How Do We Define Separation of Church and State? Or a Campaign from a Presidency? Or a Not-for-Profit Venture v. The Man? Discuss. No Big Whoop.

by anna on November 20, 2008

You guys know I’m a liberal commie pinko, and you know I voted for Obama. What you might not know is that I’ve developed such an admiration for our new President that it’s bordering on being a crush. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it–respect for an elected official? What is this strange sensation? I think . . . I’m melting. But I think many people feel the same way as I do, and for the most part I think this is a harmless thing. Because I truly believe him to be an upstanding citizen, superior leader, great intellect, and all that hero-worship doohickey.

I’m telling you this because I want to soften the blow of the next sentence. I think Obama might have fucked up. Yeah, I said it. And no, it’s not exactly him, it’s his staff, but that is unimportant. Let me show you what I’m talking about, and then you can tell me what you think. Mr. Right-Click is on the Barack Obama listserv, or mailing list, or whatever you want to call it. I’m not, because I don’t want any more email than I already get (unless it’s from my adoring fans, naturally), and because I hate solicitations even when they come from causes I support. So anyway, yesterday Mr. Right-Click received this email:

From: “David Plouffe, BarackObama.com”
Date: Tue, 18 Nov 2008 16:54:45 -0500
Subject: Where we go from here
To: Mr. Right-Click
Mr. Right-Click –
Please take a few minutes and help shape the future of this movement. Share your campaign experience and your thoughts on the best way to keep supporting our agenda for change: http://my.barackobama.com/whatsnext. The inauguration is just 63 days away, and as President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Biden prepare to take office, they’ll need your support more than ever.You’ve built an organization in your community and across the country that will continue to work for change — whether it’s by building grassroots support for legislation, backing state and local candidates, or sharing organizing techniques to effect change in your neighborhood. Your hard work built this movement. Now it’s up to you to decide how we move forward. Take this short survey and share your ideas: . Thanks to you, this country has an historic opportunity. Electing Barack was the first big step, but there’s a lot of challenging and important work ahead. Together, we can keep making history,
David
David Plouffe
Campaign Manager
Obama for America

OK. On the one hand, would you check out the work ethic on these people?! It’s astounding. While some people might be sitting in an oval office with their hands down their pants eating sandwiches–I’m not mentioning any names, this is all hypothetical–these people are like itching around to figure out how to get work done before they’re even on the payroll. I love it. It’s inspiring. So kudos to them for that.

That said. I would never fill out a questionnaire, because I’m too fucking lazy for that. But let’s say I wasn’t. Let’s take a look at the questionnaire. Most of the questions are run-of-the-mill, exit survey type things. Nothing to write home about. [BTW: At present, there are, apparently, so many people filling out this goddamn survey that I was able to go to a spinning class and come back and still keep getting page load errors on the survey all morning. Lemmings.] Here is the question that prompted Mr. Right-Click to bring the questionnaire to my attention:

Mr. Right-Click was a little upset that “the government” was inquiring about his religious practices. At first, I was like, “Honey, they’re just trying to get a feel for who their supporters are. It will help them with their time in office–how they choose what issues to raise, how they fill cabinet positions, and how they plan for a reelection campaign.” Which I think is totally what this is about, and it is what any efficiently run business would do at the end of a successful (or unsuccessful) campaign/venture. BarackObama.com is a business, after all–a not-for-profit venture, to be sure, but structurally much the same as a business. So we cannot fault them for trying to run it efficiently.

But now that Barack Obama is President-Elect, if I fill out this information, whether anonymously or with my name attached, am I not telling The Government all about my life? And even if The Government that is running the survey appears to be a benign entity (to me) at present, do I want them having this information on me at their fingertips? Where will it go? Why does The Government need to know how much money I make? Don’t they get that info from the tax returns I file? Cannot somebody just look it up? What difference does it make if I go to church?

I’m pretty confident that there is nothing wrong, legally speaking, with this questionnaire. But it troubles me for reasons I’m having difficulty articulating. The right to privacy is something that is important to maintain, even if people are prone at present, due to the overwhelming feel-good warm fuzzies predominant among Obama supporters, to give it up. I don’t see a lot of good coming from this–or, rather, the potential for good seems to be heavily outweighed by the potential for bad.

What do you people think? Did you fill out the survey? Would you?

{ 25 comments }

Heather November 20, 2008 at 6:44 am

I live in Canada so I’m only vaguely aware of how your elections run. I don’t think the information will be used for any sort of vile purpose, they are probably just curious as to who their supporters are, what your needs are, what’s important to you in your life, etc, etc. Even with our election this past fall, I did a phone questionnaire and they asked me the same sort of questions. I guess I never put that much thought into why they would want that information. And I do understand why your husband would be put off, there are certain things the gov’t does not need to know about their voters, but in my opinion it’s not an invasion of privacy. Asking if you enjoy whips and chains, now that’s invasion. *lol* Is it one of those surveys where you HAVE to fill out everything? Isn’t there an option for “other” or “n/a” so that you can keep certain things private? I would probably fill it out but then I’m far too trusting. Or stupid? *lol*

Shawna November 20, 2008 at 7:39 am

Egads. I got to the part where you linked to the survey, clicked on it, immediately cut and pasted the web address and sent it to my husband. As an Obama supporter, I thought he’d enjoy it. Plus he has nothing to do at work all day so it would take up some time that he’d normally spend browsing porn or somesuch. THEN I read the rest of the post and immediately sent him another email telling him NOT to fill it out. Because HIS information is linked to MY information, and (church-goer or not) I don’t want my stuff getting out any further than it has to.

Besides, neither of us go to any form of religious service, so I’d rather avoid the fear of being struck dead by a God-induced lightning bolt.

Shawna´s last blog post..The book meme–page 56

Libby November 20, 2008 at 7:47 am

I got the same e-mail, and didn’t fill it out for the same reason. Why does it matter how often I go to church? It made me feel like if I was not part of the demographic they were concerned about, they weren’t going to take my suggestions seriously.

Libby´s last blog post..Hangin’ Tough

anna November 20, 2008 at 8:23 am

@Heather, I agree that it’s harmless in all likelihood. I think it just sets a bad precedent, because people are more willing to do this kind of thing right now and it could potentially be used against them. And that concerns me a little.

@Shawna, LOL! He probably wouldn’t have been able to get through anyway! That site was totally slammed when I was on there.

@Libby, good point. Are they figuring that we heathens are already “in the bank,” so to speak? And trying to figure out how much they are going to have to talk about God to keep the ones who put him over the top happy?

Neil November 20, 2008 at 8:24 am

I would not give the information.

Zack November 20, 2008 at 8:41 am

I’m an Obama supporter and contributor too, and I see your point about the distinction between the Obama campaign and the Obama administration. I’m curious if the information they’re collecting would become White House property, and in that case, if they’d have to save it for the next administration. Or if the GAO would review it and determine its level of secrecy, and maybe eventually release it to the public record in 20 years like the Nixon tapes.

Cat November 20, 2008 at 9:09 am

I have a borderline crush on him, too. That 60 Minutes interview just sent me right over the top with his big, white teeth and his ability to speak English and his sense of humor. GAWD. Anyway, I would not fill out the survey because I am lazy.

Cat´s last blog post..Big Motherfucking Fish

My Buddy Mimi November 20, 2008 at 9:11 am

I would fill it out anonymously to give them a better idea of who their supporters are, but you are right in that the question is a little odd.

Jim November 20, 2008 at 9:45 am

It’s none of the government’s business. I have no trouble with most questions, but there’s a reason the forefathers separated church and state. It should have no bearing on the government.

Jim´s last blog post..Blank Comment Panic + a shout out and an award

goodfather November 20, 2008 at 10:05 am

I was going to write Jim’s response, but I see he’s already written it. So, er, let me say EXACTLY what he said. Heh.

goodfather´s last blog post..NaNoBloMo: The nature of the beast

Michele November 20, 2008 at 10:09 am

Since this is from the campaign office it shouldn’t qualify as a public record and shouldn’t have to comply with Public Records laws. Basically it is their own info after you give it to them. That being said. I would hesitate to answer that question also or any of the others that I felt were nobody’s business but my own and I would also fill out this survey anonymously. Survey’s are a great way to determine what is important to those you represent.

Michele´s last blog post..Fashion 144 Years Ago

anna November 20, 2008 at 10:10 am

Well, to be fair, our money says, “In God We Trust,” we swear to tell the truth in court on a Bible, and pledge allegiance to “one nation, under God.” So sometimes I think that distinction is only used when it’s convenient.

Reminds me of one of my high school classmates, who would refuse to say the pledge of allegiance in Calculus class, and this would infuriate our teacher. He also wore a button on his backpack that said “Fuck Authority.” If AKD happens by any time soon, she will remember this fondly as well.

Keely November 20, 2008 at 10:48 am

Interesting. I’m Canadian as well, so obviously I wouldn’t fill out the questionnaire. And good for them for keeping the ball of progress rolling. But I think that question would give me pause also. If there was no way to skip it (“n/a” or “withheld”), I wouldn’t fill out the survey. I’m too suspicious of a person to assume the question was innocuous.

Keely´s last blog post..I virtually rock. I rock virtually? Whatever.

MommyNamedApril November 20, 2008 at 10:58 am

I would not fill out the survey and, like your husband, have a real problem with the religious affiliation/attendance question. But, that’s coming from an atheist who thinks religion has ZERO place in government. Like 0% absolutely not at all all whatsoever none.

p.s. swearing on the bible in court is just for the movies. as is the judge’s gavel.

MommyNamedApril´s last blog post..(Nearly?) Wordless Wednesday.

The Stiletto Mom November 20, 2008 at 11:04 am

Nope. No way. Too much information and why do they need it anyway? I think that type of information would be used more to guide the tone of his messages which he needs to just figure out on his own. It has no bearing on government nor should it. Then again, what do I know, I voted for the stupid old guy. :)

The Stiletto Mom´s last blog post..The Shoebox Chronicles: Monkeys

Amy November 20, 2008 at 11:45 am

I also wouldn’t (and didn’t) fill it out because I am lazy. I hate that so many surveys (and censuses – censii?) ask questions about religious affiliation – like it matters. My mother, who goes to church a LOT and I (who hasn’t been in a church for anything but a wedding or funeral in over 8 years, and that last time was under duress) have similar opinions on reproductive choice & the war in Iraq. My father (who is a minister, so you see why they go to church so much – job description) and the architect’s father (fairly militant atheist) have the same opinions about gay marriage (they’re both kinda…ewww…but we’re not against it as long as we don’t have to have our own gay marriage).

I have many other thoughts now. But – I won’t fill your blog with them!

Amy´s last blog post..Bringing Home the Bacon

Ginger November 20, 2008 at 11:46 am

Those kinds of questions always give me pause. I probably wouldn’t fill the survey out if I got to that question…of course, that’s assuming I’d ever start the survey to begin with.

I’m with you, something about it is unsettling, but I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel that way.

Ginger´s last blog post..10 reasons I love blogging

anna November 20, 2008 at 11:53 am

Barack Obama is following me on twitter now. Must go make tinfoil hat. BBL

the ex November 20, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Honestly, I filled out the whole thing when I received the email. Maybe I’m naive but do I really care who knows how often I go to church? I don’t know…

the ex´s last blog post..I CAN’T WRITE.

anna November 20, 2008 at 12:51 pm

@the ex, listen when the space people come, you are going to care.

Monica November 20, 2008 at 2:55 pm

Can we all spell paranoia? I read an article that says it’s on the rise in the UK and it seems to be spreading across the pond, hehe. Seriously though, the survey is voluntary so no need to answer every question (or any question). I also don’t see how going/not going to church can be used against you in this country. Of course if we let the likes of Sarah Palin run for national office there’s no telling what sort of nastiness we the heathen can expect to be inflicted upon us. But then, I would not fill out a questionaire sent by her ilk anyway! Lastly, I have to say that I don’t think that a question about religious practices in this sort of questionaire really goes into the realm of Church/State separation. Seems to me it’s about demographics and they can ask any question they want. Thank somebody that we are FREE to refrain from answering.

anna November 20, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Listen, you’re not paranoid if everyone is out to get you. :)

jenni November 20, 2008 at 4:09 pm

Yeah, I think it’s a little weird. I’m also too lazy to answer surveys, but that question would have turned me right off.

jenni´s last blog post..Son. Of. A. BREECH!

Mr Right-Click November 20, 2008 at 8:32 pm

There is something wrong with the government or government elect when it asks us about our religious preferences or how we generally vote, as this survey did. How about a survey on which issues were most pressing? Rate on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most important and 1 being not important at all the following issues: Iran’s growing nuclear capability, American dependence on foreign oil, capital gains taxes, healthcare reform etc etc. But this survey was his first post-election attempt to connect with his donor base and he fucking blew it. Very very disappointing especially for those of us who count ourselves as anti-theists who are sick as hell about the last eight years of pie in the sky head in the sand politics of faith and destruction.

Hey Obama! Stop raising money and stop overstepping and get to work. God is dead and so are your chances of re-election if you keep snooping “in good faith.” Leave Rev. Wright and that poison noise at the White House gates and lift the ban on stem cell research and be a secular political champion for all of us. I have faith in you, however much diminished by your overreaching survey. Oh, and my answer to your un-American question about my religious activities: go to hell!

anna November 20, 2008 at 8:37 pm

But how do you really feel, honey?

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