Sunday, December 27, 2009

Mitch Daniels, What Are You Thinking

Atheist conservatives (like Right Wing Nuthouse, Little Green Footballs, and the Secular Right) - and me - are feeling a little lonely these days. Do you want us as part of conservatism or not? One of the problems with modern conservatism is that driving for ideological purity doesn't win elections. It shrinks the size of the movement. (Even the Tea Party leaders are excommunicating each other.) So if you tell us over and over that we're not welcome, guess what? We'll take our votes and rhetoric elsewhere, and you can keep celebrating victories just like NY-23.

Charles Johnson's break with the right was in no sense radical. The right left him, not the other way around. Like Johnson I usually avoid openly mentioning my atheism because a) I'm not trying to convert (or devert) anybody anyway, and b) a lot of conservatives will sadly write off anything I have to say one second after they hear that. Unfortunately, many social/religious conservatives have forgotten that intrusion into religion (or lack thereof) is about the best hallmarks of big government that there is. It doesn't make it okay just because it happens to be your own religion; otherwise, how are the Iranian Ayatollahs doing anything wrong?

This is why I was so disappointed to hear Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels get on the bandwagon with some ignorant comments that further marginalize conservative voters. Daniels is a real Reagan Republican - one of few genuinely small-government moderates left - and I was hoping to have him as an option in the 2012 GOP primary. In an Indiana publication he talks about his faith. To be clear: it's not Daniels's faith, or his profession of it, that's a problem; of course he has the same rights that the rest of us do in that regard, and the only thing that matters is a candidate's ability to execute specific policy decisions in office. The problem here is not only that he expresses a fundamental misunderstanding of the underpinnings of American democracy but that he makes out-and-out bigoted comments. Mitch, you can't expect people to vote for you when you talk like this:

"And Judaism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by Jews."

Shocking that he would say something like that, right? I took some liberties there. He said exactly the same thing, except about atheists. Read it again and try to tell me it makes what he said any better:

"And atheism leads to brutality. All the horrific crimes of the last century were committed by atheists."

So either Daniels is a bigot, or he's just saying bigoted things to win votes from Christians. And to Christians, his sudden public professions of faith must seem a little eleventh hour. Thinking about 2012 Mitch?

I cannot vote for an openly bigoted candidate who considers me, and 13% of Americans, fundamentally immoral. I'm very sorry to cross Mitch Daniels off my list.

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