A few years ago, when I wrote "The Conservative Soul," the conservative media, insofar as they acknowledged its existence, insisted that its core diagnosis - the the GOP had become a religious, more than a political, organization, was over-wrought. I regarded the fusion of politics and religion - from the world of Islam to the West Bank in Israel to the core of the GOP - as a neurotic and extremely dangerous reacti0n to confusing modernity. I believed and believe that the core conservative mission today is to confront and defeat it. I believe what Barry Goldwater believed in 1994:
When you say "radical right" today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye.
I stand with Goldwater when he declared:
"Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."
Moreover, I do not believe that Barry Goldwater had become a left-liberal. I believe he remained a conservative to the end, but the Republican Party slowly became a fundamentalist cult, fueled by Nixonian resentment, neoconservative ideology and fiscal recklessness. I mention all this because of Tim Pawlenty's speech to CPAC this past weekend.
Pawlenty, we have been told, was the moderate alternative to Palin as McCain's possible veep nominee. He's from Minnesota, hardly the deep South. He was about fiscal responsibility, not intolerance. He was no Santorum or Barbour or Palin. And yet this is what he said should be the first principle of conservatism in the twenty-first century:
'God’s in charge.' 'God is in charge.' There are some people who say, Oh, you know, Pawlenty, don’t bring that up. You know, it’s politically incorrect.’ Hogwash.' These are enshrined in the founding documents and perspective of our country. In the Declaration of Independence, it says we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights. It doesn’t say we’re endowed by Washington, D.C., or endowed by the bureaucrats or endowed by state government; it’s by our creator that we are given these rights.”
And so he manages to turn what was at the time one of the most radical declarations of a constitutional system not reliant on Scripture or on the divine right of monarchs, but on self-government and reason, a revolution against a country where the church and state were fused, a country where the vast majority of the Founders were Deists who believed that God's control of earthly affairs was extremely remote ... into the fundamentalist neurosis that passes for so much religious faith in America today.
And you thought I was exaggerating.