This post is really ancient – from September 24, 2004 – but it was fun to write, I remember. In the meantime I learned that it is actually official – as an atheist I cannot get elected for any office in North Caroina (and a dozne or so other states). That is written in the state law. Only people who believe in fiary tales (or are good at lying about it) can get elected here. Under the fold….
I will never be elected a dogcatcher. I’d never run for that office as I happen to like dogs and would have a problem with taking them to the pound. Even if I ran I would never get elected for a number of reasons that I will elaborate below.
I don’t think I will ever run for any elective office. I, most definitely, would not want to be the US President, or a Governor of a state – it is not what I am qualified to do, nor would I enjoy doing it, nor do I feel a moral obligation to try. But, during the election season, it is almost inevitable one thinks sometimes: how would I campaign, how would I fare as a candidate?
And my conclusion: I don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of winning more than two votes (me and my wife), and for a number of reasons.
First, I would not run for a local or state office. I do not really know local and state issues. I am a big-context kind of guy. I am interested in global stuff, like global warming; environment; world population trends; poverty, hunger and disease in the world; international relations between 200-some countries in the world; education in the developing countries; healthcare as a global issue; AIDS, malaria, SARS and other global diseases; space exploration; light pollution; endangered species; nuclear arms proliferation; preservation of cultural and liguistic heritage of the world; sustainable agriculture; free exchange of scientific knowledge around the globe, etc….
As the USA is one of the most influential out of the 200-something countries in the world, or perhaps, due to its wealth and military power, THE most influential country in the world, being part of the US government may allow one to address such global issues.
So, I would have to run for US Senate. How about 2006? That would mean beating Dan Blue in the primaries and Lizzie Dole in the statewide race. How can I possibly succeed? No way! Why not? Here are the Top Ten Reasons:
First, I am foreign born. That’s a minus. Although. I can use this as a positive in my campaign (“dedicated patriot because I had to work to become and American in the first place”, “possessing a fresh angle on many issues unbiased by being born, raised and indoctrinated here”).
Second, I am half-Jewish, and there’s not that many Jews in North Carolina, not that I am observant or Zionist or anything like that (what the Jews may like to see in a Jewish candidate). Still, I could try to use it as a positive, pushing for ethnic and religious tolerance and inclusion.
Third, I am half-Serbian, and the ten-year long state propaganda against the Serbs has never been countered. Perhaps I could use the stump to redress this bias. There are too few Serbs in NC to help. Even countryside, there are not that many Serbs here. Those that are here either arrived in late 1940s running away from Tito (making them old and conservative), or late 1990s running away from Milosevic (making them angry Clinton-haters), so I could not expect much financial help from the Serbian diaspora, no matter what I say in my stump-speech.
Fourth, as I stated above, I do not know and understand the fine details of specific North Carolina and local issues. I would have to study hard and learn fast. I am interested in that, but I wonder if people would understand me whenever I attempted to place local issues into global contexts.
Fifth, I know nothing about American football, baseball, NASCAR, or golf. And I am not willing to learn. Sports I practiced in my life (and got very good at) are karate and equestrian sports. Both can be used with a positive spin. W is afraid of horses (a cowboy with not a single Marlboro-man-pose to show his machism – Rove would have done this if he could have persuaded Georgie to come close to an equine) – I can shoot an ad with me on a horse, or breaking a couple of bricks….unforgetable ads.
Sixth, I am anabashedly liberal in a conservative state. I am for gay marriage, reproductive rights, assault gun control, and teaching evolution in schools. I am against death penalty and war in Iraq. I am also atypical in that I am fine with hunters and not fine with animal rightists.
Seventh, I am a geek, scientist, academician, member of the intellectual elite that the Repubs love to make fun of. I even used to have a Volvo and have no problem with Cafe Mocha. On the other hand, I mucked my horses’ stalls myself (no grooms in Yugoslavia – riding was a poor man’s sport there) and have no problem with dirt, bad weather, or hard physical work and I can stress that part of me. Also, this would have to be my greatest strength. What other qualification can I run on? I do not know law, or economics, or political science. I am a biologist. But I can argue that this is exactly what is missing in the Senate. The congressional science advisory body has been dismantled by the Bushies, and nobody in Congress understand science, not the lawyers, not economists, not professional poiticians, not even physicians. Science is not part of their background. It is a part of mine. And look at all the hot-button issues of today – they require understanding of science: stem-cell research, global warming, mercury/asbestos and other toxins in the environment, abortion, gay marriage, cloning, biotechnology, funding for Human Genome Project vs. Supercolliding Supercollider, genetically modified crops and animals, gene-replacement therapy, AIDS (and other diseases: Parkinsons, Alzheimers, cancer, Lyme Disease, Avian Flu, West Nile, SARS, malaria, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, etc.), development of new weapons system including the StarWars, not to mention an understanding of statistics and probability. Doesn’t it seem obvious that at least one Senator should understand the big issues of our times? Scientists around the country (and there are LOTS of them here in North Carolina) would probably help finacially, perhaps volunteer some, and vote for me in areas like the Triangle.
Eight, and this is the one that would kill me. I am openly a Bright (secular humanist/atheist/agnostic) and would run as such, not attempting to pretend religiosity, yet not looking down on people who are religious (I do not think they are dumb or crazy, I just think they are wrong). An atheist CAN NOT get elected for dogcatcher in the USA. Ever! Perhaps, I could use the campaign to break ground for the future non-religious candidates, by pushing the issue and pointing out its unfairness. This outspokeness would not get me many votes in NC, but would get me a lot of money from tens of millions of scared secular people around the country who are ready to support one of their own for a change. On the other hand, I have a spottlessly clean and ethical biography, I am happily married with kids, I obviously deeply care about people and the environment – so I can’t be that bad even if I do not believe in Santa Clause and other mythical characters.
Ninth, I would absolutely not make negative ads. First, I love Dan Blue and cannot say anything bad about him. Second, only totally unscrupulous rogues like Rove and Bush can attack a woman (Ann Richards) and win. Attacking Liz Dole would totally backfire in NC – people here generally like her and attacking a woman is not something a Southern gentleman does. Thus, I would wage a completely positive campaign, and I would hire some REALLY creative people to make risky creative ads that will get people to pay attention, talk about around the water cooler, and remember forever.
Tenth, in order to win with a background like this, I would need to have tons of money (which I do not have) and combined efforts of Carville and Rove (and Luntz and Lakoff) which I cannot afford even if they ever agreed to be in the same room without killing each other.
So, I’ll leave fantasizing behind and get back to work. But this little exercise I just did points to an unpleasant fact: there is only a very narrowly defined “type” of person who can ever be elected to any office in this country. Isn’t this troubling?