So you may have heard about these emails that Russian hackers got ahold of and released to Wikileaks. I see some Sanders supporters claiming they’re proof of a “rigged election” and some Clinton supporters claiming they really don’t matter, but this post isn’t about my opinion in that regard. This post is about one particular line of attack laid out in the emails—namely, a proposal to attack Bernie Sanders for his suspected atheism—and why I am so happy to see it.
Here’s the quote (from ABC News link above):
“It may make no difference but for KY and WA can we get someone to ask his belief,” Brad Marshall, CFO of the DNC, wrote in an email on May 5, 2016. “He had skated on having a Jewish heritage. I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.”
So. The DNC considered trying to label Sanders an atheist, on the assumption that such a label would really hurt him in Kentucky and Washington. As an atheist, shouldn’t I be outraged? Shouldn’t I be marching and chanting and trying to shut down the National Convention?
Absolutely not. I’m happy. Thrilled, in fact. Why? Because they discussed this tactic, and didn’t do it. Someone at the DNC said no.
This Brad Marshall is the CFO there. That’s no small position. I assume he commands some respect and bends plenty of ears. But either someone higher up shut the idea down, or someone with a cooler head persuaded him out of the idea. Either way, the strategy died in his Out Box.
This is an absolute, abject win for atheists and a resounding affirmation of my plan to vote blue in November. Marshall is probably right: labeling a candidate as an atheist probably would bring down his support, particularly in the South. Atheists are the country’s punching bag: it’s a free hit, everyone can take a turn! From that standpoint, it was a sound, if ruthless, political strategy. The Republicans wouldn’t have hesitated to employ it against Sanders or any other candidate. To them, atheist is a dirty word, dirtier than gay, black, or even (gasp!) Muslim—at least in politics. Ten years ago, the same would’ve been true of the Democrats. I can’t remember a time in the past when they’ve hesitated to slam someone for their secularism.
But they did this time.
Why? Is it because they’ve had a change of heart? They’ve taken on a greater interest in the secular cause? Is it maybe because they realized nearly 23% of Americans now have no religious affiliation, and a lot of ’em are probably progressives?
I don’t know the reason and likely never will, but the optimist in me can’t help taking a great deal of heart from their decision. Secretly I hope it was because some number of the high-ranking muckety-mucks in the DNC are atheists themselves.
Whatever the reason, they refrained—and for all the 23% of Americans who may have been slighted by such an attack, regardless of political stripe or social status, that can only be good news.