Of elections and accommodationists

So, the Democratic party has lost a few seats in the House of Representatives.  And so they maintained a majority in the Senate.  That was about what many expected, including myself.

And so many pundits were calling this election a referendum on Barack Obama.  That’s not really unexpected either.

But has Obama failed in his goals for change? Well, he has accomplished some.  Perhaps not enough for many of the more liberal-minded supporters who ushered him into office two years ago.  Why was his administration not able to do more? Well, some say that it is because of the attempts by Republicans to block legislative attempts, appointments, etc with those oh-so-spooky rules of Congress.  And some have pointed to some other causes; say Barack Obama’s desire to be bi-partisan.  It is a noble goal, perhaps, but one that may have been naive.  And I agree with some who say that it has only been two years, and those two years were mired with immense financial problems and wars over-seas.

Barack Obama seems to really believe, or at least wants to appear to believe (I know, I’m cynical…) that working with his political opponents is a means to healing the split that has grown in our culture and politics.  He does not want to simply use the steamroller of his political power to roll over them, because he wants a world, perhaps, where we work together.

And Jon Stewart’s recent Rally to Restore Sanity had a similar message of working together, to stop demonizing the extremes, and to find a way to work together as Americans.

That is, the message of Hope in Barack Obama’s campaign, as well as Jon Stewart’s rally, is to find a way for people on all sides of these debates to find a way to accommodate their opponents, to treat them like, human beings, to….

Wait a minute.

That sounds really familiar.

Where have I heard that argument before?

Oh, right.  That’s the same argument that people such as Chris Mooney and Karl Giberson have been using in relation for how we should relate to the extremes of the religious world.  We need to build bridges, work with them on projects with which we agree, and we need to stop criticizing them so much.

And critics of their perspective, such as PZ Myers and Jerry Coyne, have been pointing out that we need to look at the long-term and recognize that while communication is important with the extremes, there is a point where working with them will be useless.  There is a point where criticism simply is the only way, because the crazies are just crazy, and we need to work towards a world where their views are not automatically respected and allowed to hold sway without a fight.

And given the fact that the Republican party has been strongly influenced by the same ideas that are behind the religious extremes, perhaps this point should have been more obvious to all of us.  There are too many Republican candidates who reject the science of evolution, don’t seem to know what is in the constitution, and pander to a political movement that is not much more than an attempt to re-frame the old conservative points with a new wrapper.

It seems that the issue of accommodationism is larger than that of how atheists should deal with religious people.  Perhaps it is also relevant to how Democrats should have related to the Republican minority during the last two years.  The Democratic party tried to work with the Republicans, and look how well that worked.  They were called socialists even though Obama is a centrist, blocked at most attempts to do just about anything, and just sat and took it.  They have had no spine, no ferocity, and no recognizable rallying message.  Just like those atheist accommodationists who argue that we need to not be so, well, honest with religious conservatives.

Perhaps this should be a learning moment for the many accommodationists out there.  because while we cannot exactly be voted out of office in two years, we certainly can keep sitting back and allowing religious conservatives continue to push against science education and dominate the conversation until we start to notice that we don’t have a populace intelligent enough to think critically.

Oh crap, we are pretty much already there.

We have work to do, both politically and it terms of critical thinking, skepticism, and fighting against religious fundamentalism.