[The following is a guest-post from Cara Schulz. Cara is a member of the Pagan Newswire Collective's political commentary blog Pagan+Politics and one of the coordinators of the PNC's Minnesota bureau. As a politically conservative Pagan she has spent several months reporting on the modern Pagan experience from within the Tea Party movement.]
From the Press Release:
“May 31, 2010 – Erin Lale, candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 29, was endorsed by local Tea Party organization Anger is Brewing*. Lale has also been endorsed by the LPN Vote Caucus, Liberty-Candidates.org, Gun Owners of Nevada, and the Fraternal Order of Police.
Lale plans to introduce legislation to define fees in Nevada law so fees collected for a specific purpose must be used for that purpose or given back to the taxpayers. Her plan to balance the state budget without a general tax increase is to end marijuana prohibition so the state can tax marijuana, spend $500 million less per year on prisons, free up police resources so we put more cops on the street without spending more money, bring parents back to the community which will help kids do better in school and break the cycle of poverty, have less gang violence, less border violence, and more tourist money in the local economy.
Lale is running against incumbent April Mastroluca, a Democrat. There is no primary in the District 29 race; no names will appear on the ballot for District 29 until the general election in November.”
So far, it appears that Lale’s religion has not been an issue in her race for State Assembly. This has not been the case with other Pagan candidates such as Alice Richmond and Dan Halloran.
New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, also endorsed by the Tea Party, faced intense scrutiny about his religious practices. When Halloran ran for office last year the local media conducted a smear campaign, orchestrated by his Democratic Party opponent, focusing on Halloran’s faith.
We warned you it was going to get interesting in Queens. But now it’s getting downright weird. The Queens Tribune wrote a story about Republican City Council candidate Dan Halloran’s unusual religious beliefs. Reporters around the city received an e-mail with a pdf of the article attached — from Democratic rival Kevin Kim’s new spokesman. According to the article, written by Executive Editor Brian Rafferty: “Halloran is the ‘First Atheling’ or King, of Normandy, a branch of the Theod faith of pre-Christian Heathen religions assembled in the Greater New York Area.”
Although the campaign got rough and there was speculation Halloran would be asked to bow out, the Libertarian, Conservative, Independence, and Republican Parties stood by him – and so did the Tea Party. Halloran went on to win his seat by a margin of 1300 votes.
Do these two endorsements by the Tea Party suggest that (fiscally conservative) Pagan candidates can expect a fair shake from a group many Pagans consider filled with “racists, birthers, and religious ideologues?” Could the political Right be more accepting of Pagan candidates than the political Left? We may find some clues in the recent flap over Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell‘s admission to “dabbling” in witchcraft.
“Yes, some religious conservatives are pulling out their “devil” card for this occasion, but it’s the added mockery from the left that is really setting us back. The implication that dabbling in any faith outside the mainstream is toxic to winning elected office in America.”
What was the Tea Party reaction to O’Donnell’s admission? As of yet they are standing by her. Pagan+politics featured an interview with two Delaware Tea Party Pagans (C and D) for a first hand account of Tea Party attitudes.
From C: I don’t like how she calls it “dabbling.” That’s my religion you are talking about. What I have enjoyed even less is the Left going after her for this. Should being a witch or “dabbling” in witchcraft make you unelectable? Is it a sign that you are mentally unstable? A joke? Progressive friends and co-workers, not knowing that I’m a witch, have had the most appalling things to say about O’Donnell and witches. It’s very hurtful to hear. The GOP Party leaders are also attacking her over this. Within the Tea Party, the response is what I should be seeing from the Left. Some are questioning her fitness, but the consensus response is now, “Religious attacks are not allowed here and her religious beliefs are none of our business. Take it outside.”
From D: I haven’t seen anyone in the Tea Party throw a fit like they have in the media. When people make fun of her for dabbling in witchcraft they are making fun of us. I’m seeing Pagans do that, too. They are so interested in making a Republican candidate look bad that they are willing to hurt our own path. But no, I’m not seeing the Tea Party get too upset over this. They are saying that it doesn’t matter and is an attempted distraction, don’t fall for it.
Does this mean that the Tea Party, across the USA, can be said to be Pagan-friendly? I don’t think any uniform statement can be made about the Tea Party as it is a coalition of non-hierarchical, grass-roots, autonomous local groups focused on economic issues. Alison Shaffer pointed out that local and national Tea Party groups can be very different:
“I see a very obvious disconnect between local tea party politics, such as the kind you often cite Cara, and the broader political force of the tea party on a national level, which can hardly be denied is very overtly right-wing Christian. Ignoring this rather important disconnect is likely to cause problems in the future.”
The waters are further muddied by groups like the Tea Party Express, which isn’t a Tea Party group at all, but PAC that is a front for the GOP in their repeated attempts to control and direct this populist movement.
“The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) — which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement — directed almost two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place.”
From personal experience here’s a general rule of thumb – if a group says they represent the Tea Party nationally, they don’t.
As of now, we can’t make a definitive statement about which political parties are more or less Pagan-friendly. Nor can we make a blanket statement about the Tea Party groups. We haven’t yet had enough candidates run. I find it heartening that we now have two Pagans currently holding elected office (Dan Halloran and Jessica Orsini, re-elected Alderwoman in Centralia, Missouri in 2008) and Ms. Lale, running for office in Nevada.
Good luck to Ms. Lale in her race and I look forward to seeing the results come November.
* The group’s name is “Action is Brewing”.