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Damon Linker


I’m sure Ross Douthat will do a fine job of dissecting Linker’s latest weak effort, over at the New Republic. Linker objects to the title of my book, The Party of Death, which is fine, but in the process he labels me a “theocon”–which, in its plural form, is the title of his own book. I don’t especially care to rehash the debate, such as it was, about the title of my book: Either you think there is something gratuitously inflammatory about associating abortion, euthanasia, and embryo-destructive research with “death” or you do not; either you think that it is gratuitously inflammatory to hint that these causes have an association with the Democratic party, if not with every single Democrat, or you do not.

One thing that has struck me about the title’s critics is an asymmetry between my catch phrase and their favored ones. The phrase “the party of death” is a heuristic device in my book, and it does no analytical work. By contrast, those who denounce “theocons” and “Christianists” need their phrases to do most of the heavy intellectual lifting. And it is clearly incapable of doing it.

Linker’s comment illustrates the problem. Here are some of the constitutive elements of “theoconservatism,” as Linker has identified it: opposition to abortion; support for intelligent design; the description of the U.S. as a “Christian nation”; and advocacy of a “comprehensive religious ideology” as this country’s “public philosophy.” Well, I oppose abortion, but I don’t support intelligent design, consider the U.S. a Christian nation, or advocate a comprehensive religious ideology for the nation. I don’t do these things in my book, which Linker gives no indication of having read, and I haven’t done them anywhere else. If I’m one of his best examples of theocons and their dark deeds–and if I’m not, why did he mention me?–then the group isn’t cohesive enough to fit under one label.


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