DAVID BROOKS ALMOST GETS IT
Brooks on the Mitt Romney speech, in today's New York Times:
...In rallying the armies of faith against their supposed enemies, Romney waved away any theological distinctions among them with the brush of his hand. In this calculus, the faithful become a tribe, marked by ethnic pride, a shared sense of victimization and all the other markers of identity politics.
...Romney's job yesterday was to unite social conservatives behind him. If he succeeded, he did it in two ways. He asked people to rally around the best traditions of America's civic religion. He also asked people to submerge their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end.
Well, no, he didn't "ask[...] people to submerge their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end."
He asked them to continue submerging their religious convictions for the sake of solidarity in a culture war without end.
Surely Brooks knows that right-wing evangelicals and right-wing Catholics have recognized their common interest in a culture war (over abortion, gay rights, Terri Schiavo, and other issues), and surely he knows about the efforts to strengthen these ties spearheaded by Chuck Colson and Father Richard John Neuhaus, which led to a 1994 manifesto called "Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium." And surely he also knows that a number of right-wing Catholics, particularly Father Neuhaus, have been quite influential in the Bush White House.
And surely he's also noticed that President Bush, whom Republicans still respect, doesn't seem to think it matters what you believe as long as you believe in God:
...In sessions usually lasting more than an hour, Bush, a committed Christian of Texas by way of privileged schooling in New England, and [Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-]Maliki, a Shiite Muslim of Abu Gharaq by way of political exile in Iran and Syria, talk about leadership and democracy; troop deployments and their own domestic challenges. Sometimes, said an official who has sat in on the meetings, they talk about their shared level of faith in a God they call by different names.
"They talk about the challenges they face being leaders," said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss private conversations. "They, of course, also share a faith in God, and that's also a tie they share." ...
(Anyone who thinks Maliki is the one directing the conversation to that subject is invited to buy a bridge.)
And maybe Brooks hasn't noticed this, but in the years since right-wing Catholics and Protestants declared that there was a "war on Christmas," quite a few prominent Jewish right-wingers, including Jack Abramoff ally Rabbi Daniel Lapin, have risen up angrily to denounce the secularists' "war." (Lapin, by the way, is the author of America's Real War: An Orthodox Rabbi Insists That Judeo-Christian Values Are Vital for Our Nation's Survival, which -- click the "Editorial Reviews" tab --has been endorsed by Gary Bauer, Ralph Reed, William Bennett, and John Ashcroft.)
So submerging theological differences is a tactic of wagon-circling that the culture-war right has been engaging in for a long time. In his speech yesterday, Romney wasn't recommending this strategy -- he was endorsing it.