Okay, I agree with so much of what you say, with a few caveats and some ideas:
(1) I agree that the long-term goal is not to keep Democrats in power, especially not the current bunch; but the immediate goal must be to keep the current Republicans out of power. That is, if you agree with me that the Republican Party poses the gravest threat to Constitutional democracy ever, or at least since the end of the first Civil War (which, when I think about it, wasn’t that long ago). Just look at the shit the radical right is pulling now in the states they control. And the regressive bills they’re passing in the U.S. House. And Paul Ryan’s budget. And their war on women’s rights. If they get a lock on national government, they’ll game the system to keep themselves in power. Free and fair elections? I’m convinced they only believe in that when it suits their purposes. They’re already disenfranchising everyone they can in every demographic likely to vote Democratic. But just wait until they get the presidency followed by a couple of more Supreme Court positions. No, let’s not just wait, and not lose sight of the overriding goal.
I know we agree the current Republicans are only thinly disguised, menacing theofascists. So to paraphrase that deep thinker, Donald Rumsfeld, you fight your political battles with the forces you have now – not the forces you might want or wish to have at a later time. And time is desperately short; if the alliance of theocrats, corporatists, and fascists gains control, democracy is doomed for the foreseeable future.
The economic crisis and two wars he inherited were something of a protective shield for Obama in his first administration. In his second administration, we start applying the pressure on him and the Democrats from the get-go. I don’t see the alternative at this point. Or maybe I do see it, and it ain’t pretty.
Everything you say about the importance of primaries is spot-on. Yes, our primary votes count more! And voting in primaries is, as you say, “one of the only ways to get better Democrats into office — and to make the ones who are already there more accountable to liberals.” Also a good point you make that the Tea Party proves the power of primaries. With a vengeance, I would add – inspiring the wackiest serial cast of candidates in history or fiction to truly astounding levels of bizarreness. The whole protracted spectacle was hilariously satirized on April 1st by Andy Borowitz.
(2) With respect to religion versus science, I agree that most versions of theism, taken seriously, are not compatible with science and reason – not without bowdlerizing science, religion, or both. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Richard Carrier and other atheist writers (here and here) have made that argument, and with obvious and encouraging success as can be seen from the proliferation of atheist conferences and rallies in the past five years or so.
Still, I wonder if the growth of atheism and agnosticism will continue in this country. Is it possible the New Atheist movement has, in effect, picked off most of the low-hanging fruit and it’s going to become much harder to reach the rest? Obviously, there are groups out there we will never reach. And I’m not convinced that pushing the (true) meme that religion and science are incompatible is a good way to talk to many of the other groups. Like if I could put one message on billboards and in TV ads across the country to try to promote a scientific, godless worldview, it would not be “Science and Religion are Incompatible.” (Not saying that’s what you would do.)
Different groups will of course be swayed by different messages, if you can even get them to pay attention. I guess my preferred approach would be to put science and atheism in a consistently positive public light by featuring famous (and also not-so-famous but appealing) nonbelievers/doubters past and present, along the lines of how the Freedom From Religion Foundation does it (sign up here). A variety of approaches seems to be in order. And perhaps the best is for all those good people who are nonbelievers to come out of their closets. (You bad atheists stay put!)
One last point: If there is one thing I resent most, it is the respect accorded to the batshit crazy religious right in this country. That is why I would like to see a concerted effort to marginalize them. An effective way to do that is to use their own words and actions against them. Their recent, insane attacks on women’s rights should be seen as both a wakeup call and a huge gift in the form of an opportunity to permanently discredit them.