The largely secular reformer of the 1990s has now adapted to the new identity of American conservatism as a fundamentalist religious movement. He has converted to Catholicism and, as is his wont, sees all of human history through a new Manichean lens:
"I am tired of secular fanatics trying to redesign America in their image," he announced. Further, he said, "I believe the most important question in the United States for the next decade is: 'Who are we?' Are we in fact a people who claim that we are endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights?" Or, are we "just randomly gathered protoplasm -- and lucky for us we're not rhinoceroses -- but that in the end our power is defined by politicians and their appointees? Once you decide on this, almost everything else gets easier."
What on earth is this supposed to mean? It seems to imply that no one can support liberal democracy on secular or pragmatic grounds (quite obviously false). What can it possibly mean that "our power is defined" by politicians? Is it not possible to believe in God or not believe in God and still support a constitutional system of individual rights? Why does an ahistorical take on the Founders require a choice between God and Darwin? You can wander around these thoughts for quite a while until you realize that Newt is doing what he has always done: he's just dreaming up a new and totally evil enemy, and realizes that to rally his current troops, he needs to have God on his side:
"There is a secular-left model of reality which cannot tolerate the thought that state control fails, that tyranny is evil and that a liberated human being whose rights come from God is the centerpiece of the human future."
I don't know anyone in the secular left who really doubts that tyranny is evil, do you? Ditto for the secular right. Are conservatives no longer allowed to be secular, by the way? Has this option also now been closed?
Look: I believe in God, and I believe in the innate dignity and freedom of every human being. I do not believe that necessitates a Manichean politics in which one party is always evil and the other always good. I do not believe that religious faith of any kind is a prerequisite for public life in a secular democracy; and I believe secular democracy, as the Founders understood, is true faith's best friend.
It's too easy to see Gingrich as cynical in all this. I have no doubt he is sincere. It doesn't make him any less crude, any less stupid or any less toxic. And if I were to try to describe the conservative temperament, it would be the antithesis of the half-baked ideologies that Gingrich grasps from time to time like an adolescent after his first draft of Ayn Rand. Gingrich claims to stand for conservatism. In fact, he represents a pseudo-intellectual always seeking some grand theory, or some immense dichotomy from which to understand the world. Maybe one day he'll open his eyes and look at reality. Who knows what nuances he might find?
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