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:
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.
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.
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.