September 9, 2008

Which Candidate Would You Vote For?

What if all candidates for political office gave messages like these?
  • Hello, I'm Daniel Martin Smith. I believe that I have an invisible dragon in my garage. It can heat my house in the winter and it helps my children with their homework. I want the state to help you get a dragon, too. The more dragons there are, the lower our winter energy consumption will be and the less dependence we will have on dangerous foreign oil. And the dragons will help educate our kids so America remains competitive in the fast-paced job environment of the future. I hope you'll consider me when you vote for Governor. Remember, pick Dan Smith for a dragon in every garage!
  • Hallloooo! I am Hralf Henrikssen, and I am a fifth-level dwarf. My alignment is lawful good and I only use my +2 Hammer of Justice to fight for what is right. And that's exactly what I'll do for you as your County Assessor. As a follower of the mighty Odin, I will fairly and evenly assess property taxes and tighten loopholes to make sure that everyone pays their fair share. When they do not, I shall smite these enemies of the public, with my mighty power of imposing tax liens and garnishment actions! Hralf Henrikssen means business. Fair, aggressive, and lawful good -- vote Hralf Henrikssen for County Assessor!
  • Blessings and greetings to you all. My name is Rhea. Just "Rhea." If you elect me to be Attorney General, I will ensure that the blessings of the Goddess descend upon us all. My top priorities will be to increase the flow of positive energy in our prosecutorial offices and abolition of the death penalty because the energy of all life is sacred and a powerful force for good that can be harnessed if we all attune ourselves to the grand cosmic vibrations. I will use the inspiration of the Goddess to direct our law enforcement authorities to diminish the power of negative energy on the state and instruct them to leave the rest of us to seek our inner selves in peace and privacy. Remember, fellow children of the cosmos, vote for Rhea for Attorney General, and follow your bliss.
  • My name is Thomas Haagen. I believe that if you engage in an appropriate amount of transcendental meditation, sometimes called TM, the power of the universe will become unlocked. I have already seen this work in my job as an aerospace engineer in the creation of new and more powerful airplane designs. As your United States Senator, I will use the power of TM to guide and craft our policy to lower your taxes and bring peace and security to our great nation. TM will reduce partisan gridlock, produce better education at the high school and college levels, help reduce the deficit, and have many benefits to personal health which will greatly reduce the strain on our already-burdened health care system. Vote Haagen 2008. My name is Thomas Haagen and I endorse this message.
  • I'm Ralph Skywalker. I am a Jedi Knight in training and the Force is strong with me. When it is complete, I will be able to move things with my mind, fight with a light saber, and influence the thoughts and actions of others. Naturally, this makes me a superb candidate to represent you in the 22nd Assembly District. With my Jedi skills, I will be able to pursue an agenda of restoring balance to the Force, encouraging all citizens, both Jedi and non-Jedi, to pursue a path of greater morality and peace, greater inner knowledge and standardized test scores, and vastly improved commercial development. That means more jobs, better jobs, high-paying jobs -- right here at home! And I will use the Force to lower gas prices to provide relief for hard-working Americans. Please vote forSkywalker, and may the Force be with you!
  • Take me to your leader! Better yet, make me be your leader! I am Gort of Silverton, formerly known as Gort of Ghhhhlvkvzz-prime and also as Nicholas Jansen before my Gort-consciousness merged with my Jansen-body. Today, I stand before you, a candidate for United States Congress. As an immigrant here to your planet from my home world of Ghhhhlvkvzz-prime, I have fallen in love with the freedoms and opportunities available here in the United States. As your Congressional representative, I will speak for the Ghhhhlvkvzz-American community, and everyone in the Fifteenth District, when I tackle tough issues like immigration reform and our escalating budget deficit. I know what worked and what didn't back on Ghhhhlvkvzz-prime, and I'll make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of the past while honoring and using the wisdom of our traditions. That's Gort of Silverton, for U.S. Congress!
Hearing these kinds of statements, would you vote for any of these people? Or would you consider them disqualified for high office out of hand, for believing in obviously ludicrous things? Wouldn't their avowed claims to have beliefs of this nature make you distrust their judgment on other matters, too?

If these belief systems seem ridiculous to you, imagine how a secular voter feels when listening to candidates try to outdo each other in their public professions of belief in Christianity. I fail to understand how the mythology of Christianity should be any less off-putting to me as a voter than any of the above. Sure, I know that there are a lot of Christians out there. But just because a lot of people believe something doesn't make it true. And I really dislike the idea of a leader relying on this sort of thinking when making decisions about public policy.

Partial credit for inspiration for this post goes to Ilya Somin. There really is a politician named John Hagelin who advocates transcendental meditation as a panacea to our social, governmental, and economic troubles, who ran for President of the United States three times and got about 25% of the vote in his home county in Iowa and about 30% of the vote in the small Idaho town where Ernest Hemingway killed himself.


Michael Reynolds said...

I don't know. I'm torn between the dragon guy and the guys who think they drink the blood and eat the skin of a God who was executed 2000 years ago.

bobvis said...

TL, you mention Hagelin. Why?

I think it is because you do have some intuitive understanding of the difference between socially accepted falsehoods and those that are not despite claiming that you can't tell the difference between beliefs of Christianity and beliefs of Dungeons&Dragons.

Burt Likko said...

Hagelin actually did attract a significant number of votes, albeit in isolated sections of the country. I included him to demonstrate that it's not only Christian mythology that actually has real-life electoral purchase.

Your larger point is that we can intuit a difference between a "mainstream" religion like Christianity and a "fringe" belief system like the alien guy. Of course, I understand that Christianity is a very widely-accepted mythology. But that is a quantitative measurement of the power of a given mythology. Rationally, that has nothing to do with the quality of the belief system. Large numbers of people -- sometimes of very smart people -- have been very wrong about (the obvious example is geocentrism but there are others).

My post is aimed, clumsily perhaps, at the qualitative issue of a candidate's judgment. If a candidate subscribes to a qualitatively ridiculous world view, that should call into question the candidate's judgment about other things. The popularity of that ridiculous belief system ought to be irrelevant to assessing the candidate's qualifications for office. So I pointed to quantitatively-low belief systems because it's very easy to see that those systems are qualitatively absurd. (That and it was kind of fun to write.)

Thomas said...

We are headed toward a theocracy if more people like George W Bush and Sarah Palin are elected to national office.