According to a leaked internal conversation between Democratic National Committee officials, CFO Brad Marshall appears to have asked colleagues back in May whether it was possible to “out” Bernie Sanders as an atheist, perhaps as a way to discredit him to voters.
To: MirandaL@dnc.org, PaustenbachM@dnc.org, DaceyA@dnc.org
Date: 2016-05-05 03:31
Subject: No shit
It might may no difference, but for KY and WVA can we get someone to ask his belief. Does he believe in a God. He had skated on saying he has a Jewish heritage. I think I read he is an atheist. This could make several points difference with my peeps. My Southern Baptist peeps would draw a big difference between a Jew and an atheist.
It’s an odd question, for a few reasons.
It suggests that DNC operatives were working to elicit information that could hurt one of the candidates in the race, something the DNC isn’t supposed to do. (A response from DNC CEO Amy Dacey simply read “AMEN.”)
It’s also weird because Sanders had been asked about his faith on the campaign trail a number of times and it was basically a non-issue everywhere he went. Yes, he’s Jewish, but the way he described it for the past year made clear it was a very secular kind of Judaism. He believes in a nebulous God that doesn’t really influence how he thinks. It’s not atheism, but it’s hardly “religious” in any meaningful way. And no one seemed to care.
When asked by comedian Jimmy Kimmel about his faith last October, Sanders simply said, “I am who I am.”
In January, he told the Washington Post, “I am not actively involved with organized religion.”
During a televised Town Hall meeting on CNN, he gave host Chris Cuomo perhaps the most humanistic answer yet regarding what he believes, repeating a line he said on Kimmel’s show about how we’re all intertwined:
… Every great religion in the world — Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism — essentially comes down to: “Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.” What I have believed in my whole life — I believed it when I was a 22-year-old kid getting arrested in Chicago fighting segregation — I’ve believed it in my whole life.
That we are in this together — not just, not words. The truth is at some level when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt. I hurt. And when my kids hurt, you hurt. And it’s very easy to turn our backs on kids who are hungry, or veterans who are sleeping out on the street, and we can develop a psyche, a psychology which is “I don’t have to worry about them; all I’m gonna worry about is myself; I need to make another 5 billion dollars.”
But I believe that what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can’t even understand. It’s beyond intellect. It’s a spiritual, emotional thing. So I believe that when we do the right thing, when we try to treat people with respect and dignity, when we say that that child who is hungry is my child, I think we are more human when we do that, than when we say “hey, this whole world is me, I need more and more, I don’t care about anyone else.” That’s my religion. That’s what I believe in.
And I think most people around the world — whatever their religion, their color — share that belief. That we are in it together as human beings. And it becomes more and more practical. If we destroy the planet because we don’t deal with climate change. Trust me, we are all in it together… and that is what my spirituality is about.
It was a great politician-y answer for a guy who doesn’t like to talk about his faith at all. Had Marshall’s strategy been put into play, Sanders would likely have responded to a question about whether he believes in God by saying something similar. (Like most politicians, he rarely gives yes or no answers.)
I should point out that Marshall responded to Biddle’s post by saying he wasn’t talking about Bernie Sanders, but rather a surrogate. Given that Sanders fits the description of a Jew who might be an atheist, who had primary elections coming up in Kentucky and West Virginia, and would be taking questions from a crowd, it’s hard to imagine who else they could have been talking about. I will post an update if anything else comes to light.