It’s been a while since we’ve seen atheism used as an attack against a political candidate, but in some parts of the country, the mere hint of sympathy with the godless could go a long way.
What’s unusual here is that the victim of the attack is a conservative Republican who’s not even an atheist.
Some necessary background: Nebraska is the lone unicameral state where there are only senators. And while these elections are technically non-partisan, the candidates have clear political allegiances.
Janet Palmtag (below) is competing in a primary to become a Nebraska state senator from District 1. The top two candidates in the primary will run in the general election. Even if Palmtag makes it through that first hurdle, she’ll have an uphill climb taking on the incumbent, (Republican) Sen. Julie Slama, who’s backed by (Republican) Gov. Pete Ricketts.
That’s why the GOP is nervous. They don’t want to lose a loyal ally (Slama) to an unknown quantity (Palmtag).
In a recent radio ad and mailer sponsored by the Nebraska Republican Party, Palmtag was denounced for allegedly trashing the area she wants to represent — she’s quoted as saying “We just don’t have a lot going for us” — and for siding with one of Nebraska’s most famous liberal politicians, Sen. Ernie Chambers, regarding a controversial salary increase for a state employee.
Let me explain this because it’s important.
Earlier this year, Nebraska’s governor approved a 30% raise for State Corrections Director Scott Frakes, giving him a $250,000 salary. With that raise, Frakes became one of the “highest-paid state prison chiefs in the nation.”
Sen. Chambers said the raise was “obscene” and “immoral” in large part because the prisons are poorly run — they’re overcrowded and they don’t have enough staff members. He also called for $50,000 to be removed from the governor’s own budget in response.
Janet Palmtag said she agreed that the raise was a bad move. Nothing weird about that at all. But the state’s Republican Party is now using that statement to accuse Palmtag of siding with “liberals in Lincoln” (the capital of Nebraska) even though there was nothing partisan about her statement.
It’s a stupid smear. That kind of attempted attack is all too common in politics. But it’s hardly surprising that the GOP assumes conservative voters will fall for it.
But wait! It gets worse.
What does that have to do with the story about the prison official getting a raise? Absolutely nothing!
And yet look at this mailer put out by the GOP:
It’s hard to see them but look at those circles on the left, one of which is underneath a picture of Sen. Chambers. That one says: SENATOR ERNIE CHAMBERS: TRIED TO SUE GOD
The circle just next to it? “I’VE GOT TO AGREE WITH ERNIE ON THIS.” – JANET PALMTAG
It’s complete misleading. It’s a Republican attempt to tie Palmtag to Chambers’ lack of faith, using a statement she made more than a decade later about a completely different topic.
It’s just utter rot from a party already known to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
Palmtag denounced the mailer, emphasizing that she’s a Catholic.
People that know me, know I am pro-rural Nebraska. In fact, I’m quite passionate about supporting our rural communities. People that know me know that I’m pro-life, they know I’m pro-Second Amendment. More than anything people know that I’m not an atheist. I’m a Catholic.
It’s not a helpful statement on her part. Instead of saying she’s not an atheist herself, and that she’s disgusted that the GOP would use someone’s atheism as a political weapon — which is what a more sensible, inclusive candidate would say — she jumped on the GOP talking point and threw atheists under the bus. (See?! I hate atheists as much as everyone!)
But even if you give her the benefit of the doubt, because she’s trying to push back against an unfair “smear” of her reputation, you can still be angered by the GOP using atheism as a weapon.
Do yourself a favor and just don’t vote for anyone in that party.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)