Bernie Sanders called out Russell Vougt, an evangelical Christian nominee to an executive office for an article he wrote describing the traditional Christian view that Muslims are wrong about pretty much everything, including who’s getting into heaven. He called Vougt’s beliefs “Islamophobic” of course before trailing off tiredly that he would not, of course, be voting for him. Christians have been predictably up in arms, calling Sanders’s comments an unprecedented attack on religious liberty and whatnot. They’re probably right that Sanders was out of bounds for applying a religious test to a candidate for public office. But as for the “unprecedented attack” stuff, they forget why politicians like Sanders say what they say. Here is what is going on: Bernie Sanders wanted to have a reason to vote ‘no’ for a minor Trump nominee so that he could be seen voting no for a Trump nominee. He didn’t have a particularly good reason, so he dug up the hell thing. Video of a ‘no’ vote is what a Democratic Senator needs if he wants to keep his number open on the whirling craps table of the possible 2020 DNC Presidential nominations–time to start talking about it now, I suppose! Getting badmouthed on FOX and good-mouthed on CNN plays well for Sanders. So does having your picture on NPR.com above headline meant to evoke pensive chin-stroking and a bunch of graphs and quotes from “experts.”
Let’s walk back to the salad days of 2014, when Ted Cruz used his time to speak to representatives of Christian churches in the Middle East to stump for Israel. “Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state. Let me say this, those who hate Israel hate America.” Boos from the largely Arabic crowd promptly followed as did a banner on Cruz’s website to donate and so “stand with Israel.” Now, this episode did strike me as monstrous, since these men’s communities are acquainted with suffering, the frequent death of their women and children by terror attacks and poverty and instead of respect, honor, and comfort from their coreligionist, they instead received a politically charged ideological test. Even if there was some Coptic Bishop in attendance who, by some miracle, thought Bibi Netanyahu was a straight shooter, he’d have had all the reason in the world to boo the temerity of some greasy-haired senator asking him to toe his party’s line on foreign policy or else be labeled “a bigot.”
But Cruz is not a monster and neither is Sanders. Worse, they are politicians.