3000 people) a week ago…

Ah, beautiful day, an 8 mile trail run under my belt, a good football game on TV (Northwestern leads Purdue 24-12 at the half; there were two touchdowns in the last 90 seconds of the first half), and I have my laptop. 🙂

So now for some politics

Essay on how we choose who we vote for.

I spoke about a fight that I had with a friend. I ended up going to her party, but our relationship will never be the same.

But this is what baffled me more than anything: this person “Ms. V”, hates George W. Bush and likes Hillary Clinton. So this Presidential vote should be a no-brainer, right? Well, not so much.

Ok, but this is what got me: she likes Sarah Palin, who is, to me, the polar opposite to Hillary Clinton! Not only do they disagree on almost every issue, but HRC is an accomplished intellectual. Sarah Palin has open contempt for intellectuals.

So what gives? Yes, both are females who have had some political success but that is where the similarities end…or do they end there?

I had to think about that and then I remembered this:

She talks about the “invisible” person.

Then here is Sarah Palin:

Now, who opposed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries?

Obama supporters…slammed as “eggheads” and African Americans:

(note: check out “eggheads for Obama”)

And Sarah Palin is slammed for being an idiot. Frankly, even some Republicans have at least admitted that she (Palin) isn’t up to the job.

So in both cases, we have a female candidate that isn’t be backed by a majority of the intellectual community (though the Paul Krugman, who just won a Nobel in economics, backed Hillary Clinton and now supports Obama).

Bottom line: you have someone with self-esteem problems backing someone (or considering backing someone) while whining about those “elitists”. Here is an example of this. “Obama and his elitist friends”???? Oh barf…give this person a hanky. 🙂

But I think that this is is sometimes the case; people vote a certain way because they get their feelings hurt. 🙂

Personally, I like it that we have a smart person at the top of the ticket and I love it that 61 Nobel Prize winners in science have endorsed him.

I love it that world class scientists such as Francis Collins have endorsed Obama. (Collins is famous for mapping the human genome and for being an outspoken Christian)

But in our “shit for brains” “intelligence is bad” society where average people think that they are just as smart as Nobel Laureates in science (the latter are often derided by the ignorant as being “book smart”), well, the Nobel Laureate endorsement is seen as being vastly inferior to being endorsed by an entertainer or athlete. In fact, some see it as being a slight negative. (scroll down to see the poll).

Note: The Daily Kos (where I hang out) has 79.7 percent of its members having at least an undergraduate degree and 41.6 having graduate degrees and, in terms of religion, 43.2 percent atheist or agnostic and many more highly non-traditional. Many of them liked the endorsement by the scientists but most were realistic enough to know that it would have little effect.

Atheism: hard to get any sort of a movement going.

From the time last spring that Jeanette Norman first heard of Amendment 48 in Colorado, she simmered with the desire to do something about it.

Conservative Christians and their allies had collected more than 100,000 signatures to put the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot. If enacted, it would define human life as beginning at the moment of conception, essentially turning abortion into murder without the need of overturning the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade.

As an atheist, Ms. Norman felt indignant about what she considered an intrusion of religious dogma into public policy. So she decided to hold a rally of like-minded nonbelievers, who might variously describe themselves as atheists, humanists, freethinkers or secularists. By various polls, such people accounted for nearly one-quarter of Colorado’s citizens.

So you probably know the rest of this story: she put in the work, go the permit and….hardly anyone showed up. Click on the link to see the story.

So what gives? Here is my uneducated guesses:

1. If one had a tendency to rally around others and follow their lead, one would probably be a theist. On the average, atheists don’t like being told what to do or being told what issue to back or how to back it.

2. In terms of numbers, we are quite small compared to the others, and remember that only a small percentage of a group shows up to do the “heavy lifting”. Now when you have a small percentage of a small percentage….

3. Atheism is hard to rally around as it is really a rejection of a popular belief. In my case, it means that “I don’t see any evidence of the existence of a deity” though I’d be willing to change my mind should convincing evidence show up. I’ve seen absolutely zero explanations from religion.

4. We are still seen as “evil” by large, large sections of the population at large. While I am pleased that we are grossly overrepresented at the higher intellectual levels the average Joe or Jane sees us, at best, as “defiant” and, at worst, “evil”. Support from us is seen as toxic to a political candidate.

What, for the Elizabeth Dole re-election campaign, began as a profitable fundraising letter, is now a full-fledged campaign. Dole now seeks to defeat her opponent, Kay Hagan, by accusing Hagan of talking with atheists, humanists, and other undesirables. (See Friendly Atheist: Republicans Smear Senate Candidate Kay Hagan for Meeting with Atheists.)

Let’s be clear about what Hagan’s crime is here, according to Dole. Hagan is not being criticized for agreeing with any particular set of positions. Dole is condemning Hagan for the crime of merely talking to atheists, scularists, and the like. Not only are we wrong – we do not even have a right to present our case to those who may be our elected officials.

Even my favorite Presidential candidate (ever!) gently chided us to quit complaining about religious language being used to talk about morals in public policy.

And that is why that, if we truly hope to speak to people where they’re at – to communicate our hopes and values in a way that’s relevant to their own – then as progressives, we cannot abandon the field of religious discourse. Because when we ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome – others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends. In other words, if we don’t reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway. More fundamentally, the discomfort of some progressives with any hint of religion has often prevented us from effectively addressing issues in moral terms. Some of the problem here is rhetorical – if we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address without reference to “the judgments of the Lord.” Or King’s I Have a Dream speech without references to “all of God’s children.” Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny. Our failure as progressives to tap into the moral underpinnings of the nation is not just rhetorical, though. Our fear of getting “preachy” may also lead us to discount the role that values and culture play in some of our most urgent social problems. After all, the problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect ten point plan. They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness – in the imperfections of man. Solving these problems will require changes in government policy, but it will also require changes in hearts and a change in minds. I believe in keeping guns out of our inner cities, and that our leaders must say so in the face of the gun manufacturers’ lobby – but I also believe that when a gang-banger shoots indiscriminately into a crowd because he feels somebody disrespected him, we’ve got a moral problem. There’s a hole in that young man’s heart – a hole that the government alone cannot fix.

In fact, because I do not believe that religious people have a monopoly on morality, I would rather have someone who is grounded in morality and ethics, and who is also secular, affirm their morality and ethics and values without pretending that they’re something they’re not. They don’t need to do that. None of us need to do that. But what I am suggesting is this – secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their “personal morality” into public policy debates is a practical absurdity.

Joe Biden talked about our being a “Nation under God” (which one?)

I agree that the “pro-America part of the country” remark by Sarah Palin was absurd but Biden went on to say:

“Ladies and gentlemen, I have never been to a state that hasn’t sent its sons and daughters to serve its country,” Biden said in Mesilla as the crowd of about 2,000 booed Palin’s reported comments. “It doesn’t matter where you live, we all love this country. And I hope it gets through that one of the reasons why Barack (Obama) and I are running is that we know how damaging the policy of division … has been.

“We are one nation, under God, indivisible,” Biden shouted to the crowd. “We are all patriotic, we all love this country.”

In fact, if there were an “atheists for Obama” club, I’d join but limit my work to stuff that kept a low profile. I certainly wouldn’t wear a button like this one (except among my mathematics and science friends).

The best I can hope for is a candidate that strongly respects a secular approach to government and for an advance in culture to where it becomes ok to question some of the kookier claims made by religion (which is one reason I liked the film Religulous)

The current race
Desperate Republicans attempt to conflate voter registration fraud (making fraudulent registrations) with voting fraud (illegal voting). Here is yet another article about this:

At TPMmuckraker at the moment, we’re giving a very close look to the ‘voter fraud’ claims in Wisconsin that Karl Rove was so interested in. GOP activists were incredibly disappointed and angry when the US Attorney in Milwaukee brought only a tiny handful of prosecutions, after the activists had charged a massive conspiracy to steal the 2004 elections from Republicans. But the government actually lost a stunningly high percentage of even those cases because they were so weak.

Cynthia C. Alicea, 25, was indicted for double-voting. The evidence was that election officials found she’d registered to vote twice. She was acquited because it turned out election officials told her to fill out another card because the first one had been filled out wrong. Pretty lurid stuff. There was no evidence she’d ever voted twice. The other three people indicted in Milwaukee for double voting were acquited too.

Out of the tiny number of bona fide voter fraud cases, the great majority fall into two categories. The first are cases where workers hired in voter registration drives appear to sign up non-existent people to get paid more money from the sponsors of the drive. The actual examples of this are exceedingly rare. But since the people don’t exist, no one ever shows up to vote in their name.

Note: this is voter registration fraud; this is what happened at some of the ACORN drives.

The second are felons or parolees who either register to vote or actually vote, in most cases not knowing they’re not eligible to vote. […]

Republican party officials and elected officials use bogus claims of vote fraud to do three things: 1) to stymie voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts in poor and minority neighborhoods, 2) purge voter rolls of legitimate voters and 3) institute voter ID laws aimed at making it harder for low-income and minority voters to vote.

This sounds like hyperbole but it is simply the truth. (A great example of this in microcosm was the 2002 senate election in South Dakota — Johnson v. Thune — in which Republicans spent the entire election ranting about a massive voter fraud conspiracy on the state’s Indian reservations, charges which turned out to be completely bogus but had the aim of keeping voting down on the reservations. You can find much more on this in the TPM archives. Go to the search feature and type in some combinatin of ‘fraud south dakota’ etc. I’ll try to write more recapping the story soon.)

The tie-in with the US Attorney story is that the White House and the Republican National Committee have used the power of the Department of Justice to accomplish those three goals that I outlined above. Only most of the relatively non-partisan and professional US Attorneys simply didn’t find any actual fraud. Choosing not to indict people on bogus charges got at least two of the US Attorneys (Iglesias and McKay) fired.

In fact, the number of proven voter fraud cases are tiny.

For more:

Republicans: still engaging in wishful thinking.

While we don’t know the impact of the last debate, the polling indicates that McCain has been able to close the gap with Obama markedly in the past week. lists six polls with a field date ending on 10-13. Their average gave Obama a margin of 8.3%. There are seven subsequent surveys with a field date ending on 10-16 and their average is an Obama lead of 5.1. […]

This race is far, far from over!

People who believe this can put their money where their mouth is:
Iowa Electronic: Democrats 86.9, Republicans 13.7
Intrade: Republicans 86.0, Republicans 15.8

Go for it!

Oh yeah, there is the data too.

Current graphic.

Then there are scenes like this one:

For more on Obama’s St. Louis rally, go here.
Bonus: Remember the Reporter who was assaulted at the Palin Rally? This is his story from his blog.


October 18, 2008 - Posted by | 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Biden, Friends, hillary clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain, mccain, morons, obama, politics, politics/social, ranting, religion, republicans, sarah palin

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