A Few Ways for Obama To Win Back the Atheist Vote

I saw this article by Mark Mellman in The Hill got very excited. It references how Obama can win a greater percentage of the atheist vote:

Atheists are alienated. Four years ago, they saw an erudite former law professor from an elite university and assumed he must be one of them. Moreover, he was running in the wake of a Republican who constantly injected his religious beliefs into the public dialogue. For obvious reasons, Romney is downplaying his religiosity, while the president’s allies defend him against charges of being a Muslim by celebrating his Christianity. Moreover, the president himself has been seen attending religious functions regularly.

A strategy to win back atheists requires changes in both rhetoric and policy. The president should stop ending his speeches by imploring a nonexistent God to bless America (and his audience). Consider an Oval Office address summoning Americans to overcome their irrational exuberance for the divine. Urge an end to tax deductions for contributions to religious institutions. Although Christmas comes but once a year, and well after the election, it’s never too early to join the war on that holiday.

Then I kept reading the article… DAMMIT! It sounded like such a good idea, too…

For what it’s worth, Obama doesn’t need to do anything to win the atheist vote. We have nowhere else to go. We can choose to not vote, or throw it away on a third party candidate, but it’s not like a significant number of atheists (at least the ones who take social issues and church/state separation seriously) are defecting to the Republican Party.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Ben Dreidel

    For what it’s worth, Obama doesn’t need to do anything to win the atheist vote.

    He has to do something if he wants to win my vote. I supported him monetarily and with my vote in 2008, but have not donated to him this time. I plan on voting for Rocky Anderson.

    • ortcutt

       Ask the folks in Florida who voted for Nader how well that worked out for them.

      • Ben Dreidel

        I’ll ask myself how well voting for awful candidates has worked so far…and it hasn’t worked well at all.

      • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

        Considering that subsequent analysis shows that the thing which hurt Gore most in Florida — by something like a factor of 20, as I recall — was demographically-targeted disenfranchisement, and the Democrats have done almost nothing to stop the Republicans from going even further with that tactic, this is just disingenuous. The Democrats want the race to be tight, so they can continue to scare people into voting for them with arguments like the Supreme Court one.

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          The margin of error in that election was greater than the difference.  Blaming it on any thing ignores the bigger picture.  It’s like a “winning goal” in hockey, or “the free throw that lost the series” in basketball.  If it weren’t for that one thing that everyone wants to focus on, there would have been something else for everyone to focus on.  If Gore had taken FL, people would have been whining about Buchanan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743026508 Jeff Simons

      Vermin Supreme FTW!

  • Sinjari

    The thing is, most atheists aren’t as profoundly close-minded as most voting Christians — even if a presidential nominee spouts secularism at every given chance, if he or she has terrible economic, agricultural, foreign affairs, etc policies, American atheists probably still won’t vote for him over a Christian PN who has decent policies. On the other hand, Christians wouldn’t elect an atheist president if it would solve every issue the U.S. has.

  • Marco Conti

    I am still voting for the man because I think he is the better candidate. Voting for anyone else amounts to a vote for Romney. I cannot stand the idea of a Romney presidency. Makes me physically sick. 
    I am actually taking steps to move to Canada, since that’s where my wife is from, just in case of a Romney win. 

    • T-Rex

      Thanks for contributing to the downfall of America with your faulty logic. Afraid to take a stand against the 2 big parties? Stay home in November and please move to Canada because it’s people that think like you that hold this country back and keep the 2 parties that are destroying America in power.

  • Stev84

    There are some practical actions that would help like disbanding the Office of Faith Based Initiatives or whatever it’s called

    • ortcutt

       Yeah.  That’s really going to happen considering he’s already being tarred as hostile to religion.  Are you serious or is this a fantasy-world proposal?

      • Stev84

         I just said it would help

  • Jake

    So one of the things Obama needs to do to win the atheist vote is give an Oval Office address telling Americans to become atheists? How is that any different then him giving an address asking for atheists to become Christian?

    • Jake

       Wait, I think I just got it…

  • pato

    If you’re not voting, or voting for a third party candidate, enjoy the next four years of social regression.

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      Why don’t you tell us how you’re enjoying the closure of Guantanamo Bay, the introduction of equal marriage, and your shiny new universal healthcare? Then you can get out your time machine and ask this generation’s grandchildren how they’re enjoying paying for the last four years, and your ouija board to ask a bunch of dead Afghans how much they’re loving the drone strikes.

      Other than being Not Republican, has Obama actually done any good at all?

      • Dan

        Federal spending is rising at the lowest levels since Eisenhower. Way, way less of an increase in spending than under Reagan or Bush, so your point about children paying for the last 4 years is nonsensical. Romney would much worse on spending, he wants to double defense spending, won’t say what he wants to cut, and wants to cut tax revenue by 20%.

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          I’d rather have the bankers who committed fraud serving long jail terms than have lower spending increases. (In fact, if the spending increases were on something other than the military, I am actually in favor of them period.)

          I’d rather have single-payer health insurance than the dubious “safety” that our drone bombing produces.

          I’d rather have the rich paying a Reagan-era level of taxes than have Osama bin Laden dead.

          But of course Obama is exactly the opposite on this. He has accomplished things which I either don’t like at all (on civil liberties, military intervention, fiscal regulation) or which are minor, almost trivial in comparison to the things he actually does (the end of DADT, talking about being in favor of gay marriage without doing anything substantial about it).

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

            As I recall, the end of DADT was a court decision, not a presidential one.

            • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

              Legislative, actually, but the rest of your point stands.

  • Miko

    I always find it funny when people suggest that voting for a third-party candidate who probably won’t be elected but who would support your values if elected is throwing away your vote while voting for a dominant-party candidate who might get elected but who definitely won’t support your values is a sensible strategy.  Sorry, no.  The probability of a third party candidate winning is far higher than the probability of Obama suddenly deciding to start supporting your values in his second term.

    • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

      The difference between strategic voting vs sincere voting.

      For strategy, I will vote for Obama because I dislike Romney so much, that voting sincerely actually would be throwing away a vote.

      If I didn’t care about strategy or didn’t mind Romney winning, then I would simply vote for whoever I liked best.

      The probability of Obama supporting my values doesn’t really play into it. Romney is the antithesis of my values. Strategically, I am voting to not elect Romney and a vote for Obama is the best way to do that.

      • T-Rex

        You’d rather vote for someone you don’t like so that you can keep someone you like even less out of office instead of voting for someone who supports your ideals and values? Do everyone a favor and stay home in November. It’s thinking like yours that keeps the 2 big parties in control and others out of office. 

        • http://twitter.com/InMyUnbelief TCC

          T-Rex, are you just going to spam every comment that espouses a view of voting you don’t like? It’s their franchise; they can exercise it how they like.

  • ortcutt

    If a Republican gets to appoint Supreme Court justices, kiss goodbye to basic Establishment Clause guarantees.  If Romney is elected, also get ready for a vast expansion of taxpayer-funded education in religious schools.  It’s that simple.  I don’t see how this choice isn’t an absolute no-brainer.  Secular people voting for Romney or sitting at home makes as much sense as Gay people voting for Romney or sitting at home.  None.

    • http://heathenhall.blogspot.com Joseph

      Nonsense. One can be an atheist or homosexual and vote Republican just as easily as one can be a banker or small business owner and vote Democrat. Most people aren’t defined by a single label, and it shouldn’t surprise you that people don’t vote along a single issue when voting.

      • Dan

        The GOP stands directly against equal right for atheists and gay people, so it is very different than a business owner voting democrat. many business owners are for a strong economy, and despite the stereotypes fiscal conservatism is not a strength of the GOP. I am very worried about the deficit, which is one of the main reasons I am voting for Obama, despite disagreeing with him strongly on civil liberties (And Romney has promised to be worse on civil liberties).

        • http://heathenhall.blogspot.com Joseph

          We disagree. Do you realize that, according to Gallup, nearly one Democrat in five wouldn’t vote for a homosexual for president, and 42% wouldn’t vote for an atheist? That’s hardly a bastion of tolerance. I happen to believe that the policies of this president and his party are very detrimental to the economy of the country; you disagree, and that’s part of being in a free country. That’s why we have elections.

          • Dan

            It is an objective fact that Federal spending under Obama has rise at a lower rate than under Reagan, Bush, Clinton, or Bush, and that taxes under Obama are lower than they were under any of the above presidents. Obviously he does’t deserve all the credit for that, but those have been his policies based on compromises he has agreed too. It is also an objective fact that Romney’s stated policies would drive up the deficit more than Obama would, even if Obama were able to implement everything he wanted. It’s also a bit bizzare for you to list the number of Democrats who wouldn’t vote for an atheist or gay person while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of GOP voters wouldn’t either. It’s strange to criticize the 20% of Democrat bigots who wouldn’t vote for a qualified gay person while ignoring the fact that around 70% of the members of the GOP wouldn’t. I’m not a Democrat, although I will probably vote for Obama just because Romney has promised to govern even more authoritarianly than GW Bush and be even worse on the deficit, torture, gay rights, and civil liberties. I am flirting with voting for Gary Johnston instead, but I’d rather have 8 years of Obama than 1 year of Romney, just on economic terms, much less for social issues.

      • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

        One can be an atheist or homosexual and vote Republican, yes. They are also both evil and fucking stupid.

        • Deven Kale

           Oh, I’m feeling the Love(tm) in that comment!

          • http://www.facebook.com/chrisalgoo Chris Algoo

            Do you also feel the love when Republicans vote to deny rights to gays and women, and to disenfranchise the poor? Is -that- loving?

    • http://twitter.com/nathanjreese Nathan Reese

      I haven’t been too pleased with a lot of things Obama has done, but the Supreme Court argument really is the main reason why I will vote for him again. The 5 Supreme Court justices that voted in favor of Citizens United were all appointed by Republican presidents. 

    • dangeroustalk

       The SCOTUS scare tactic only works for so long and based on the moderates Obama has appointed, I am unconvinced. Obama also isn’t really helping in the faith-based initiative department.

      • Dan

        You really think Obama’s appointments aren’t superior to what McCain or Romney’s would be?

        • Dan

          That’s the comparison. Not if Obama’s appointments have been perfect on secular issues, but if his appointments have been better than Thomas or Scalia clones should have been. McCain said Robert Bork would have been a great justice, and Romney has Bork as his senior judicial advisor for goodness sake! That’s the same Robert Bork who said the first ammendment is just freedom of political speech so the government has the right to ban any speech, books, or art it finds offensive, so long as the speech isn’t purely political. That’s Romney’s idea of a great justice.

          • dangeroustalk

             I don’t get it. The Republican’s can rally against a Progressive Judge and Democrats back down. But Democrats weren’t able to rally against crazy Republican Judges? Let’s say that Romney does win (and for the record, I don’t want that) and he appoints some lunatic judge. Can’t the Democrats vote him down? If the current Democrats can’t do their job, perhaps we should elect better ones who can. Maybe Obama better get on that instead of sitting home during the Wisconsin recall election. Just say’n.

            • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

              The Democrats did rally against Bush’s appointments to the SCOTUS. Bush simply waited for them to be in recess or made his final choice (there are rules about how many they can turn down) or used other lame tactics to bypass them. Also – didn’t he GOP control the senate when Bush made some appointments?

              • dangeroustalk

                 I don’t think SCJ can be made during recess appointments. Other judges sure, but not for the SC. I could be wrong.

        • dangeroustalk

          Did I say that? No, I didn’t. I did say that they were moderates and aren’t strong supporters of the Jeffersonian Wall. I expected better. The problem is that Kennedy is a swing vote and there are no Judges who are strong advocates for the Wall of Separation. That means that Kennedy has 4 Judges whispering in his hear against us and no one giving him strong arguments to support us. Obama could have pushed for more progressive judges, but he didn’t.

          Plus, after the Citizens United case, it is clear that we can’t rely on the SCOTUS to do the right thing. We are going to need to find alternative avenues to fight the Religious Right. So that scare tactic isn’t going to work for me anymore. Obama will need to actually do something progressive and earn my vote. I won’t give away my hostage until I have a reasonable expectation of some kind of return. 

          • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

            I voted for Obama in 2008. I would rate his performance as just barely satisfactory. For all his talk, he sure does walk the politician line. I had much higher hopes.

            There is no candidate that I would feel good about supporting at this point. However, I must vote strategically. It’s not as if the president is a figure head position that does not control the future direction of the country and we can simply ignore them. If that were the case, then I would vote for someone obscure. That’s not the case though and if Romney wins, I will be looking for work in Canada. I am terrified of the damage the GOP monkeys could do with the GOP party so well controlled by the religious nutjobs right now.

            Your comment about SCOTUS doing a poor job on Citizens United only proves that we need better appointments to the court, not that the system itself is broken. If you want better appointments, don’t vote for Romney.

            I think the Libertarian platform leaves much to be desired. I am not generally content with any platforms. I have specific viewpoints on each issue. The basic bit is I want to see progress.

            • dangeroustalk

               Well don’t worry, I’m not planning on voting for Romney. But I might not vote for Obama either. He has to earn my vote. Also, moving to another country only makes the problem worse not better. Do you really think the religious right would be satisfied with just controlling America?

  • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

    With two parties, each only needs to be far enough on any issue to distinguish themselves from the other party.  Obama only needs to be just a little more secular than Romney, which isn’t hard.  Yes, he’d rather us vote for him than a 3rd party, but few atheists are going to vote for Romney.  Ron Paul might get as many atheist votes as Romney.

    Which is why we need serious election reform!

  • MegaZeusThor

    You have a bad voting system and you should feel bad?

    Some countries have Instant-runoff voting, like Australia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant-runoff_voting 

    • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

      Instant Runoff is a terribly flawed voting scheme. It basically only “corrects” one flaw in plurality voting (the system used in the U.S.) and is vulnerable to most of the same problems. (In particular, it is vulnerable to second-guessing — if IRV were introduced in the U.S., third parties still wouldn’t win because everyone would put the Democrats or Republicans first and a third party second.) And it only has any benefit if all voters are required to give a full set of preferences — which Australia does not.

      IRV shares certain things in common with big-L Libertarianism; there’s a certain class of people who are smart enough to realize that the status quo is horribly corrupt and useless, but they seize on an equally flawed system and refuse to examine it for flaws.

      (All voting systems are subject to serious flaws one way or another, but the one which has the fewest “big” flaws without being impossible to implement on a broad scale is Approval Voting: you vote for every candidate you would approve, and the candidate with the most votes wins.)

    • Stev84

      If you really want a multi-party system, proportional representation is the way to go. There are ways to minimize the fracturing that’s a problem in some countries. And mixed member proportional also allows the election of individual candidates.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        This is probably what bugged me most about Edwina Rogers.  Her endorsement of the two party system, and straw man that multiple parties cause problems in other countries.  Sure they do, and in others they work very well.

  • ortcutt

    “The probability of a third party candidate winning is far higher than
    the probability of Obama suddenly deciding to start supporting your
    values in his second term.”

     This claim is obviously false.

    • ortcutt

      Disqus-problem.  This was a reply to Miko above.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=743026508 Jeff Simons

    Nothing wrong with voting for a 3rd party, espically when you’re in a state that you know the main party canadate you support will lose for sure.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Or will win for sure.  Unless you’re in a swing state then you can vote for a 3rd party to at least show support for 3rd parties.

      Unfortunately, that only works for President in California.  For other races, such as Congress and Senate, there will only be two spots on the ballot, and write-ins won’t be counted.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Benjamin-Hamilton/1169648654 Benjamin Hamilton

    Atheists not voting in one of the only very secular acts in our country guaranteed by the Constitution doesn’t seem very grown up to me.  Come on. Seriously? Just because you’re a dogmatic atheist and not every single solitary of you’re stances is being addressed or you’re “disappointed” that the result you wanted didn’t come to fruition and therefore you “might not” vote?  That’s childish. -” Screw you guys, I’m goin’ home” attitude.

    Obama is not a dictator.  He cannot wave a magic wand and make everything an atheist utopia.  There are 2 other Houses of government.  Congress can stop him and did with Guantanamo.  Remember?  Republicans AND Democrats blocked him from putting those terrorists in Federal Prisons AND from prosecuting KSM in New York! 

    Obama has gotten done what was politically possible with what he had? What the hell else do you expect?  DADT repealed, DOMA no longer defended by the government,  hate-crimes law passed, Fair Pay Act, PPACA, Wall Street reform passed (I agree, needs to be stronger, but R’s are trying to stop implementation) Successful Auto-Bail-out etc….just try and realize that what has been one in the last 3.5 years is about as good as any atheist could have expected.

    And a sticking point of yours and the article’s author was that he says “God bless the USA”?  Really?

    I personally DO believe that Obama is a skeptic and agnostic.  Hitchens reported a few years ago that Obama “joined the african-american church to get some street cred.” I wouldn’t doubt it. 

    • Revyloution

      I’m not speaking for myself, but for a friend of mine who also is an atheist.  

      He’s a Ron Paul nut.  I know,  crazy, right?   Anyways,  he won’t vote for Obama because he thinks he is just as bad, if not worse than Romney.  He wants to get back to the gold standard, and get rid of currency by fiat.    He wants the states to run environmental policy, not the fed,  etc etc.  Personally, I think his religion is believing that humans can exist with little or no government.  We argue, in a friendly way,  often over this issue.

      Anyways,  I just wanted to paint a picture of what an atheist who wont vote for O looks like.   There are more of them like this than you would guess.

      • Paul Crider

        I am also an atheist who won’t vote for Obama. Like your friend, I am a libertarian, but I am also very unlike your friend. I have no interest in the gold standard because I think the relevant scholars have discredited it (fully within libertarian canon–e.g. Milton Friedman–as if that mattered) and think environmental regulation is relevant at multiple layers of government (I just think it will be best if it’s market-oriented, like a carbon tax).

        I will not vote for Obama because of his wanton slaughter by drones of hundreds of people in other countries, some of them American citizens. His unwillingness to investigate torture and other war crimes of the previous administration makes him complicit in those crimes and also disqualifies him for reelection in my opinion. And so on and so on with warrantless wiretapping and the treatment of Bradley Manning and sundry other offenses you can read about from the ACLU.

        So an atheist who won’t vote for Obama looks also like me.

        • LesterBallard

          So, you won’t vote, or you’ll vote for a third party candidate, or Romney?

          • Paul Crider

            I’ll be voting for Gary Johnson. He has executive experience as governor of New Mexico!! ;)

            • Aaronlane

               Here’s another Atheist For Johnson. I will, to use Hemant’s completely incorrect turn of phrase, “throw it away on a third party.”

              Because the lesser of two evils is still… guess what?

              If I vote at all, that is. Remember, voting for them only encourages the bastards.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Benjamin-Hamilton/1169648654 Benjamin Hamilton

        People who voted for Obama in 2008  and won’t this time around are cutting off their nose to spite their face.  And I especially can’t stand Ayn Rand type atheists.   Boring, selfish lot, they are.   Give us a bad name.

  • http://heathenhall.blogspot.com Joseph

    As an atheist Republican, I can say that my reasons for not voting for Obama have nothing to do with his attitudes towards atheists, but everything to do with his policies regarding the economy and foreign policy. Those trump my reservations about Romney’s social policies.

    • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

      Enlighten us, please, on the significant differences between Obama and Rmoney on foreign policy. They’re both mindlessly pro-Israel, in favor of American dominance via military posturing, against any sort of accountability over violence committed abroad by Americans, in favor of unilateral imperialistic foreign intervention, in favor of an endless expansion of military spending, in favor of the use of military power to secure oil… most foreign policy analysts have concluded that there are essentially no differences between the Democrats and the Republicans these days. So I’d kind of like to hear what these differences are which are not only so big that they cause you to want to vote for Rmoney instead but which everyone else seems to have missed.

      • http://heathenhall.blogspot.com Joseph

        You’re obviously just being confrontational for the sake of starting a fight, and I’m not inclined to indulge you. If you can’t have an honest difference of opinion when it comes to politics without being obnoxious towards people with whom you disagree, I’m not going to fuel your fire.

        • Dan

          The reply wasn’t confrontational, I think the Vicar brings up a good point: for all the Republican whining, Obama has been pretty much indistinguishable from Bush on his goals, although I think he has executed the goals better than Bush. Glenn Greenwald has written extensively on this issue, I’d encourage you to read him. I’m you like GOP foreign policy you should love Obama, if you don’t, like me, than Obama has been a huge disappointment.

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          No, confrontational for the sake of starting a fight would be if I now said “obviously, since you won’t name any differences even though you were pretending that they were obvious, there aren’t any and you know it, and your whole contention is just cover for the fact that you’re really just a racist and will be voting based on skin color”.

          See? THAT’s confrontational. Pointing out that Republicans and Democrats are nearly identical on foreign policy is actually pretty mild.

        • http://v1car.wordpress.com/ The Vicar

          Ooooo, cute. I just noticed that your comments, which had an account associated with them last night, are now listed as coming from “Guest”. Maybe it’s just a Disqus bug (they do seem to happen quite often) but somehow this seems entirely plausible as a deliberate move. You seem to know that your position is indefensible, and so — in the tradition of Rmoney — you’re trying to pretend that you never had them. Monty Python once used a joke about atheists having “the courage of their lack of convictions”; you don’t even seem to have THAT.

    • Dan

      Why? Romney is way worse on the economy. He wants to cut taxes by 20%, on top of Bush’s deficit creating cuts, and double defense spending. That’s the way to even worse deficits. Romney has promised to be worse on civil liberties than Obama (which is saying something, Obama is terrible on civil liberties). And Romney is to the right of GW Bush on foreign policies. Romney thinks he has the power to start a war with Iran without congressional approval, which even GW thought was unconstitutional. On every issue I care about (gay rights. The deficit, creating a stable economy, executive power, torture, civil liberties, church state seperation, campaign finance, religious freedom, keeping birth control available, and supreme court appointments) Obama is far superior to Romney, and I’m not even that big a fan of Obama, there is a possibility I’ll be voting for the libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, mostly because of Obama’s atrocious civil rights record.

  • Georgegauthierdc

    If he wins reelection, then the next time he takes the oath of office as President, he should ask the Chief Justice of the United States, who administers that oath, to recite it exactly as it is prescribed in the Constitution. That oath does not conclude with the words “So help me God” as many believe but simply with “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

  • James

    “throw it away on a third party candidate”

    You know, if people stopped saying that, and *voted* for a third party candidate, one would win.

    • Paul Crider

      Well, I don’t think that’s true, but it’s still worth it for people to vote third party. The dynamic I think we’re really hoping for is that if a third party (or independent candidate) gets dangerous because of some issue then one or both of the dominant parties will co-opt the relevant policy position. So if a scrappy independent drew 20% for, say, loudly demanding an end to the War on Drugs, then, FSM willing, the Democrats’ ears would perk up and they’d get enlightened on the issue.

    • ReadsInTrees

      Yep, I’m sick of people telling you that you’re “throwing your vote away” if you don’t vote for one of the two major parties. Guess what? I’m going to vote for whomever I think will make the best President, regardless of which party they belong or don’t belong to. That’s why, for the last three elections, I’ve voted for Morgan Freeman, with Ellen DeGeneres as VP. 

    • T-Rex

      Thankyou! I’m glad I”m not alone is wanting these 2 parties out of power.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_P4QFA6I7PKYUHIQNOCP6LFVXVY Woody Tanaka

      That’s complete nonsense.  The way the system is set up, third parties are bound to lose.  They can only exist for very short times during party transitions until a new two-party equilibrium is reached.  The reason is quite simple: any particular third-party candidate draws from one of the existing parties more than the other and if you are powerful enough to win as a third party, you would be powerful enough to simply take over the party from which your strength is drawn. 

      Consequently, the third party will always be a weak one and will do little more than weaken the party from which it draws its support.  This will cause the opposing party to win, even if it commands less than a majority of voter support (as the other two parties split the vote).  This will generally cause the less passionate supporters of the third party to quit it and return to the major party to prevent such vote splitting in the future.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Canada’s single payer health care system was the brainchild of a third party.  A strong enough third (or fourth) party can negotiate with the ‘major’ parties on particular issues.

        Imagine if in the US a handful of senate seats representing the balance of power belonged to a third party.  They would have a bargaining power to get their own issues dealt with.

        That’s just how it’s set up.

        This would be greatly enhanced by proportional representation.  As it is, if you don’t get the plurality in any particular race, you get bupkiss.  If a a particular district had several seats to hand out, and apportioned those seats based on votes, then nationwide a party could pick up some seats.  As it is if a third party got, say 25% of the vote nationwide, they’d get nothing, even though 1:4 people nationwide support that party.

  • dangeroustalk

    I voted for and supported Obama in 2008, but I probably won’t vote for him in 2012. It’s up to Obama now.  I am holding my vote hostage. He has to start pushing more progressive legislation and stop giving Wall Street a pass. Maybe I’ll write-in Hitchens. I want to send the message that Obama needs to work for our vote and not the message that he already owns our vote no matter what he does. If Obama wants my vote, he will have to earn it!

  • LesterBallard

    Obama hasn’t done everything I would have liked, but I think there might be a small difference between running for president and being president. President Romney worries me more than President Obama. Also, I want Sean Hannity and Limbaugh, and Coulter and those folks to eat shit.

  • LesterBallard

    Oh yeah. You know, Roseanne Barr is running for President.

  • Paul Crider

    “Obama doesn’t need to do anything to win the atheist vote. We have nowhere else to go.” assumes too much, as does assuming all American atheists lean Democratic.

    While I am an atheist and I do care about things like Creationism being taught in schools and cetera, I find certain other issues more important, like the issues with body counts. I’ll sooner take my cues on the moral worthiness of the POTUS and other political leaders from an evangelical Christian like Jimmy Carter than from tunnel-visioned focus on atheism issues. President Carter: 
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/25/opinion/americas-shameful-human-rights-record.html?_r=2

  • EvopsychFTW

    “it’s not like a significant number of atheists (at least the ones who take social issues and church/state separation seriously”

    Not sure why you think that atheism necessitates a liberal bent on social issues (obviously, you’re talking about teh gay).   While the feminists over at SkepChick try to co-opt atheism and religious people appeal to the Bible without hesitation, atheism and social issues should be largely orthogonal.

    [I'd argue that a strong understanding of evolution and the biological bases of human nature leads to social conservatism, but I don't want to open up that can of worms and become the Larry Summers or James Watson of this website.]

    • Paul Crider

      Have you read Jonathan Haidt? He argues our genes incline us toward our political leanings.

  • dangeroustalk

    Atheist support for Obama down significantly – http://t.co/2zTwYMyi 

  • Neil

    I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve seen this discussion pop up in election years, nor how many good people seem to fail to learn from even recent history.
    I am what you could describe as either a responsible, skeptical liberal who values individual freedom as much as social harmony, or as a libertarian who realizes the validity of social justice issues and the necessity of public programs to maintain a decent civilization.  Our media doesn’t do much justice to people with nuanced political views and reason-based outlooks. 

    I often hold my nose when voting for certain democrats, yet because of the last forty years of constant, intentional republican insanity (theocratic leanings, warmongering, fake-ass overblown “patriotism”, proud ignorance, public rip-off corporate welfare economics, constant lying and demonization, lack of all accountability, etc, etc, etc) I have never once voted for a republican at the state or national level.  I have always researched the individual candidates and their positions, and every last republican has been arrogant, ignorant, nearly 100% wrong on social issues and barely any better economically.  I have rarely been shown a worthy independent  or third party candidate above the local level.    

    Political change takes work…lifetimes of open-minded but skeptical thoughtfulness, and lifetimes of work to go with it.  Passion and enthusiasm are necessary, but we really can’t force groups of people to learn and change as quickly as we might like, unless we just go fascist and start with prisons, work camps, executions, etc.   Most rational liberals and libertarians in America  just don’t go there, but apparently a large amount of republicans today not only approve but even fetishize those options, based on candidates statements, votes, supreme court decisions, and real-life and internet discussions I’ve had with regular ol’ republicans.

    If your goal is to change the democratic or republican party to a more secular, or more progressive, or  more rational entity, or to start or empower a third party or an independent candidate, THEN GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GET MOVING.  Blogging isn’t enough.  Occasional donations are not enough.  Impassioned pleas on the internet are not enough.  Voting is not even close to enough.  You have the “right” to vote.  If you want a candidate or a policy to vote for, that costs extra.  Time, money, work…choose your currency, but you always have to pay.  If you’re one of those voters who can’t even be bothered to be public with your politics, who won’t even argue a point on the internet or among among family and friends, then you don’t stand a chance of advancing your views unless you’re a god-fearing republican.  The country may eventually come around to your point of view, but it won’t be because of anything that you did. 

    As far as “wasting you vote”  really goes:  if you have a viable candidate or
    hopeful proposition to vote for, do it.  Especially at the local level, because you might actually win and have a chance to influence the larger culture.  Ideally, start local and eventually bring a larger field of candidates and policies  into view.  But to be perfectly honest, withholding your vote at the state and national level, or voting for sure losers that won’t have enough votes to make a big statement, is just stupid.  Lazy half-assed statements and spite mean less than nothing, and only serve to accelerate whatever reactionary trends are currently popular.  You fall squarely into the hands of those who promote pessimism and lazy, self-righteous ignorance to gain power.  

    Making change, in any sense, means holding whatever ground we can take.  Anything less is political suicide.  We do, in fact and practice, have a greater chance of holding current popular politicians’ feet to the fire with consistent, outspoken,
    passionate, reasoned activism (talking, blogging, voting, protesting, or maybe even working to support less than perfect candidtes) than we do of electing perfect candidates out of thin air.  To not realize this, in 21st century America, is to admit and accept that you are a lazy, spoiled child who deserves whatever you get.

    Obama 2012.   

    • Paul Crider

      “But to be perfectly honest, withholding your vote at the state and national level, or voting for sure losers that won’t have enough votes to make a big statement, is just stupid.”
      I will be plumping for a third party candidate who is good on human rights issues not because I think he can win–that is indeed just stupid–but to do my damn’dest to get those issues heard on a national stage.

      I hope we all here know that voting to get some particular person elected is a fool’s errand. The utility of your individual vote is narrower than the margin of error. The point of voting is signaling, and you can get some signaling mileage out of voting for an ornery third party candidate who talks about issues the two dominant tribes ignore.

  • rlrose328

    I know some who have just given up and refuse to vote at all.  The ask, “what’s the point?  We’ll never make headway and this guy will continue to let us down.”

    • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

      And it’s a very fair point. Modern elections mostly aren’t about changing peoples’ views and making them vote one way or the other, they’re basically all about turnout, and who gets most of their supporters to actually bother voting. This time around it’s a war of relative apathy between a liberal base saddled with a fundamentally illiberal incumbent, and a Republican base made up of evangelical christians stuck with a Mormon, and Tea Parties stuck with the creator of RomneyCare.

      The hope is that sooner or later someone in politics will realise that actually doing stuff to earn votes might just help get them elected….

  • http://www.facebook.com/gwydionfrost Daniel Parker

    You know what I love most about this country…? All the armchair quarterbacks. You want to see change…? GET OFF YOUR ARSE AND RUN FOR OFFICE. It doesn’t matter which one, there are plenty of positions that open every election cycle, just do it. Fact is, if everyone who was unemployed or underemployed or was about to get their student loans’ interest rates doubled on them would simply throw their hats into the ring and actually be involved in governing themselves…? Well now, that would change everything, wouldn’t it…? Especially considering that bribes and kickbacks…er, I mean, contributions and lobbying can only be spread so thin… if enough people got involved, it could become a movement! We could call it the RUN FOR YOUR LIFE campaign! ;)

    • Sindigo

      Props for “Run for your life”. That’s awesome.

    • jemiller226

      However, even if unemployment is 25%, the vast majority of people who are of working age ARE working. Given the choice between losing my job for a slim chance of attaining public office and simply keeping my job almost no matter what my job happens to be, I’ll pick the latter nearly 100% of the time.

  • Sindigo

    Please don’t let Romney win guys.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eukota Darrell Ross

    Hemant your article seems to imply that most atheists will vote for Obama because they will vote strategically. In the past, I made assumptions about atheists be rationally minded people who accepted the same stuff I do. But I have been reminded that many atheists, while they may share my dislike for religion or my basic non-belief, do not share many other views at all.

    From a purely atheist/religious perspective and based on strategically trying to not elect Romney, I would have to agree that atheists will vote for Obama.

    But those that do not vote strategically are less predictable.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      Unfortunately, I know you’re right.

  • John of Indiana

    We have “nowhere else to go” , so we’re not going to have anybody in the Democratic Party giving a rat’s ass what Atheists think anytime soon.  I would like to be able to stay home and not have to vote for somebody who ends every speech with a “Gawd Bless Yoo, an’ Gawd Bless th’ YOO-Kinghted States!” magic spell, but I realize that if you don’t like what Obama’s doing, you’re REALLY gonna love what RMoney’s handlers have planned for this country.
    I was listening to “Make It Plain” the other night, and Mark “Gawd Bless you, Caller” Thompson had a caller who didn’t want to vote for Blue Dogs because they vote with the ReTHUGlicans so often. Mark ran the standard “You HAVE to vote for them, the ReTHUGlicans are MUCH worse!” rap on her. I feel pretty hopeless. As long as the DLC, or “Third Way” or “Fifth Column” or whatever GOP-Lite is calling themselves these days can hold the specter of “But the GOP is much, MUCH worse than WE could be” over our heads, and we keep voting them in, they’re not going to change.

    I hate to speak blasphemy, but maybe it’d jerk a knot in these Blue Dawgs and GOP-Lite candidates if we’d stop electing them just because they have a “D” after their names. After sitting out a few election cycles maybe they’d realize that if people want conservative politicians, they’ll vote for REAL Conservatives, not Conservatives impersonating Progressives.

    But then again, what you gonna do? Not vote for what is pretty much a 1970′s Moderate ReTHUGlican, or let one of these Dominionist/Authoritarian batshit-crazy howler monkeys take office?

    Hobson’s Choice.

  • T-Rex

    Not all of us(atheists) care for Obama or his incompetence. I’ll be supporting the Libertarian party because they are the only party calling for a smaller, less intrusive government. Democrats and Republicans have had their chance to run this country for decades and look where we’re at today. Why would I waste a vote on anyone from either party? Democrats want to waste my money and Republicans want to take my rights and freedom.  Anyone voting for either of those parties after what they’ve done and are still trying to do to this country is an out of touch, uninformed imbecile. Voting for the lesser of 2 evils is still voting for an evil.

  • http://www.addvalue.com.au/ caseymadison

    Hows that nobel peace prize working out for you! Since Obama and Clinton took office we have not had one day of peace on earth. Obama has got to go so Liberty can stay. Ron Paul looks like superman compared to these so called leader. I am not an atheist but I just know someone if it works or it doesn’t by just observing by their fruits. 

  • ptburnham

    I’m disappointed that the political debate  here is about as shallow as any other group may have. First off, the topic is utterly asinine. Why would any political party care about atheists? We’re what, two to six percent of the population? Most of us are young which means we won’t vote anyway. Atheists talking about Libertarianism, really… lol. Talk about a fundamentalist ideology. Like someone already said, Libertarianism is largely discredited; while it looks good on paper it has no practical application. This is wild west stuff, I would think as a group atheists would be more evolved than that barbarism.And if an atheist votes Republican… that’s just sheer lunacy. Recent history shows that when you give the GOP power anywhere they legislate social issues and spend like crazy. To say they are fiscally responsible (or ever will be) or that they line up with your social values is the height of self-deception.To those that don’t like the collateral damage involved in the Obama administration’s handling of counter-terrorist ops, it’s the best we can do. Without the proper institution on a global scale it’s the best option and results in the least bloodshed.Yes, the Democrat Party isn’t everything I want it to be but the party is at least grounded in secularism and is honestly quite moderate. Further, most of the power in government is held in the legislative branch. These stooges in congress will vote party line all the time so just vote party not person people.Finally, I would think all atheists care about church/state separation. If that is the case, a vote for president or the senate means a vote for the democrat, simply for supreme court nominations. 

    • ptburnham

      I guess the paragraphs I made don’t show up at all… Makes what I wrote pretty hard to read. That’s what I get for saying anything.

  • Dreeeepy

    Atheists are not “alienated,” they are one of the most dependable Democratic voting blocs out there. And they are far too small of a voting bloc (less than 4% of the populace) for any candidate to spend time courting them.

    A campaign strategist would get a good laugh out of this post.


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