As it has become customary at the beginning of a new Congress, the Pew Research Center released its Faith on the Hill report. Our elected officials at the national level have been slow to catch up to the country’s secularizing trend. The report shows only one “religiously unaffiliated” elected official, Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema. While New York’s Ed Kilgore is too optimistic about the religious diverity in Congress, it represent a major step forward. In the U.S. Senate, that bastion of American conservatism, there is a “none.”
But the CQ Roll Call survey of members of Congress that informs Pew’s report undercounts the secularity of its respondents. In the case of California Rep. Jared Huffman, he’s been added to the “don’t know/refused” category. Though Pew acknowledges in the text that Huffman “identifies as a humanist.”
Then there are two cases that show even more complexity. One is a current member of the House, another is a former member. Current Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Maryland) identifies as Jewish in the survey, but he also identifies as a humanist according to the Center for Freethought Equality. There’s also the case of former Rep. Pete Stark (D-California). Pew included some trends to show how faith on the Hill has changed over time. A few of those periods include the tenure of Stark who served for 40 years. Stark identified as a Unitarian during his whole career but he acknowledged late in his tenure that he was an atheist, something that is not uncommon among Unitarians. The Pew Landscape Survey of 2014 finds that nearly 1-in-5 Unitarians (and people belonging to other liberal faiths) do not beleive in God. Stark’s atheism is mentioned in a footnote in the report, but still means that people with nontheistic backgrounds are undercounted among elected officials by surveys that conflate religion with belief in the supernatural. These surveys measure belonging to a community, not necessarily what the people believe. The current way of reporting religion in Congress makes secular people even more invisible than they are in the national legislative body.
Five members of the U.S House of Representatives (Jared Huffman (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), and Pramila Jayapal (D-WA)) have joined a newly formed caucus.
Sources: Center for Freethought Equality; Secular Coalition for America
An excellent piece by Jeet Heer at The New Republic explores House Minority Leader (and former-and perhaps future-Speaker) Nancy Pelosi as the main obsession of GOP candidates in Congressional races. Below my favorite quote of the article, which somehow mirrors some of my thoughts on Pelosi.
Thomas Mann, of the Brookings Institution, has hailed her as the “strongest and most effective speaker of modern times” because of her success in securing stimulus funding in 2009 and overseeing the passage of the Affordable Care Act the following year. As Peter Beinart pointed out in this month’s Atlantic, “even after being relegated to minority leader when Republicans took the House in 2010, she kept winning legislative fights. In the summer of 2015, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the Republican Party launched a mammoth lobbying campaign to kill Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Pelosi quickly secured the votes to prevent Republicans from overturning the agreement, thus checkmating the deal’s foes.”
That’s one of the reasons why Rep. Pelosi is so despised by the Right: she’s been quite good at her job if the job is defined by passing legislation. The article also touches on the fundamental misogyny of the GOP, not just in having the sexual harasser-in-chief as President, but as the Party that has very few women in their electeds’ ranks. But I will append that the Pelosi Derangement Syndrome is also the result of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton being out of the scene. There’s no other visible leader in the Democratic Party to try to hitch to the Party’s current crop of candidates.
Pelosi is a divisive figure even in the Democratic Party, where only half of voters have a favorable opinion of her and one-quarter have an unfavorable opinion, per the article. I personally think she should step down soon because the Democratic Party needs new blood. It doesn;t stop wih her, people ly Rep. Steny Hoyer should also get the boot sooner than later. However, I cringe when I hear a fellow Democrat, as some have told me recently, that Nancy Pelosi should retire “so the GOP has on one to attack.” Apparently the GOP attacks on Pelosi are all her fault, and the Republican Party will find no faults in whoever ends up succeeding her.