Hugh invites comments on this passage by Jonathan Rauch, excerpted from The Atlantic:
I am pressed for time, so can comment only briefly on this interesting thought, which is based on faulty, intellectually lazy assumptions and (not surprisingly) comes to the wrong conclusion.
On balance it is probably healthier if religious conservatives are inside the political system than if they operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside. Better they should write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics. The same is true of the left. The clashes over civil rights and Vietnam turned into street warfare partly because activists were locked out of their own party establishments and had to fight, literally, to be heard. When Michael Moore receives a hero’s welcome at the Democratic National Convention, we moderates grumble; but if the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around.
Rauch indulges in three of these:
1. Religious conservatives will turn to violence if excluded from party participation.
This assumption reflects the sort of maddening condescension towards conservatives that is all too common among convinced liberals. Am I, a solid mainstream religious Republican conservative, of the same ilk as the people who resort to violence? Certainly not. Neither are the thousands (millions?) of others who share my views. Yet Rauch jauntily notes that it is better for "religious conservatives" to “write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics." It's really quite an infuriating notion when you stop to think about it. But that's how liberals see the world: There are "moderates" like them, and then there a benighted conservatives, meaning anyone who sees the world from any position to their right.
2. The 60's protesters were forced into their behavior.
Here we have an excuse for left-wing protesters who engaged in violence in the 60's. Does Rauch really mean to say that those people who blew up or set fire to buildings would not have done so if only they had been made delegates to the Democratic National Convention? Is there no room in Rauch's thinking for personal responsibility? And since when has left-wing ideology tended toward peaceful participation as a first option? From Lenin to the IWW to the early U.S. labor unions to the Yippies, that end of the philosophical spectrum has a pretty incendiary tradition, it seems to me.
3. Michael Moore was more than just a passing Democrat fancy.
Rauch seems to think that Moore was actually a true Democrat lion, accepted into the party, and made a "hero" thereof. I'm not so sure. As Roger L. Simon notes, the Hollywood left
"adopted Moore for a short while to make a point which is now fading even for them. Most people in Hollywood now see, although maybe they won't admit it, that democracy in Iraq is extremely important. For Moore, it's over."Read Simon's entire piece.
As for the Dems, they're running away from Moore as fast as they can.
Rauch comes down to this: "[I]f the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around." So the political "wing-nuts" should run the major parties, and "tame centrists" (whoever they are) should be "marginalized?" This is dilletantish thinking. (Yes, that is a word. I checked.) Someone who has taken Political Science 101 and has actually glanced at The Federalist Papers at some point might respond that a major goal of Constitutional government is to minimize the influence of factions, to allow all voices to be heard, and to somehow govern from the confluence of all those voices. That's where all our talk about a "big tent" comes from.
In short, Rauch doesn't understand conservatives, he's too forgiving of violence, and trusts left-wing ideology far too much. Above all, he doesn't seem to have thought too carefully about all this. Why would a writer for such a prestigious publication write such a weak piece?
Who knows? Maybe he just had a deadline.
UPDATE: Evangelical Outpost notes:
Rauch uses religious conservative as an example, implying that by including them in the process we reduce the incidents of abortion clinic bombings. He may have a valid point. From 1995 to 2003, there were over 700,000 reported cases of arson and bombings with abortion clinics being the target of only 49 cases of arson and 11 bombings. Since that accounts for .00008 of all arsons during that eight-year period, the “religious conservatives” must have felt included enough not to react with violence.
During that same period, however, there were over 2,400 attacks on churches, synagogues, and temples. Compared to abortion clinics, religious facilities were forty times more likely to be attacked. Perhaps then its time to start marginalizing “religious conservatives” and engaging those who are intolerant of religion.
This may even explain the Democratic Party’s marginalization of religious Americans. It’s not that they don’t want to include us, it's just that they’re applying the logic of Rauch.