Disclaimer: the article below represents the noodlings of a dumbass who is talking about things way over his head, but which he nonetheless found interesting as a mental exercise.
James Buchanan was the first bachelor US President. JFK was the first Roman Catholic President. Richard Nixon was the first to resign from office. Barack Obama was the first African American President. That leaves some interesting milestones still ahead of us, such as first female, first (openly) gay, and first (openly) atheist/agnostic.
I think there’s a good chance that we’ll hit all of those milestones, at some point, and that it’s just a matter of ‘when’. I also think we’ll hit them in that order (female, gay, secular). And I also think that as we hit each milestone, it will create a greatly increasing disturbance among conservative US voters.
The first milestone, female, will not have any overtly negative reaction at home or abroad. There have been plenty of female heads of state, and anybody who publicly takes issue with that will be nearly universally condemned as a backwards nincompoop.
However, the next one (first gay) would set up the beginnings of a political holy war, as the groups who are anti-gay are really committed to being anti-gay. These are people who put the behavior of same-sex consenting adults in the same category as child molestation or bestiality. They will see a gay US President as the beginning of the end of the world, and will fight against it appropriately.
But the last one (first secular) would potentially set up an actual Holy War (notice the caps). There was a recent survey that showed that people of faith trust atheists to the same level that they trust rapists. Yes, really. And a group with that outlook is going to work diligently (to say the least) to prevent it from happening.
Just as an exercise (not a prediction), I could see the future of Presidential politics progressing thusly (major party candidates, unless otherwise specified):
2012 – Obama re-elected, possible female VP (Clinton)
2016 – female President
2020 – gay VP nominee
2024 – gay Presidential nominee
2028 – secular serious 3rd party Presidential candidate
2032 – gay President, secular VP nominee
2036 – secular President
Yes, that goes 24 years into the future, and that seems like forever. But consider if we were to look backwards, 24 years ago was the election of George H.W. Bush. Not that long ago, for some of us. Again, that is not a prediction as much as one possible future outcome, the likelihood of which is open to debate.
However, regardless of the actual dates and progression, I think we’ll eventually see female, gay, and secular presidents in the US, and that that progression of events will stir ever increasing ire among conservative Christian US voters.
Interestingly enough, there is another group whose reactions would, in my estimation, parallel those of conservative Christian US voters – namely, Muslims. I am not Muslim, nor am I a student of Islam, but my lay-person’s understanding of Islam is that they generally hold that women should be subservient to men, that homosexuality is unacceptable, and that the faithless can be subject to persecution and even death.
Also, I’ve seen estimates that project the Muslim population will double or triple over the next 20 years in the US. One thing that has been consistent throughout US history is that while immigrant populations may retain a lot of their cultural heritage, they all usually end up ‘going native’ and seeing themselves as Americans, not as displaced immigrants in a strange land.
So, let’s project to a point 24 years in the future. There’s a larger, fairly well assimilated Muslim population in the US, and an increasing presence of openly gay and secular candidates on the national election stage. Both the conservative Christian base and the growing Muslim-American community would have significant opposition to these types of candidates.
And there’s nothing, and I mean *nothing*, that unites groups like having a common enemy. Politics makes for strange bedfellows, and although in today’s terror-focused, post 9-11 world it seems unlikely that Christians and Muslims would form a political alliance, time heals a lot of wounds. Arguably, Muslims and Christians believe in the same God, and there are a lot of overlaps in their faiths, as well as a lot of differences. However, in the face of a common enemy, and a heretical enemy at that, historical differences tend to be de-emphasized, and commonalities highlighted.
So, am I sitting here as a Nostradomus-like seer laying out prophecies? No, it’s more of a mental exercise, and quite frankly started as a lark, but the more I considered a potential Christian-Muslim coalition, the harder it became to rule it out completely, and the easier it became to consider it as a realistic potential outcome.
How likely is this outcome? I don’t know – as stated in the disclaimer at the top of this article, I’m just a dumbass with a blog who is noodling on things far outside my area of expertise. America’s Jewish population and/or our alliance with Israel could be a wildcard. The non-dogmatic US population could refuse to accept gay and/or secular candidates for a lot longer than is being speculated here. And it could also be the case that both conservative Christian and Muslim US voters would have an equally vehement opposition to gay and secular candidates, but without forming any sort of alliance.
Dumbassery aside, however, I think it is at least plausible that, if faced with the prospect of an atheist/agnostic US President, the US Christian and Muslim communities could form an alliance to fight against such a candidate. I’m not hoping this happens, I’m not saying I know it’s going to happen, and I’m not saying it should (or shouldn’t) happen. However, what I am saying is that as implausible as a Muslim-Christian coalition seems today, I would not be surprised to see it happen in the future.
And just how unlikely is a Christian-Muslim coalition? Well, consider that, today, the United States’ closest ally is Great Britain, and in the decade after the Revolutionary War I’m sure that would have seemed like an outlandish prospect. The US also counts Germany and Japan among our closest allies, and that would have seemed unlikely in the decade after WWII and Pearl Harbor. Think Russia after the Cold War, or China after Korea. All are now our allies, or at least our economic partners, and such alliances and partnerships would have seemed ludicrous to contemplate in the time period just after the hottest hostilities.
And that’s part of the historical context here. I can look back over my lifetime and see the birth, growth, and death of many conflicts. For example, my grandfather was a WWII vet. In the 60’s, he gave us our first color television, and we couldn’t have been more excited the day it was delivered and set up. However, my grandfather checked the labels on the back of the set, saw it had been made in Japan, and angrily returned it because he had clearly indicated he would not purchase a TV from our WWII enemies. However, my father’s and my generation defined material success, in part, as having a Walkman, a Betamax, and an Accord, meaning that my grandfather’s grudge didn’t even last a full generation.
As I continued to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s, I experienced the tail end of the civil rights movement. I did civil defense drills in school, hiding under my desk in preparation for the nuclear holocaust that was surely coming as we faced down the godless communists during the Cold War.
Then there were the weekly, sometimes daily, reports of violence and terrorism in Northern Ireland. There was the rise of Japan in the 80’s, when they were an economic powerhouse that was going to take over the US, both economically and culturally. Today it’s the terroristic threat of ‘radical Islam’ and the economic rise of China that are threatening our way of life.
But, these, too, shall pass. Old conflicts and enemies fade away, sometimes to be forgotten, sometimes to become friends and allies, always leading to a new reality in the future. It’s the way of the world. Does that mean that a Muslim-Christian coalition will definitely come to pass in the US? Of course not, but it means that, to me, it is a distinct possibility, and I’ll be interested to see how events progress.