Why The Freethinker Community Should Outspokenly Applaud Jon Huntsman

Explicitly “embracing” evolution, acknowledging the existence of climate change, denouncing reckless political game playing with the debt ceiling, and contemptuously mocking southern secessionist fantasies should be minimal expectations of a presidential candidate, and not necessarily worthy of special praise (and especially not when one disagrees with that candidate’s overall policies). But, in this political climate, Jon Huntsman should be explicitly praised and promoted by freethinkers for doing these things (in the video below) which should be so simple but which no other Republican candidates seem to have the guts or mental aptitude to do:

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A couple of key quotes for the “too long, didn’t watch crowd”:

TAPPER: These comments from Governor Perry prompted you to Tweet, quote: “To be clear, I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.” Were you just being cheeky or do you think there’s a serious problem with what Governor Perry said?

HUNTSMAN: I think there’s a serious problem. The minute that the Republican Party becomes the party – the anti-science party, we have a huge problem. We lose a whole lot of people who would otherwise allow us to win the election in 2012. When we take a position that isn’t willing to embrace evolution, when we take a position that basically runs counter to what 98 of 100 climate scientists have said, what the National Academy of Science – Sciences has said about what is causing climate change and man’s contribution to it, I think we find ourselves on the wrong side of science, and, therefore, in a losing position.

And

I wouldn’t necessarily trust any of my opponents right now, who were on a recent debate stage with me, when every single one of them would have allowed this country to default. You can imagine, even given the uncertainty of the marketplace the last several days and even the last couple of weeks, if we had defaulted the first time in the history of the greatest country that ever was, being 25 percent of the world’s GDP and having the largest financial services sector in this world by a long shot, if we had defaulted, Jake, this marketplace would be in absolute turmoil. And people who are already losing enough as it is on their 401(k)s and retirement programs and home valuations, it would have been catastrophic.

And

TAPPER: Governor Perry also caused some controversy this week when he said this about Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

PERRY: “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I don’t know what y’all would do to him in Iowa, but we would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas. Printing more money to play politics at this particular time in American history is almost treacherous — or treasonous, in my opinion.”

TAPPER: A former Bush political guru, Karl Rove, called that remark “un-presidential.” What do you think?

HUNTSMAN: Well, I don’t know if that’s pre-secession Texas or post-secession Texas. But in any event, I’m not sure that the average voter out there is going to hear that treasonous remark and say that sounds like a presidential candidate, that sounds like someone who is serious on the issues.

With so much media attention going to the leading Republican candidates who seem to be competing in some sort of Ignorance Olympics, I think it would be good for the country if Jon Huntsman’s relative reasonableness and pro-reality brand of Republicanism could actually emerge as a viable alternative on the right wing in the next 5 months until Iowa (and, even, beyond). I know I live in the northeast and so I am not in touch with the Southern bloc that dominates the Republican party, but the Republicans I interact with seem to be yearning for a guy like this to be able to vote for (a couple have outright enthused about him to me with not a little bit of desperation about the other alternatives).

The impression that there are no sane Republicans who want a realistic approach to issues only serves to silence and alienate the moderates on the one hand and empower and embolden the extremists. While those of us primarily concerned with atheism and the promotion of critical thinking in the public square need to vigilantly highlight the dangers of the know-nothing theocrats who are vying for more and more power and who are closer and closer to achieving it, we should spend equal energy sending the message that Republicans who are willing to embrace reason and reasonableness will earn respect on that account. Especially since given the state of their party, it is becoming tantamount to political suicide. We should actively stand up not just for positions that are consonant with our values but also explicitly clamor for and reward more rational forms of discourse themselves, even when that means going out of our way to praise people we might disagree with in substance. (I don’t mean, of course, to assume all atheists, skeptics, freethinkers, etc. are all liberals, either. This door swings both ways.)

So, use the fantastic links that Chris Rodda has rounded up to study up on and expose the crazies, but also consider expressing appreciation for the existence of a Republican candidate who admits the existence of evolution and climate change and who is willing to call out a fellow Republican on his treasonous secession fantasies. This country will be much better served by having two representatives of reasonableness vying for the presidency than by the alternative. As self-conscious and outspoken proponents of rationality and empiricism themselves, we should be as adamant about achieving this goal as about particular policy priorities.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • MikeMa

    I’ve gotten so used to the GOP crazy talk that my expectations could hardly get any lower for rethuglican candidates. To that end, Huntsman is a breath of fresh air. His sanity points to the possibility of honest debate and a recognition that a middle ground exists complete with compromise and hope.

  • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

    To be honest, I actually favor Huntsman over Obama.
    I say that as someone who is planted quite firmly on the left of the political spectrum.
    A few of the things you didn’t mention about Huntsman, and that I think are pertinent to his qualifications to lead the country.
    > As Governor of Utah, his state was voted the Best Managed by the Pew Center.
    >He is a founding director of the Pacific Council on International Policy and has served on the boards of the Brookings Institution Asia Policy Board, the Asia Society in New York, and the National Bureau of Asian Research. He is also fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to China since 2009.

    Having a strong fiscal background and being well versed in the language and politics of the most important country in the geopolitical landscape make him not only an obvious choice for the best Republican candidate for the job, but I would say arguably better than any other person from either party, including Obama.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      His anti-EPA rhetoric is the first thing to really bother me about him. We’ll see what more comes down the line. Effectively Obama governs like a liberal Republican anyway (keeping the Bush tax cuts, doing health care reform on Bob Dole’s model from the ’90s with the individual mandate which was originally endorsed by the libertarians as a way to make the moochers pay and to get the insurance companies forced business, maintaining and starting new wars around the Middle East, extending executive power in the war on terror, etc., etc.)

      The main reason I want a person of the left in the White House is not really because I think they will ever implement leftist policies (aside from handing out some pro-gay and some pro-choice treats) but because I worry about the future of the Supreme Court and I worry about radical Republican legislative encroachments on separation of church and state and attempts to gut important federal agencies (like the EPA Huntsman has decided to vilify). A Democrat governs the country from a moderate right wing stance. I worry about the possible implications of a Republican not because things will move to the right, just even further to the right.

    • http://outofthegdwaye.wordpress.com/ George W.

      I guess, Dan, that I am more in the spirit to punish Obama for having the mandate to do more, like true Universal Healthcare, repeal of the DOMA, deep cuts to military spending and the kind of moderate tax increases that would have averted the debt ceiling issue.
      Here is the thing. There are a lot of liberals and moderates who would punish Obama, but not at the cost of a Republican President who is a theocrat, ignoramus, bigot- or all three.
      I see Huntsman as a pretty moderate Republican, and there are certain degrees of even further right I would support if they helped the economy and got realistic about deficit spending.
      The EPA issue I am ignorant of at the moment, but a policy that weakened it further would, I admit, be a deal-breaker for me as well.


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