If Atheists Can’t Get Elected, Can We Get Appointed? December 11, 2008

If Atheists Can’t Get Elected, Can We Get Appointed?

You’ve already heard that Illinois’ Governor Rod Blagojevich has been arrested on corruption charges — essentially, he was attempting to sell Barack Obama‘s vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder.

At the moment, though, he still gets to pick Obama’s successor. (Perhaps in the near future, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn will be making that call.)

Outside Illinois, New York governor David Paterson is in the same position, having to pick Senator Hillary Clinton‘s replacement.

Which raises the question:

If atheists are unelectable, are we also unappointable?

In other words, does an atheist have a shot at getting appointed to higher office or would that, too, be political suicide for the person making the decision?

No doubt we’d prefer seeing an atheist elected to higher office.

I sure as hell wouldn’t mind if one was just placed there through other means, though.

Currently, I don’t know of any openly atheistic politicians on the shortlist for either Senator position.

Still, getting appointed might be the quickest and easiest way an atheist could obtain that position. If it ever happened, it could even show certain voters that we are capable of holding such a powerful seat — that we are trustworthy and honorable and good public representatives.

Maybe the next time around, then, that atheist could (*gasp*) actually get elected?

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  • valhar2000

    Unfortunately, much like it did for women when they first began to be allowed into politics, this sort of thing would require a particularly, extraordinarily good appointee.

    Where a theist appointee’s less egregious mistakes would be dismissed by most people with a shrug of the shoulders, an atheist appointee’s mistakes would be used as “irrefutable” proof that atheists are not fit to do anything but the most menial jobs.

  • Justin jm

    I think it could happen. The appointee would have to be a better-than-average candidate and the appointer would have to be near the end of his term or at least two years away from re-election.

  • Vincent

    easier than electing for sure.
    the common voter can say “I won’t vote for an atheist” and be fine, but when a state legislature looks to approve the governor’s pick to say the same would violate the constitution. They would avoid the issue like the plague and focus on ability, which is what they should do anyway.

  • Yossarian

    Don’t forget Pete Stark. He currently is the only openly godless congressman to run and win a seat.

    So much for unelectable – still a long way to go, though.

  • Richard Wade

    …or would that, too, be political suicide for the person making the decision?

    Yes, it would be suicide and I doubt that it will happen in the foreseeable future. Guilt by association has become a prominently used weapon in negative election campaigns. The Obama/Aires incident and the Kay Hagan/GAPAC incident are just two examples. No matter how tenuous, any link with anyone who might be a political embarrassment will be used against a candidate. Merely breathing the same air as someone with a political liability is a risk. Just because it didn’t work for Senator Dole doesn’t mean that politicians will stop using any association with atheists against their opponents.

    Because of this,”vetting” has also become an important factor in politics. In this last campaign, insufficient background checks led to embarrassment for those making an appointment. That scrutiny will only get more intense. I doubt that even appointees for second and third level management positions in government departments will be spared this microscopic examination. “Godlessness” will be a disqualifying factor simply because it could come back years later to bite the elected official in the ass.

  • We have a Nobel Laureate scientist as Energy Secretary now, one that supports the teaching of evolution in school. I can’t find anything reliable that says that he’s an atheist, but it’s quite possible. Few scientists, especially decorated ones, have a conception of a personal god.

    So perhaps we’re appointable.

    And yay! Pete Stark!

  • Claire

    I think we are on the threshhold of another era of reason. Too many people see that the wizard is just a guy behind the curtain.

    I think atheists have recently mainstreamed like never before, and although there is a backlash (Hegelian antithesis) and religious extremists are home-schooling their children in growing numbers, I think a lot more children now smell a rat in religious doctrine and will feel free to question and join us.

    I think there are a lot of closet atheists out there–or people who see religion as tradition and nothing more.

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