Monday, November 3, 2008

Liddy Dole's 'atheist' attack on Kay Hagan

The news here in the Carolinas is North Carolina Republican Senator Liddy Dole's attack ad on her Democratic opponent in tomorrow's election, Kay Hagan. Rather than show any shame, she is redoubling her efforts and running another one, just like the first. I have seen all three commercials broadcast locally (we get Channel 13 in this area), but I can only find the first two on YouTube (see below).

Hagan is making major inroads, so Liddy Dole ties her to some atheists named Godless Americans, with whom she attended a Boston fundraiser. (Since when do politicians know everyone present at a fundraiser?) The Miami Herald reports:

Voters, church leader speak out against Dole's `godless' ad

McClatchy Newspapers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan said she came to talk about issues, but it wasn't long after arriving at an early voting site in Charlotte that a few voters brought up what's become the focal point of the race - the "godless" ad that Sen. Elizabeth Dole is running against her.

"What a nasty campaign this has turned into at the last moment," Doug Gubbins, a retired computer programmer from Charlotte, said to Hagan as she worked the voting line at Marion Diehl Recreation Center.

As Carolina voters make their final decisions about who to vote for, the contest between Dole, the Republican incumbent, and Hagan, a Democratic state senator from Greensboro, brewed both on the airwaves and on the ground.

Dole began airing a second ad featuring a fundraiser for Hagan in Boston. The event, which was hosted by Democratic supporters, was held at the home of a man associated with the Godless Americans PAC, a group opposed to references to God in government.

In Dole's new ad, the announcer asks, "If Godless Americans threw a party in your honor, would you go?"

Hagan declined to talk about the ad war with reporters in Charlotte, except to say she would continue to pursue legal action. On Thursday, she initiated a lawsuit that claimed Dole's ad was false and defamatory.

On Friday, Dole responded by filing a motion to dismiss Hagan's "frivolous" suit. The motion said the lawsuit is "essentially a political press release that attempts to manufacture causes of action where none clearly exist."

The backlash against Dole continued with a church leader sending the senator a sharply-worded letter.

"We are writing to deplore as strongly as possible your recent 30-second television advertisement," wrote the Rev. Sekinah Hamlin, president of the N.C. Council of Churches, a coalition of 15 Christian denominations that work on racial, gender and economic issues. One of the churches that support the council's work is First Presbyterian of Greensboro, where Hagan serves as a Sunday school teacher and elder.

"We cannot remain silent when you challenge the beliefs of faithful fellow Christians and suggest that a leader in one of the state's oldest and largest denominations doesn't believe in God," wrote Hamlin, an ordained Disciples of Christ minister.

Mixing religion with politics didn't sit well with some voters either.

"I'm glad you're out here because I did not appreciate that," Charlotte nurse Barbara Sherman said to Hagan about Dole's ad.

Charlotte homemaker Leslie Hand said she was tuning out campaign ads because she knew the Republican Party shared her pro-life stance and other values.

"It's important to have people who will speak up for the values I believe in," said Hand, a Dole supporter.

Sharon Seward of Charlotte, a children's ministry director, said she doesn't like negative campaigning on either side and the candidates ought to stick to the issues. But she said Dole's ad did raise questions for her about Hagan.

"We need to know where people stand, but I want it always to be the truth," she said. "I would like to know where she stands but I don't know."

For one previously undecided voter, the Dole ad made the difference. Tom Carlin, a registered Republican and stay-at-home dad from Charlotte, said he'd decided to vote for Hagan after seeing it.

"The ad I saw showed a lot of desperation on her (Dole's) part," said Carlin, who has grown disenchanted with the direction that Republicans have brought the country in over the last eight years. "The separation of church and state is important to me. That was sort of a last-ditch effort to bring religion into it to try to galvanize that part of the electorate."

The voice over the last part of the ad proclaiming "There is no God!" is Ellen Johnson's, not Kay Hagan's. Can you tell by watching?

The really great part of this response ad isn't simply that Hagan replies to the heart of Dole's nastiness, but the additional Steel-Magnolia, southern-lady zinger: "and Senator Dole knows it!"

For the win!

Undoubtedly, Dole does already know it, which makes it all the more underhanded, low and pathetic.

Chris Cillizza writes on THE FIX:

Unbowed by the criticism over her first ad attacking state Sen. Kay Hagan (D) for her connections to the Godless Americans PAC, North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) is up with a new commercial tonight that doubles down on that message. The full ad is below but here's the toughest line it it: "They want to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and our everyday lives. If Godless Americans threw a party in your honor, would you go?"
As stated above, I saw this ad only last night, but I am unable to find it on YouTube to reproduce it here. (My apologies! You can watch it on THE FIX, linked above.) This second ad from the Elizabeth Dole campaign is considerably more muted, claiming "Kay Hagan's faith is not the issue," which of course, is news to the voters who have seen the ad. Of course it is. The new ad implies that she made "promises" to the Godless America PAC.

The fundraiser in question took place in the home of author Wendy Kaminer, whom the National Republican Senatorial Committee actually describes as "a leader in the Godless movement." Wow, I've read her books, so does that make ME Godless, too? (snark) Obviously, these right wing attack-dogs are threatened by anyone with ANY alternative or minority opinions. They really would be far more at home in a country that doesn't allow dissenting opinion and should consider moving to some SOCIALIST place (more snark).

Besides the nasty GOP head-tripping politics is what lies beneath this whole foofaraw: an acceptable prejudice, an acceptable bigotry. It is OKAY, at least in certain areas of the south, to publicly hate atheists. Here in the Carolinas, you might as well accuse Kay Hagan of partying with Ted Bundy. Yes, I know the fundamentalist line: NOOOoooo, we don't HATE, we love them and want to convert them, blah blah blah, ... Well, I don't buy that for a second. If you love people, you want them to have equal representation in the government and you want them to have civil rights like yourself. Fundamentalists don't, and this is exactly what happens when they invade politics. Fundies want gays, atheists, non-Christians, to settle for second-class, or simply silence. They do not want gays or atheists to openly participate in the political process. This enduring McCarthyism is more than a little troubling. This is bigotry, folks. Stigmatizing atheists as Bogeyman incarnate is prejudice, tantamount to singling out any ONE group for ridicule and hate.



Dave Dubya said...

The radical republican right are proving something every day.

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross."- Sinclair Lewis (1935)

Victoria Marinelli said...

Insert here an entirely un-ironic "Amen, sister."

John Powers said...

For many Christians there are lines they cannot cross; abortion is at the top of the list and same-gender loving comes in a close second. I don't like Elizabeth Dole's ad, but I don't see anything wrong with it from the standpoint of seeking political advantage.

American Catholic Bishops hold:

"A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position."

About 1/3 of American Catholic bishops have stressed abortion over other issues in this election. The Bishop of Pittsburgh has made plain that he cannot support Barack Obama.

The choice for many Christians is either you vote "right" or you are not a Christian.

Daisy, I very much want dialog with my Christian friends, nonetheless the issue of taboos work strongly against that. My positions in favor of reproductive freedom and in favor of inclusive views of human sexuality, are not only abhorrent, but radically challenge the inclusion among the faithful. I seek dialog, not attack!

It really sounds obnoxious, but some of my best friends are Christians. The problem of authority, that is, standing as Christians, is a real one. But as a godless one, is there anything reasonable I can say about it?

Hagan and Dole fighting it out over who's the best Christian is a fight I'd like to see Hagan win. But from my godless perspective, it looks to me Dole has the upper hand.

Daisy said...

John, you don't think the "there is no God" at the end of the commercial, sounds as if it was supposed to have been spoken by Kay Hagan? It wasn't--but that is the implication, by using a woman's voice and no attribution. That's just plain dirty politics as practiced by Nixon's dirty tricks campaign, which BTW, Dole's husband was tight with.

I am talking about the blatant misrepresentation and lies, as well as the anti-atheist prejudice. Hagan's lawsuit is based on the confusion caused that last sentence, which was presented as if she herself said it. That IS bearing false witness, as Hagan said, and it was deliberate.

I hope they take Dole down tomorrow, but so far, looks like a toss-up (as is the whole state, for McCain/Obama).

"A Catholic cannot vote for a candidate who takes a position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or racism, if the voter's intent is to support that position."

Joe Biden is still a Catholic in good standing, as far as I know, as was Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, and countless other pro-choice Catholic politicians.

lilacsigil said...

I knew that American atheists were a hated group of people, but I don't think I'd really understood it until this affair. (I'm an atheist, but Australian, so under no particular threat - we've had at least one atheist Prime Minister and probably more). On the other hand, I have been deeply heartened by the number of US Christians I have seen standing up for the rights of all people, both on this matter and in California over Proposition 8.

Mista Jaycee said...

Hey Daisy,
I'm listening to a great version of Bird Song with Branford Marsalis and Bruce Hornsby. Ordinarily I would be just mad but hey I'm groovin so I will suffice it to say just more American Shame! Or the same ole Amerikkka Dig?
Well don't fret, Hope springs eternal!

LarryE said...

In February 2007, USA Today/Gallup did a poll which asked "If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be [fill in the blank], would you vote for that person?"

There were 10 different characteristics tested. In increasing order of "no" answers, that is, in increasing order of the percentage of people who said "no, I wouldn't vote for such a person," they were:

Catholic, black, Jewish, female, Hispanic, Mormon, married for the third time, seventy-two years old, homosexual, and atheist.

In fact, of that list, atheist was the only one where "no" was the majority response.

Prejudice against non-believers is not limited to the South, Daisy. Just like it was with racism, Southerners are just more open about it.

John Powers said...

I really do hope that Hagan wins!

About the defamation suit I'm more conflicted. I think Kay Hagan's response is effective. But alas, I think Dole's ad packs a wallop. I think "there is no God" sounds like it's supposed to be Kay Hagan, but reasonable doubt seems easy to contend.

John Stuart Mill was repulsed by religious doctrine "as it imposes an unchallengable opinion from an infallible authority such as God." But the appeal to "an infallible authority" is precisely Liddy Dole's purpose. Far from being repulsed, many Christians find that impossible to resist.

The foundation of our system of government is secular and that poses problems for some Christian politicians. John Kerry was opposed by Bishops when he ran for president on the basis of infallible authority. It is tricky for Catholic authority to oppose sitting Catholic politicians, so it's rarely done. Doug Kmiec's endorsement of Obama has been rather dramatically challenged by more than one bishop and he has been denied communion during this election cycle.

The dirtiness of the politics here between Dole and Hagan raises a substantive difference with religious connotations. It is not just Protestant fundamentalists who appeal to infallible authority; it is a rather central position of mainstream Catholicism.

I don't mean in any way to demean your religious faith. What appeals to me most about people of faith is their willingness to struggle. Leave it to me as a heathen to be moved by Mother Teresa's struggle with her faith. The life she led seems all the more courageous and holy.

Certainly not all Christians are closed to argument. Indeed my appreciation for Pope Benedict has increased because he truly does hear the arguments and understands them. However when push come to shove, it's authority that rules the day. While holding fast to doctrine, it's hard to prevent a tendency towards authoritarian government.

Dole's authoritarianism is what makes me want to puke, not her religious convictions or lack of them.

Daisy said...

Larry, the last time I went to Pharyngula and attempted (rational, polite) argument, I was told I only exist to clean their toilets and have frequent sex with my brother, so I haven't been back since. Otherwise, I might have heard about this internet debacle/flamewar, which was just sent to me by email in response to this post. It kinda blew my mind! I really feel ashamed of this stuff, when religious believers act like psycho-stalkers. (I tend to believe they are having psychological issues around faith/God/authority and are acting it out on non-believers.)

Then again, I also feel many atheists don't have any respect for me (see first link) and so I do not usually support them openly, since I know they wouldn't do the same for me... in fact, in that thread, I was repeatedly told that as a believer I could EXPECT to be talked to that way. (PZ Myers himself, in an answer to an email of mine, basically said as much: tough shit, redneck girlie!)

I wish we could all TALK REASONABLY, but I do realize that in a culture in which one side has the upper hand and the other is openly attacked and persecuted (points I readily granted in the thread in question, by the way), such attempts to be reasonable are unlikely. :(

But the religious stalker in that link, which you probably knew about, is something else.

My opinion is that the more atheists are suppressed and openly trashed in "polite society"--the nastier they get online, where they can be anonymous and relatively safe. This just makes the whole situation worse, IMO.

But certainly, I agree with you. And the simple difference between calling oneself "atheist" vs "agnostic"--is amazing to me. People will cut the agnostic slack, but hate the outright atheist. And the overall EFFECTS in the world, are likely the same (i.e. you couldn't tell the difference between an atheist and agnostic by simply observing their lifestyle, usually). So, the BELIEF (or lack of it) is the sole reason for the hostility, no question.


John, I dissent from everything, and the Church is no different. I am ready to argue the Church's doctrine on abortion any time anybody wants to. I can quote St Thomas Aquinas right back at em.

Wait, didn't I say this recently somewhere? (I hate repeating myself.)

YES! I said it here--go down to #47.

Not bad, especially since it was the second time I wrote it--my first post was LOST! :P

LarryE said...

Daisy -

No, I wasn't aware of the thread you mentioned; I actually don't keep up much with atheist websites.

But I do think that there are atheists who give atheism a bad name, who are not merely non-believers but condescending non-believers, who appear to be convinced that their lack of religious belief places them on some higher intellectual plane. PZ Myers is one such.

However, having been told to my face that because I am an atheist I have no morals (which "come from God"), only cold calculations of personal advantage, I can sympathize with the touchiness some fellow non-believers display.

If anyone wants the bother of knowing more of my beliefs (or, if you prefer, non-beliefs) you can go here or here or here. All three are relatively long posts but they do serve to complement each other even as the arguments and explanations do sometimes overlap.

As to the difference between reactions to "agnostic" and "atheist," I think it's easily explained: As an agnostic, you can be regarded as a believer with doubts, "and heaven knows, we've all had doubts from time to time."

But as an atheist, you're not doubting, you've reached a conclusion - the wrong conclusion, one that places you outside the bounds of "us." You are now "other." And being in the presence of the "other" can make people quite uncomfortable.

That's why - and I can almost guarantee any atheist who has freely discussed their beliefs has met this - theists will often argue that because you can't conclusively prove the non-existence of God (it being generally difficult if not impossible to prove a negative - or can you conclusively prove to me you've never had sex with a goat?) you therefore are forced to admit the hypothetical possibility that God exists. Therefore - presto! - you're not an atheist, you're an agnostic! And so, once again, part of "us." The stress of the presence of "otherness" is now relieved.

John Powers said...

Thanks Daisy. I know you question everything, one reason it's so great to read your writing. Certainly that you love believers and un-believers alike is great. I think you understand there are plenty of un-believers who love broadly too. You provide a bridge that many can use to engage with one another. I think this is all good.

Larry, I've not read all three of your essays, but I really loved the one I read.

Both of you give me hope for ways all of us can engage honestly with one another.

LarryE said...

I really loved the one I read.

John -

Just wanted to say thanks for the kind words.