Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Running for Public Office

Sometimes, I have some thoughts of running for Congressman.

If I did run, it could not be as a Democrat or a Republican. I have dealt with partisan politics, and find political parties to be mostly private clubs who sell their services to the highest bidder. They do not adopt positions as a matter of personal conviction. Rather, they are mascots - like the AFLAC duck and the GEIKO gecko whose job is to sell a product for those who hire them.

These claims are exaggerated, but they are still too close to the truth for comfort.

So, I would have to run as an independent. This would require collecting 800 signatures in my district in about 50 days using only workers who are registered to vote in this congressional district.

Naturally, the established parties do enjoy making competition as illegal as they can make it without risking outright rebellion. This is just another measure of their true moral virtue and dedication to the principles of democracy.

Could I win such a race?

An unknown third-party atheist candidate.

In most parts of the country, I would say, "Certainly not." In Boulder County, Colorado, I would say, "Probably not."

However, I think I could embarrass both major parties into making some changes, and get some ideas out in the public that should be out in the public.

Like the ides that there can be an atheist ethicist.

“The Atheist Candidate?”

Actually, I would not run as an atheist.

When people ask a candidate about his religion, I think that they are truly interested in his values. They want some reliable indication that the candidate is a "good person". They false believe that religion is a reliable indicator, but that does change the fact that they use it that way.

My 'religion' in this sense is not 'atheism'. Atheism implies nothing about values (other than that values do not come from God and have not been unerringly written into scripture.)

My 'religion' in this sense is desire utilitarianism. This describes what I hold to be true about value. So, this is what I would put in the 'religion' box on my candidate profile.

When they try to relate my beliefs to Marxism and Nazi ideologies, I will simply answer that the relationship between my beliefs and those others is exactly like the relationship between Al-Queida and Catholicism.

The fact that some evil people are religious does not imply that all religious people are evil. Pretending that they are is bigotry.


Another philosophy that I believe in is that a representative's job is to represent the people of his district - ALL of the people - and not just represent himself.

He is to be like a movie star's agent. He represents his client for the sake of his client, but the client has final say.

There is a tendency to think that representatives should not listen to opinion poles. I think they should. The movie star's agent has no right to say to his client, "I thought you would be excellent in this role, so I committed you to a contract." No, the client gets to decide whether to accept or reject the contract. The representative executes the client's will.

I will have limits. One set of limits is defined in the bill of rights. I would vote against searches and seizures without a warrant, arrest without charges, conviction without a trial, cruel and unusual punishment. I will uphold and defend the Constitution to the best of my ability. Within those limits, I would represent the people of my district to the best of my ability.

However, this does not mean that I would lie. If my clients instruct me to vote against gay marriage, then I may vote against gay marriage. However, I will not pretend to be opposed to gay marriage myself. I will, instead, inform them that I think their instructions are unfair and prejudicial, and that they deny people a fulfilling life (the only life they will ever have) for no good reason. As an agent, I have an obligation to give my client my honest advice and my honest recommendations. However, if that client decides to ignore my advice and recommendations, then, as I said, I work for my client, not for myself.

Removing God from the Public Square

If anybody decides to make a fuss about my candidacy, one issue that they would almost certainly use is the claim that I would want to remove God from the public square.

“Actually, that’s not true. I am against “under God” in the Pledge and “One Nation Under God” as the national motto because they attempt to establish religious segregation in this country – to assert that those who trust in God are first-class citizens and those who do not are second-class citizens. Any public policy that names me as a second-class citizen is bigoted on its face and immoral in its content.

“If you want to bring God into the public square, you can do so in the same way that George Washington and the founding fathers did. When it came to an oath of office, they wrote an oath that does not mention God.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

“There was no mention of God. Yet, a citizen was free to add a trailing phrase such as, ‘So help me God’ if it pleased him to do so. I can find no objection to treat the Pledge of Allegiance the same way, to make it a pledge that all citizens can take, and to leave it open to any citizen to bring God into the public square by voluntarily adding, ‘So help me God’ at the end.”

“Those who say that atheists are attempting to remove God from the public square, that their goal is to prohibit religious speech, are liars. They are marketers of hate who use lies to sell their product to a gullible population. Sometimes I wonder if they believe in God themselves, or if they fake religious devotion to curry favor with the public. After all, the religion they claim to love has clear prohibitions against bearing false witness, yet they live their lives on the profits generated by bearing false witness as a way of marketing hate.”

Other Issues

Religious issues will likely attract the most attention and the most press, but it would not be my reason for running.

Why would I want to be a congressman?

Because I think that I am particularly well suited to help make sure that the best laws get passed. I realize that I cannot be an expert in all fields, but I know what an expert looks like and I can determine who to trust.

Because we need real-world solutions to real-world problems. The best scientific theories are those theories that best explain and predict real-world events. Explaining and predicting real-world events is how we make the world a better place than it would have otherwise been. If we can explain and predict how bird flu operates, we can best protect ourselves from its effects. If we can explain and predict the effects of different social structures, we can best promote those social structures whose effects are to improve the life, health, and well-being of those who live within those structures.

When it comes to voting on a law, I would not be taking my orders from a party whip who has already sold my vote to the highest bidder in terms of party support. The people of my district will get a true representative who will be able to best serve their interests consistent with the moral limits on law that were written into the Constitution.

I think that this would be a wonderful honor to make that type of contribution to the wellbeing of others.

That would be my philosophy, if I were ever to run for public office.


Anonymous said...

Alonzo --

I think you are very smart, honorable, and moral. These qualities would tend to make you a good congressman.

But how is your idea of being the people's agent compatable with "...I think that I am particularly well suited to help make sure that the best laws get passed."? Surely voting the will of the people is not the best way to ensure good law.

I must admit that I'm very dubious about the whole idea of representing the people. The people would very frequently vote for very poor laws. If refecting the views of "the people" were really the best ideal for passing law, then we should legislate by referendum.

Thank goodness we don't.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


The people are substantially ignorant of, and have no strong opinion on, the vast majority of the things that a congressman votes on. On these matters, I take the public attitude to be, "listen to the testimony, learn about the subject, and make your best judgment."

Indeed, I will bet that you do not know a fast majority of the issues that were voted on last year.

Also, issues where my clients seem equally split between different options, with no clear majority, would be issues where I would feel free to use my own best judgment.

A letter-writing campaign by the members of some special interest group does not constitute instructions from the people.

What constitutes instructions from the people is a clear majority holding a definite position on an issue.

Even here, I would expect a certain amount of leeway to work out the details.

Patness said...

You'd have me right up until "gullible". You'd still have me, at that point, but I make no promises about others.


Mark said...

I've been reading your blog for a few weeks now. Every day I look forward to opening Google Reader and finding a new post in your feed.
I have also thought of running for public office. Knowing that I'd lose, the only reason would be to get the people used to seeing a non-religious person. It would be expensive, but I think it would be worth it.

NAL said...

"opinion polls"

Sadly, I don't think you'd be elected. Still, it's fun to imagine your clear thinking in the morass of Congressional political spin.

Anonymous said...

My favorite part of this post is how you change between "would" and "will." Very enticing.

Patness said...

Such determination between would and will is reserved past the point of consideration.

Were he running, would becomes will and the collective will becomes the platform.

Sound about right?

Ribs said...

You'd have my vote.