Election Night Wrap-Up: Lale, O’Donnell, Hindus, and Christian Conservatives

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  November 3, 2010 — 37 Comments

As many have predicted, a wave of voter discontent has swept the Republicans back into power in the House of Representatives, though the Democrats have managed to retain control of the Senate. I’ll leave what this “means” to the pundits, spin-masters, and politicos, and instead focus on the candidates and races that have involved our communities in some way, and talk a bit about how this new landscape might affect modern Pagans. To start off, Nevada State Assembly District 29 candidate Erin Lale, an out Heathen who was running on the Libertarian ticket and had the backing of a local Tea Party organization, did not win her race. Incumbent Democrat April Mastroluca retained her seat, and Lale’s involvement may have shaved off enough swing votes from Republican Dan Hill to make it happen.

In a recent interview with the Pagan Newswire Collective Lale expressed frustration at how difficult it is for third-party candidates to receive equal treatment and consideration in the United State’s two-party system.

“…the traditional media, newspapers and TV, usually ignore third party candidates, although I got a really good interview in the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Voter Guide last Sunday, and I’m all over the internet and radio; some media, including not just internet radio shows but even broadcast TV, frankly email candidates promising news coverage if they buy advertising, and even more blatantly, local news channels — including publicly funded PBS!– refused to allow any candidate for governor who had not raised tens of thousands of dollars to participate in the televised debate; people have the attitude that the election is a horserace and they are supposed to bet on the winner, so voting one’s conscience to vote for a third party or independent candidate is somehow “wasting your vote”, and people think they should vote for the lesser of two evils instead of voting for what they believe in.”

In a message sent to Pagan+Politics last night, Lale had this to say about her campaign.

“Thank you for all your support over the course of this campaign. Although I didn’t win, I did get my ideas in front of a lot of community leaders, organizations, and other candidates, and made a lot of networking connections, so hopefully my ideas can move forward on another front, while I move into another arena of endeavor, whatever that may be. I am now looking for my next challenge.”

This is obviously a disappointment for Lale, but it does show that an openly Pagan candidate with almost no funding or mainstream media attention can affect local politics. As we become more confident, speculations about the “Pagan vote” and Pagan candidates will leave the realm of the hypothetical and be taken more seriously.

Speaking of the “Pagan vote”, one candidate who certainly wasn’t capturing it was Delaware Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell.  While some polls saw O’Donnell as competitive early on in the campaign, her dire mishandling of the “dabbling in witchcraft” clip from the 1990s not only created a media firestorm but also earned her the ire of Pagans and real-live Witches.

No matter how Democrats treat the issue, it seems unlikely that Wiccans will turn out for O’Donnell at the polls. “Her inability to separate anything non-Christian from Satanic is going to be an issue not just with her potential pagan constituents but with any other non-Christians or Christians of a flavor that does not match hers,” said Michael Smith, the Wiccan IT analyst who hosted the meet-and-greet the governor visited. “A couple of my local politician friends say she’s losing the Wiccan vote,” said [Ivo] Dominguez. “Well, I said she never had the pagan vote for the most part to begin with.” Ben Crair, The Daily Beast

Ultimately “dabble-gate” cost her the election, and while the abundance of mean-spirited mockery had some in our community questioning why “dabbling” in a minority religion is such a deal-breaker for political office, O’Donnell’s largely unexplored connections to conservative Christianity and how they influence her politics made few Pagans regret her loss.

Turning from Paganism, and those who may have dabbled in it, to other minority faiths, it looks like 2010 will not see the first Hindu in congress. In Pennsylvania’s Sixth Congressional District Republican incumbent Jim Gerlach seems to have retained his seat against challenger Dr. Manan Trivedi. Nor was it a good night for Indian-American candidates in general this election cycle. The sole exception is the win for Nikki Randhawa Haley, the new Republican governor of South Carolina. A convert from Sikhism to Christianity, Haley is the first female Indian-American to win a governor’s race in the United States. While this election may have been disappointing for those who were looking forward to more religious diversity in America’s halls of power, Indian-Americans are a growing political force here, and it’s only a matter of time before we elect a Hindu to high office.

Finally, did the Republican gains also sweep in a lot of Pagan-hating Christian conservatives? The answer to that one is mixed. As I mentioned, O’Donnell was defeated, as was Sharon Angle in Nevada, despite polls saying she was slightly ahead, meaning her somewhat out-of-the-mainstream brand of conservative Christianity won’t be guiding policy decisions. In Hawaii, Republican James “Duke” Aiona, a candidate with ties to the anti-Pagan spiritual warfare-happy New Apostolic Reformation, lost the governor’s race to Democratic opponent Neil Abercrombie, and, as expected, Washington, D.C., Republican congressional delegate candidate, and Wiccan abortion conspiracy theorist, Missy Reilly Smith, lost to the Democratic incumbent.

But is wasn’t all good news. Republican Florida Senate-winner Marco Rubio may be a bit too cozy with rabidly anti-Pagan “Constitutional Scholar” David Barton (who argues that Pagans don’t deserve the same Constitutional protections as Christians) making some wonder how much he agrees with Glenn Beck’s “professor”.

“Senate candidate Marco Rubio revved up a crowd of about 200 supporters at the Alaqua Country Club Wednesday, but Rubio had a little help from the guy who introduced him. David Barton primed the pump with his brand of America first, last and always political/religious revivalism … Barton’s primary message Wednesday – and most days – is that the U.S. was founded as a Christian nation, was intended to be a Christian nation and would be a whole lot better if everyone started buying into that. Barton traces a number of social ills, for example, back to the prohibition of compulsory prayer in public schools.”

Too bad no one got to question him on the point of equal treatment for non-Christians, specifically Pagans. On the whole, some are starting to see this election not as the rise of the Tea Party, as some had hoped/feared, but as a second wind for Christian conservative candidates (some of whom have latched onto or gained the support from Tea Party groups). What that all means for minority religions (or for the fiscally-motivated Tea Party for that matter) in the next few years remains to be seen.

Have any election-night insights to share? Leave them in the comments!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://www.bryonmorrigan.blogspot.com BryonMorrigan

    Yay! A victory for homophobes everywhere! [/sarcasm]

    • caraschulz

      Yay! Bryon stalking me in the comments section of The Wild Hunt again! [/sarcasm]

  • Karlsefni

    Jinxed! Fox News won America.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      Pretty much. That's my reading, too.

      • Tea

        It's tragic.

  • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

    I agree with Bryon on this one. Cara, methinks you flatter yourself a bit much, soz.

  • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

    Denial of equal rights is nothing to be celebrated or pleased about from my view.

    • http://www.bryonmorrigan.blogspot.com BryonMorrigan

      I'll bet I know who Westboro Baptist Church was cheering for…

  • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

    It's a big picture thing. Maybe I should've started my own thread with my comment? Oh well, sorry.

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

    *sigh*

    And again, I agree with you, Robin. I wish it were about something less dark…

    • Leea

      Golly Cat. I'm also agreeing with Robin (again). I'm afraid I'm gonna have to sign up for Minion-hood…

  • Souris Optique

    Just because many Pagans hate bigots doesn't mean you should take it as some sort of personal compliment. :P

  • Tea

    This election made me feel very depressed. That is all.

    • Karlsefni

      Great time to adopt a weed habit, if ever there was a time.

      • Pagan Puff Pieces

        The bill to legalize weed in California got shot down.

        • Pagan Puff Pieces

          With the hand-sanitizer craze, I'm not so sure the masses are "unwashed."

          More like "over-purelled."

          • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

            Gods, I had forgotten all about her Shawn. What a ride we are in for. Ugh.

        • Karlsefni

          So?

        • grimmorrigan

          Yes because no one was able to get weed in California before. The Haight is really filled with dry ice.

  • Souris Optique

    I'd much rather have a male official that would protect my rights than a female one who would take them away.

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

      Yup.

  • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

    A bigot is still a bigot, regardless the gender and descent.

  • Crystal7431

    A great quote. Thank you.

  • kauko

    'sexual preference'

    Really? I'm not gay because I prefer to be that way, I'm gay because that's the way I am.

    • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

      My bad, wrongly worded, sorry.

  • chuck_cosimano

    Oh, they are very in touch with the country. It is just not the part of the country you are in.

    • grimmorrigan

      What part would that be? End of Days Land?

  • http://www.tigerseyetemple.org DanMiller

    a.k.a., Governor Moonbeam. Odd how he has become the one to get California out of trouble. Good luck Jerry.

  • http://hrmitchell.blogspot.com/ HRMitchell

    Yep, that's real change for ya! Just ask Sarah. ::eyeroll::

  • The_L

    I’m tempted to send Rubio a polite email telling him that although my political views differ from his, that I hope the Goddess will bless the man Floridians have chosen to represent us in Washington. It’ll either make him think, or make him angry.

    • Crystal7431

      You should go for it. At least make him aware of his constituency.

  • grimmorrigan

    Maybe he just hated you for supporting bigots.

  • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat C-B

    Hail Eris!

  • kauko

    I agree. thehouseofvines was reading a lot more into my statement that was ever intended there.

  • thehouseofvines

    Which just goes to prove my point. Alcohol wasn't the problem. Ignorance, weakness, violence and lack of self-control are.

  • thehouseofvines

    Surprisingly, no.

    • http://www.hellenistai.com Ruadhán

      uh-huh