Thursday, October 06, 2005

Miers and the Republican Coalition

Over at Slate, John Dickerson offers trenchant analysis of the rift among Rs on Miers. Simply put, Miers divides the evangelicals from the secularists in the party of Lincoln. Call it elitism, because it is, but more particularly it is a secularist elitism.

Dickerson is right, not to mention clever in the way he expresses his insight. Truth is, the secular right is about as distrustful of the religious right as the secular left is, even though the expression "secular left" is 98% redundant these days.

As always, SWNID has something to add. Some, either hopefully or fearfully, predict a split among the Rs along this very line. While SWNID doubts the split will ever happen, we nevertheless warn our Christian siblings about the possibility.

What makes it a possibility is the accelerating self-immolation of the Ds, chronicled on this page repeatedly. We are virtually a one-party state at the federal level. Under such circumstances, the first law of politics takes hold: politicians must have someone to disagree with. Hence, a second party will divide from the Rs if the Ds really do become the 21st century Whigs. And one way they can split is along the fault line of faith.

However, we think that the split, if it comes, will be elsewhere, probably between libertarians and social conservatives. The latter group includes most in the religious right, but it also includes many seculars, like the "Tory" George Will and other readers of Edmund Burke. That's the more obvious ideological division among Rs. It took a political genius like Reagan to bring the two groups together, and it's a testament to his skill that they barely realized their differences at the time. But they've been together for awhile now, and they've figured out who's who.

The caution to the faithful is what Stephen Carter observes in his underappreciated God's Name in Vain. His argument: when religious people (i.e. Christians, but Carter is trying to be inclusive) get involved in partisan politics, they inevitably compromise their principles and endanger their prophetic voice.

As usual, Carter is right. If there ever were in this country a serious political party that defined itself by religious faith, we'd be in trouble, not because the church had breached the wall of separation and invaded the state but because the church had breached the wall of separation and invited the state, or more particularly electoral politics, to take it over.

Politics matters, but it's not a savior.

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