Saturday, April 30, 2005

What is a conservative?

Andrew Sullivan initiated an interesting debate about two kinds of conservatives ("conservative of faith" and "conservative of doubt") which seems to have inspired a great deal of debate on the moderate right. He has many links about it on Here's a good response from one of his readers:
I'm a long time Republican activist from Massachusetts, and like many Americans am alarmed by the takeover of the GOP by the Religious Right. My fear goes far beyond �Separation of Church and State� which is a lifeless phrase that does not adequately convey what will be lost if the Religious Right succeeds in imposing its peculiar religiosity on this nation. For what we are really about is our birthright as Americans: the separation of what is public from what is private.

The great genius and historical accomplishment of the American Constitution was the creation, through a Bill of Rights, of a sphere of personal independence, sovereignty and autonomy into which no state power (or any proxy acting in its name) is permitted to trespass. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom to practice ones religion and to be protected against the religion of others � these were the great guarantees of personal freedom and free will that we inherit from the Bill of Rights.

Religious extremists complain of religious bigotry and persecution, or that we cut them off from their legitimate participation in the Public Square, whenever we insist upon this separation of government and religion. Rubbish. No fundamentalist who brings their religiously-inspired private views to the political arena for a debate about pressing matters of public policy is dismissed or discriminated against. Where they are forbidden, and rightly so, is whenever they seek to use their political power to fashion a public agenda from issues which are, and should always remain, private. Today, the Religious Right is acting in ways which are, in a very real sense, unconstitutional; and my sense is that recent events have finally awakened the American public to this threat. None too soon. The repercussions are l

UPDATE: Hah! I had almost finished reading this take on the "conservative issue", thinking that Greg D had finally come to his senses after his post-election need to defend everything Bush, when I realized the post was written not by him but by Joseph Britt (evidently a "guest" poster).

Regardless, it inserts a healthy dose of realism into the debate.

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