The pious primary is underway

June 15, 2011

Mark Silk notes an interesting moment at the Republican
presidential debate Monday night in New Hampshire: Rick Santorum's take on
religion in public life sounds an awful lot like the one then-Senator Obama articulated in 2006 (free registration
required). Here's Santorum:

I'm some[one] who believes
that you approach issues using faith and reason. And if your faith is pure and
your reason is right, they'll end up in the same place.

I think the key to the
success of this country, how we all live together, because we are a very
diverse country--Madison called it the perfect remedy--which was to allow
everybody, people of faith and no faith, to come in and make their claims in
the public square, to be heard, have those arguments, and not to say because
you're not a person of faith, you need to stay out, because you have strong
faith convictions, your opinion is invalid. Just the opposite--we get along
because we know that we--all of our ideas are allowed in and tolerated. That's
what makes America work.

A good reminder that the
standard media shorthand on Santorum--hardcore conservative-Christian type--is
too simplistic. But Tim Pawlenty, who is understood to be challenging Mitt Romney
for the role of "broadly and blandly appealing candidate," stepped up and ably
delivered the crazy:

The
protections between the separation of church and state were designed to protect
people of faith from government, not government from people of faith. This is a
country that in our founding documents says we're a nation that's founded under
God, and the privileges and blessings that we have are from our creator.
They're not from our member of Congress. They're not from our county
commissioner.

It's a tired old argument,
though it's notable that Pawlenty uncritically employs the phrase "separation
of church and state." In its classic form, the argument includes the point that
this phrase--and, by extension, the interpretation of the establishment clause
that it represents--doesn't appear in the Constitution. Instead, Pawlenty
argues that "separation" somehow separates A from B but not B from A. Yet the
fact that he speaks in short and grammatically clear sentences makes him sound
like the reasonable adult in the room.

Campaign season has barely
begun, and I'm already weary of it.

Elsewhere, Paul Waldman
offers a smart take on the politics of religiosity in a
presidential candidate:

Because politics is so
much about identity and affinity, the candidates send signals to convince
voters that they are part of a shared community. When candidates talk about
feeling God's nudge in their decision-making, they are speaking to those who
think the same way in their own lives. That comment about [Michelle] Bachmann -
"She comes from us, not to us," the "us" in question being core evangelicals -
highlights the accompanying quandary. A candidate who excels at the politics of
identity, making base voters believe she's "one of us," may be simultaneously
telling general election voters that she's "one of them."

This is a problem for both
Democrats and Republicans running for president, but it is particularly
difficult for Republicans, since their party remains defiantly white and
Christian in a country that grows increasingly diverse, both racially and
religiously, with each passing year. It isn't that most Democrats don't also
affiliate with Christian denominations (they do), but the Democratic coalition
also includes almost all of America's Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and the
non-religious.

Comments

What? WHAT? Say it ain't so!

"In its classic form, the argument includes the point that this phrase--and, by extension, the interpretation of the establishment clause that it represents--doesn't appear in the Constitution."

Ah yes, the old "classic" right-wing, establishment clause-denying misinterpretation. Know it well. By the way, who formulated this "classic" argument? I can't seem to remember.

Nevertheless, you really nailed it....we all know that "crazy" Pawlenty speaks right-wing code (probably learned it is one of those camps, doncha know) that denies the Constitution prohibits the establishment of religion NOR PROHIBITS THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF. These guys are just toooooo creepy....

(I'm confused as to who's really "crazy" here....interesting that a website that is ostensibly Christian frequently out-secularizes the secularists)