Probably the most annoying tick you see frequently from liberals is what I can only describe as a kind of hysteria about efforts to mobilize Christian sentiments in order to advance conservative political goals. Rather than simply noting that the religious right is composed of people whose policy agenda liberals mostly disagree with on the merits and who, therefore, liberals wish had less political influence the tendency is to paint an alarmist portrait of the looming menace of theocracy. Everyone, genuinely, needs to take a deep breath and put this all in perspective. The good news is that two recent book reviews — one by Peter Steinfels in The American Prospect and one by Paul Baumann in The Washington Monthly try to bring some calm to the table.
All to the good. I wonder, though, has anyone seen anything like that coming from the pages of National Review or The Weekly Standard? Obviously, lots of over-the-top rhetoric goes in the other direction, too, as secular liberals get accused of all manner of absurd sins. I feel like I never, ever see conservative intellectuals trying to bring a sense of proportion and calm to the table about that. Which, really, is too bad. There’s a fairly constant pressure on the progressive pundits of the world to do our best to become more intellectually dishonest and less willing to take on our own side’s quirks and sacred cows. The thinking — and I don’t think the thinking is mistaken — is that liberal politics has been hampered by a sense that a lot of the spokespeople for “our side” have been playing with one arm tied behind our backs and need to learn to play by the right’s rules and that party discipline needs to be applied to liberal writers. That, for obvious reasons, is an outcome I’d sort of prefer to avoid, but, again, I can’t say that I think the analysis is mistaken.