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The R Word


Mark, with respect (and I mean that!), I suspect that the problem here is that you don’t really understand what I mean by European-style Christian Democrats. Christian Democracy in Europe is a specific form of conservatism that is profoundly influenced by Christian, and specifically Roman Catholic, notions of ‘social justice’ and community, notions that are often used to trump the free market, individualism and, on occasion, the nation state. The theological underpinnings of this strand of thinking are, these days, rarely explicit, but scratch a little below the surface, and they’ll help you, for example, make sense of the idea of the ‘social market’ that prevails in Germany, and the strong corporatist themes that have so influenced the development of the EU. If you want me to go into detail, I will. Our readers may not. By the way, I’m not necessarily opposed to the deployment of these ideas. Politics is a matter of choices. In post-war Italy, for example, Christian Democracy was an essential bulwark against Communism.

Nevertheless, like many of those who subscribe to more traditionally Anglo-American views of the role of the state, I’m not very comfortable with aspects of this tradition. To suggest that this stems from some supposed hostility to religion on my part is absurd (and, if I may say so, I think that you need to get over that idea), but it’s not as absurd as attempting to deny that the GOP is moving in a direction that will increasingly lead it to resemble (albeit with distinctively American characteristics) a traditional party of the European Christian Democratic right. Seven years of George W. Bush point quite clearly in that direction, and nothing in this election season would suggest that that is about to change. I should add that attempts to suggest that the GOP is developing in this manner are not, as even a quick study of European Christian Democracy would suggest, the same as arguing “that the GOP is in danger of becoming a largely religious party.”

And, oh yes, not that it mattered, but I enthusiastically supported Ronald Reagan in both 1980 and 1984, Moral Majority and all.