2008 Presidential Endorsement
It's 2008 already, which means it's getting to be time for The Angry Atheist to endorse a presidential candidate. And that candidate is John Edwards. You may be asking yourself, why would an avowed atheist vote for a Southern Methodist for President?
I could play identity politics here, but the fact of the matter is that Edwards, despite our differences, is the only major candidate I trust to protect my civil liberties and my own personal "pursuit of happiness," as opposed to selling me out to corporate interests. And speaking of identity politics, a poor person is not necessarily going to look out for the interests of other poor people (we see this every time poor White Southerners vote Republican despite the fact that they are economically shooting themselves in the foot). And Danny Glover put it well on Democracy Now! earlier today while campaigning for Edwards, when he pointed out that Black members of government do not necessarily look out for the interests of the Black community at large, who are still struggling for equality in the real world despite gains in elected office. I bring this up because I would not vote for an atheist simply because he or she is an atheist, nor will I refuse to vote for someone based on their religious beliefs, as long as they respect my right not to share them.
I am casting my vote for John Edwards for reasons that are more important than my religious identity, but he is a candidate who has actively courted the atheist vote and made it clear that our opinion matters. And there are millions of us who have never been treated before as if we were a force to be reckoned with. Early on in his campaign, he put well-known feminist atheist bloggers in charge of his own campaign blog (a major position in this tech-savvy day and age), with the full knowledge that there would be a backlash from the Religious Right. And he has been very vocal about his support for the separation of church and state.
Before I go on to the real reasons I'm voting for Edwards, here are a few quotes from him on the subject of religion:
"We have seen a president in the last six-plus years who tries to impose his faith on the American people. And I think it is a mistake and I will not impose my faith belief on the American people. I don't believe any president should do that. I believe in the separation of church and state."
"I've been in courthouses where I've seen the Ten Commandments. I've never had a strong reaction to it. But how would Muslims or Hindus feel if they went into that courthouse? So I'm sensitive to that. You know, of course it wouldn't offend me because I'm Christian. And I'm certainly not offended by the idea of expressing faith in that circumstance. But probably it causes more trouble than good."
And I admire his honesty here, on the subject of gay marriage, as well as the statement that he is aware of why he believes what he believes (an important first step in becoming a skeptic, by the way...hmmm...):
"I struggle myself with imposing my faith belief. The question is whether I, as president, should impose my views on gay marriage because I know where it comes from. I'm aware of why I believe what I believe. And I think there is consensus around this idea of no discrimination, partnership benefits, civil unions."
"I don't want to impose my view. Nobody made me God. But what I will do as president is I will lead an effort to make sure that the same benefits that are available to heterosexual couples--1,100, roughly, benefits in the federal government--are available to same-sex couples; that we get rid of DOMA; that we get rid of 'don't ask, don't tell.'"
On another note, he is rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record, and he has consistently shown support for stem-cell research, despite his religious background.
Now...Why am I a Democrat, you ask? As an atheist, why am I moved by Edwards' talk of children going to bed without food, veterans forgotten by the system, workers whose jobs have moved overseas thanks to tax loopholes that give U.S. companies incentives to outsource? Why do I care about global warming and not leaving the next generation to deal with the burden of our current greed?
Well, let me explain. As a Secular Humanist, I have more in common with Jesus than any Republican can claim. Tolerance, empathy, and the desire to help those who are less fortunate than we are come to mind. As an atheist and a Humanist, I don't see greed as a virtue.
Not to mention the fact that I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I am not in a high tax bracket. Like most people, I have no inheritance or trust fund to ride on. What little I have, I had to work for. My mother did not have money to put me through college. I would not be able to attend at all were it not for the help of federal financial aid, something that the Republican party has been chipping away at for years. The economy does not "trickle down" by catering to the wallets of robber barons rather than ordinary working people. The same families stay in power generation after generation in a corporate-run political system. As Edwards has said, the political system is now rigged to help the rich, which makes a journey like his, from modest beginnings to the middle class and far beyond it, "much harder than it was."
So, for everyone who believes that there is no difference between the Republicans and Democrats, take a closer look at John Edwards. Edwards has pledged not to take a dime from corporate lobbyists and PACs (unlike Clinton and Obama), to renew the Democratic party as the true "party of the people," and despite being outspent 6 to 1 and being skillfully ignored by the corporate-run media, he managed to beat Hilary in the Iowa caucuses. Quite a feat for "the most populist candidate in half a century"! But you won't hear this spoken of as a victory in the press.
"I think the people who are powerful in Washington--big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies--they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they are going to give away their power is if we take it away from them. And I have been standing up to these people my entire life. I have been fighting them my entire life in court rooms--and beating them. If you want real change, you need somebody who's taking these people on and beating them over and over and over." - John Edwards, in a recent debate
It is this issue, corporate greed, that is at the heart of every other issue on the table: outsourced jobs, global warming, pollution, the ridiculous costs of health care, even the war in Iraq... The candidate who cuts through the bullshit and points his finger at the real problem is the candidate who will make a difference. This is why John Edwards is getting my vote in the primaries.