Monday, May 21, 2012

The Ethical Atheist Politician - Introduction

What would an ethical atheist politician be like?

At the start, it seems like some sort of Chimera - a creature made up of parts of three different animals that do not fit together very well.

Many commonly joke about the incongruity of joining "ethical" with "politician". A clear majority would have similar problems mixing "ethical" with "atheist". At least in the United States, it is perhaps even more implausible to mix the concepts of "atheist" and "politician".

I have often entertained the thought of running for public office. When I return to reality I realize that I am not fit for such a role - being far too shy to go around rallying a group of people to see me elected into public office. However, I have still given the idea a lot of thought to the issues that I would face in my attempt to be an ethical atheist politician, and how I would face them.

With this being an election year, and with atheists taking a stronger interest in politics, I thought it might be entertaining and useful to present those thoughts - just in case somebody in the studio audience has an interest in doing more than thinking about taking such a path.

I will present those ideas in the form of a pseudo-campaign for public office. For my pseudo campaign, I think I will choose to run for a seat in the House of Representatives. I will do this in part to keep my comments broadly useful. I suspect that few people would consider a detailed discussion of Colorado politics interesting.

In this campaign, I will get to discussing specific issues. However, the first thing the ethical atheist politician will have to do is to build an infrastructure for running for public office. You have to build the soap box (or find one) before you can stand on it.

First, I will need to choose a party.

I would recommend to the reader who is thinking about running for public office that you choose whatever party dominates the region that you are running in - if possible. It makes no sense to join a political party that recent gerrymandering and other political manipulations has locked out of public office. Even within the dominant party, there is a bell-curve of beliefs and interests, some better than others. Promoting the better over the worst among those who have a chance at power has its merits.

If you cannot join the political party that dominates the region in which you live, then I would recommend moving to a place where your preferred party dominates - for the same reason.

There are a lot of things that people who agree that here is no god an still disagree on. There is absolutely no sense to the idea that, if we were all atheists, we would all be in unanimous agreement on all political and social issues. Recall, Karl Marx and Ayn Rand were both atheists. I see no reason to assume that an ethical atheist politician must be a Democrat or a Republican.

In my own case, my views are such that I could join either party. This will become clear in the campaign that follows - when I get to discussing issues.

However, in this pseudo-campaign, I will be running as a pseudo-independent. It is, after all, a pseudo-campaign. One more nail in the coffin is not going to hurt.

Now that I have decided on a party, the next task is to get my name on the ballot.

In my state, to get on the ballot as an Independent, I would have to get 800 signatures from registered voters in my district over a specific two-month period (from about 7 months to about 5 months before the general election). That will be my first campaign objective.

I would do this by organizing, well in advance, a series of signing parties that would take place during that time period. This would mean going to friends and acquaintances and getting them to arrange these parties. At these parties, I would go and speak and mingle with the guests. There would be a petition sitting at a table near the front door which qualified participants could sign, and other copies available that guests can take home with them. Owing to the possibility of errors and disqualified signatures, the aim would be to collect significantly more than 800 signatures.

In seeing what is needed to get a name on the ballot, we can see one reason why somebody who attends a church will have an advantage over the average atheist. The church provides a set of people who meet regularly that the candidate could talk to in order to organize these parties. Without any type of official endorsement from the pulpit, the church provides excellent opportunities to meet people, shake hands, announce one's intention to run for public office, and ask for help on a one-on-one basis with like-minded people who share a sense of community.

This means starting early. In fact, today would not be too late for starting a campaign for the 2014 elections.

This also provides an important piece of information for those who think that electing an ethical atheist politician into office is important and is looking for a way to help. One of the things that you could do is to join (or create) an organization that such a candidate can go to in order to get help. This organization would learn the ballot access requirements in its region, find volunteers who share the same interests and concerns, create contacts with the heads of various organizations that the candidate would want to reach, figure out the logistics for organizing meetings, and be ready to make these resources available to the ethical atheist politican.

This way, when the ethical atheist politician actually shows up, the organization can say, "You have come to the right place. Here, let me explain what I can do for you."

All of this work and the campaign has not even started yet.

There will be more work to do tomorrow.

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