I read this blog recently at atheistconnect.org
Now, since I’m too young to have seen the American Civil Rights movement live and too far removed geographically to understand how big a role it plays in modern American politics, I cannot comment on what David Stockin talks about here on that topic and its relevance today.
What got me thinking though, was one line he put in there and I quote,” Does the candidate for president have the moral fortitude to choose right over wrong, even in the face of overwhelming public opinion? This is a fair question to ask…”.
This is a fair question to ask of any politician standing for office, leave alone the President of the mightiest nation in the world today. But I wonder if any politician can honestly answer “Yes” to this question. Which politician can truly fight for what he thinks to be right, contrary to the views of his own electorate? To take the American example, can a declared atheist ever hope to win a Mid-western state election? Or someone who supports abortion or gay rights? To turn to India, caste, religion, class and other sundry factors play a much more important role than what a politician’s views are on important issues.
Politicians today aren’t leaders. They do not form public opinion by studying the matter and then forming an opinion and then, educating the public about why they think what they do. No, politicians today are reactors, they adjust their opinions based on how they perceive popular public opinion is shifting. They follow the mood, they don’t shape it. A politician might know that what he publicly endorses is not to the good of his nation, but he’ll be damned if he’ll own up to that if his voters are tending the other way. A public that today forms its mind based on biased reporting in the media, on half-truths published in the news, on their own emotions and passions, and their petty self-interests. It is such that a leader is supposed to rise above and truly ‘lead’ a nation, but no politician today would dare do so; we do not want to be led. Our public thinks it already knows best and it definitively knows better than any expert in any field in question.
So though David’s question is a very valid one, I doubt any politician could answer it in the affirmative, and I doubt any electorate would choose to elect a politician that did.
I like your overall point, but I’m going to nit-pick just a little. You said, “To take the American example, can a declared atheist ever hope to win a Mid-western state election? Or someone who supports abortion or gay rights?” I want to answer. Yes, a supporter of gay rights and/or a pro-choice politician can win mid-western state elections. It would be significantly harder for an atheist, but that’s the dominant trend throughout most of the country, excepting the northeast and the west coast. It would be harder, though, for an atheist, gay rights supporter or pro-choice candidate to win in the southern U.S. than in the mid-west.
I’ll gladly concede the point. 🙂
My understanding of US politics is quite limited; I was given to believe that the East and West coasts of the US were quite liberal in their views while the heartland was a lot more conservative (a red belt, if I’m right?). Atheists of course, get a bum deal everywhere, all across the planet.
That’s relatively accurate. States like Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin are less conservative than North Dakota or Nebraska. Minnesota, where I am from, is actually quite progressive (at least, it usually is. Unfortunately right now there’s a Republican majority in the MN HoR that thinks they need to make sure homosexuals can never marry each other). I get a little touchy about generalizations about the states, even when they’re relatively accurate. I went to college in the eastern U.S. and people there discount my entire region as rural flyover country – three and a half years of listening to that and I jump rather quickly to defend my region and state.
Coming from a state in India about which they say, “The only culture there is agriculture.” I can surely understand the sentiment. 😀