Some Friendly Advice for Rick Perry

You’ve probably already heard that Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, sinking in the polls as primary season approaches, is making one last bid for relevance with a new campaign ad:

Here’s the transcript:

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As President, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

I’m not going to bother analyzing the impressive quantity of lies packed into a 30-second campaign ad (“Obama’s war on religion”, really?), and I’ll note only briefly that flaunting one’s homophobia is still viewed as a positive asset in Republican circles. Instead, I want to go in a different direction – I want to offer Governor Perry some friendly advice.

Rick – you don’t mind if I call you Rick, do you? Rick, listen: I hate to burst your bubble, but you know you’re not the first person to have thought of this, right?

No, really, I mean it. Appealing to anti-atheist prejudice is a tactic with a long and storied history in the GOP. Bravely sallying forth to defend the 85% of Americans who are Christian from the godless horde battering at the gates is a proud tradition for Republican political candidates. Saying that we want to force others to live by our moral rules, cram our beliefs into public school curricula, and discriminate against anyone who doesn’t think like we do, while at the same time you’re busily doing all those things yourself, is more or less de rigueur – sorry, French, but I think you know what I mean.

Only, see… there are a few more of us atheists than there used to be. More than a few. Do you happen to remember 2008, Rick? Do you remember this ad that a Republican ran against a Democrat in North Carolina, which coincidentally tried to use something written on a little blog called Daylight Atheism as part of a smear campaign?

Remember all that, Rick? No? Maybe this will ring a few bells:

Kay Hagan got 3,600 contributions within 48 hours of Dole airing of the controversial ad, which centered on Hagan’s attendance at a fund-raiser at the Boston home of someone active in the atheist community. The Democrat from Greensboro had immediately used the “godless” ad as an e-mail fund-raising tool, and it paid off.

And, oh yeah, maybe this will jog your memory: the Republican lost the election. In fact, she not only lost, she lost badly:

Hagan won with 53 percent of the vote, compared to Dole’s 44 percent, said Tom Jensen, a spokesman for Public Policy Polling in Raleigh.

Hagan had been running 4 points ahead of Barack Obama during early voting, which except for a couple days, didn’t include the period of time when Dole was airing the ads, Jensen said.

But on Election Day, after the ad had saturated air waves and news talk shows, Hagan ran 11 points ahead of President-elect Obama, a fellow Democrat who beat GOP nominee John McCain.

Jensen said he thinks Dole would have lost anyway.

“It may have just made the difference between losing by 3 or 5 and losing by 9 but there is no doubt that running that ad hurt her chances of re-election, and probably damaged her legacy in the process,” he said.

All I’m saying, Rick, is that making a play for the bigot vote maybe isn’t the surefire bet it used to be. Maybe there are more of us than you think; maybe we’re more organized than we once were; maybe we don’t take kindly to being dragged through the mud like this, and maybe we’re apt to express our displeasure in fairly tangible ways. Just something to think about, Rick, if by some miracle of divine providence you make it to the general election. I’m just saying, is all.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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