The revelations that emerged from the WikiLeaks release of DNC emails merely confirmed what many of us already strongly suspected, and that was that Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Democratic National Committee were lying when they said that they were staying neutral during the primary race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. They were actively tilting the playing field in her favor.
But what I found most disgusting was the suggestion by the DNC’s Chief Financial Officer Brad Marshall that they plant a question about Sanders’s religion or lack of it.
Emails released by WikiLeaks show that Brad Marshall, chief financial officer of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), considered raising the question of whether Sanders is an atheist in the hope of costing him votes in the primary contest against Hillary Clinton.
“It may make no difference but for KY and WA can we get someone to ask his belief,” Marshall, who has since apologised, wrote in an email on 5 May. “He had skated on having a Jewish heritage. 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.”
Calling oneself Jewish is primarily an ethnic identification and Jews, like other groups, span the entire spectrum from religious fundamentalists and extremists to completely secular and atheist. Sanders clearly wears his religion lightly, if at all, and it is not clear if Marshall was suggesting that the possibility of Sanders being atheist was the problem or that even being Jewish was enough of an issue to sway voters. Since atheists, along with Muslims, still tend to be the most distrusted group, being an atheist is more likely to be a problem than being a religious Jew (after all, the nauseatingly pious Joe Lieberman was selected by Al Gore as his running mate in 2000), though there is still significant anti-Semitic sentiment in the US.
To make an issue of a candidate’s religion or lack of it is deplorable, especially for Democrats who pride themselves on being more enlightened on religious tolerance. If Sanders had been suspected of being a closeted gay, would they have advocated a similar strategy? Likely not, because at least for Democrats nowadays, gays are part of the in-group while the status of atheists is still doubtful.
Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said on Tuesday: “The email was a disgrace for calling into question Bernie Sanders’ religious practices. There is no place in the DNC for a culture in which any staff can invoke the religious practices or lack of in any presidential candidate. If I was running the DNC, no one would say that because I’d kill them. I mean that figuratively.”
Goldstein, 54, wearing three Clinton campaign badges including “Jewish Americans for Hillary”, added: “To criticise a Jewish candidate for their alleged atheism is not to understand what Judaism is about. I am a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter but no one could say Bernie Sanders doesn’t have a staunch commitment to social justice. I don’t believe people of faith have an inside track to morality.”
But asked if the US is ready for a godless president, Goldstein had a striking answer: “I’m gay and America would have less of a problem with a gay president than an atheist president.”
What is astounding is Marshall’s apology after he was found out. In a Facebook post, he writes:
“I deeply regret that my insensitive, emotional emails would cause embarrassment to the DNC, the Chairwoman, and all of the staffers who worked hard to make the primary a fair and open process. The comments expressed do not reflect my beliefs nor do they reflect the beliefs of the DNC and its employees. I apologize to those I offended.” [My italics –MS]
It is ridiculous to claim that the comments “do not reflect my beliefs” when he himself wrote them and not someone on his behalf. Is he saying that he writes things he does not believe? Is he is being manipulated by evil spirits that he cannot control?
The leaders of the Center of Inquiry have called for Marshall’s firing.
One of the nation’s largest atheist groups on Monday called for the resignation of Democratic National Committee CFO Brad Marshall, following revelations that he’d wanted to tarnish Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) by questioning his faith.
“Entertaining such a cynical and bigoted line of attack violates any number of basic American principles: It presumes a religious test for holding office, something expressly prohibited in the Constitution,” said leaders of the Center for Inquiry, a reason-based organization that champions secular society, in a release.
I would expect that once a new permanent DNC chair is appointed, Marshall will be asked to leave as part of a general house cleaning, unless he is a close confidante of Hillary Clinton, in which case he will be rewarded by being asked to join her campaign, like she did with the disgraced Wasserman Schultz.
As Julian Assange said about the effects of the leaks:
What does that mean for the U.S. Democratic Party? It is important for there to be examples of accountability. The resignation was an example of that. Hillary Clinton has tried to immediately produce a counter-example by putting out a statement, within hours, saying that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is a great friend, and she’s incorporating her into her campaign, she’s going to be pushing for her re-election to the Congress. So that’s a very interesting signaling by Hillary Clinton that if you act in a corrupt way that benefits Hillary Clinton, you will be taken care of. Why does she need to put that out? Certainly, it’s not a signal that helps with the public at all. It’s not a signal that helps with unity at the DNC, at the convention. It’s a signal to Hillary Clinton partisans to keep on going on, you’ll be taken care of. But it’s a very destructive signal for a future presidency, because it’s—effectively, it’s expanding the Overton window of corruption. It doesn’t really matter what you do, how you behave; as long as that is going to benefit Hillary Clinton, you’ll be protected.