Cultist!

“She’s adorable,” a “gay-friendly Iowan” told CNN recently after meeting Michele Bachmann at a campaign event. “But I just don’t think she should be our president.”

The speaker was a disillusioned Democrat who didn’t care for Bachmann’s views on gay issues. According to an investigation by The Nation, the congresswoman’s husband’s Minnesota clinic engages in “reparative therapy” – i.e. “repairing” gay people so that they become straight. One of many reasons for an enlightened human to oppose Bachmann.

“She will be a great leader for the United States of America,” said one-time presidential contender General Wesley Clark of Hillary Rodham Clinton, “and a great commander in chief for the men and women in uniform.”

Clark made that statement back in the fall of 2007, before Barack Obama’s slick campaign team knocked Clinton off the Democratic nomination train. The quote comes from the website of a mysterious organization pushing Clinton to run against Obama this year in a Democratic primary.

The point is, female candidates are being judged on their views and their perceived fitness for office, with no reference to their sex.

We’ve come some way from the time, years ago, when Rep. Pat Schroeder was knocked out of consideration for a Democratic presidential run because she cried about something. I don’t think that would stop a Hillary Clinton, or a Michele Bachmann, today.

Heck, crybabyhood hasn’t stopped John Boehner from becoming Speaker of the House. And he’s a man.

Three years into Obama’s presidency I still find myself stepping back now and then and reflecting on the shocking reality that that guy – that cerebral half-black fellow with the shockingly foreign-sounding name – is President of the United States. That’s the guy who beat Hillary Clinton and now occupies the post we used to non-ironically designate as “leader of the free world.” America elected him. And if many of us have found his leadership somewhat disappointing, that has nothing to do with his race, his name, or his background.

In the same way, we no longer tie the strength or weakness of female candidates to their female-ness. Sure, there’s lingering stereotyping, but while declarations of a “post-racial society” may have been premature or overblown, we do seem to have embarked on an era that is in some important ways “post-sexist.”

Unfortunately, there’s a prejudice even more fundamental than racism or sexism, and that’s the religious kind. Polls have shown that a fifth to a quarter of all Americans say they wouldn’t vote for, or would be less likely to vote for, a Mormon – one plausible factor explaining for why Mitt Romney hasn’t been able to parlay his long-running assumed-front-runner status into a substantial lead in most polls.

In fact, a Gallup poll from June of this year found almost 20% of Republicans and Independents say they’d be unwilling to vote for a Mormon.

But surely Democratic voters were more open-minded…? No, less. Their percentage was 27%.

So if it’s fair to congratulate ourselves on getting past bias against women and African-Americans, it’s just as necessary to recognize religion as a still-strong root of 21st-century prejudice. The subtitle in Britain of the late Christopher Hitchens’ bestseller God Is Not Great was The Case Against Religion. In the U.S., it was How Religion Poisons Everything. I guess it pretty much does. Even politics – as if politics needed any more poison.