The Corner

Ian Reifowitz

has written an unintentionally hilarious piece for the New Republic comparing today’s Christian conservatives to the “radical multiculturalists” of the 1990s. The latter were threats to “American pluralism,” in their day, as Christian conservatives are today. (Wait a second. Weren’t the Christian conservatives supposed to be threats to American pluralism back in the early 1990s, too?) I won’t linger on the thesis, since it’s unassailable–as long as “American pluralism” is identified with New Republic-style liberalism, and Christian conservatism requires a commitment to views that are not held by, say, a majority of opponents of abortion. (Stanley: You’ll be delighted to see that the word “dominion” gets mentioned.)

Odder is this passage: “[C]onservative nominees to the bench are not under attack from liberals for holding Christian beliefs; they are under attack for advocating a judicial philosophy that would impose those religious beliefs–on same-sex marriage, on abortion, on stem-cell research–on other Americans” (emphasis his). What world is Reifowitz living in? Where is the judge who has said that he would ban abortion or stem-cell research or same-sex marriage even if the public wanted to allow these things? Justice Scalia hasn’t said anything like this. Nor have the mainstream opponents of judicial nominees such as Bill Pryor and Priscilla Owen–until, that is, this weekend, when Mario Cuomo made the same bizarre claims in the Democratic response to the president’s radio address. Maybe Reifowitz is getting his information from Cuomo? In reality, the people who want judges to overturn or block democratic decisions in this area are our liberal “pluralist” friends.

The amusing part of the article comes at the end, when Reifowitz explains the strategy for defeating Christian conservatism: “[L]iberals will have to reach out to conservatives who care deeply about pluralism. . . . We are starting to see signs of dissent among Republicans and conservatives, most notably in recent comments by Christie Todd Whitman, Christopher Shays, and John Danforth. (Andrew Sullivan did his part in last week’s TNR cover story.) Whitman, a moderate former governor and EPA chief, called her book It’s My Party Too. Shays, a member of the House since 1987, commented on March 25 that ‘this Republican party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy.’ Danforth, in an eloquent New York Times op-ed on March 30, argued that religious conservatives have ‘hijacked’ the GOP. ‘Republicans,’ he wrote, ‘have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians. . . . [I]t has become the political extension of a religious movement.’ Whitman, Shays, and Danforth should receive support from liberals in these efforts.” Oh, they do.

What they don’t receive is much support from actual self-described conservatives, who tend to see them as has-beens whose hold on their party was defeated a long time ago.

I wrote two posts about Senator Danforth’s op-ed that I may as well link here. I would add that we should resist the devaluation of the word “eloquent” into a word of empty praise for anyone who has said anything with which we agree.)

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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