Carol Platt Liebau

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

“On balance it is probably healthier if religious conservatives are inside the political system than if they operate as insurgents and provocateurs on the outside. Better they should write anti-abortion planks into the Republican platform than bomb abortion clinics. The same is true of the left. The clashes over civil rights and Vietnam turned into street warfare partly because activists were locked out of their own party establishments and had to fight, literally, to be heard. When Michael Moore receives a hero’s welcome at the Democratic National Convention, we moderates grumble; but if the parties engage fierce activists while marginalizing tame centrists, that is probably better for the social peace than the other way around.”

It really goes without saying that this passage, by Jonathan Rauch writing in The Atlantic, reflects the predominant MSM view of people of faith: All are incipient fanatics, willing to kill and capable of bombing abortion clinics. Note that even the parallel between his examples of violence on the left and right is slanted to the left; the juxtaposition between perpetrators of "street warfare" (a term not without certain romantic connotations of a "struggle for justice") and outright murderers is hardly an impartial one.

But perhaps there's an even larger argument to be made against Racuh's proposition as a whole. As a minor strategic point, there may be some merit to his advocacy of integrating the most fringe and violent elements of American society into the political parties. As a moral matter, however, it is poor, poor advice.

As a Republican and someone who is pro-life (except in cases of rape, incest & life of the mother), I do not believe there is any room in my party for someone who is willing to bomb abortion clinics. It would, in fact, be wrong and injurious -- not only to the party but to American society in general -- for Republicans to lend credence to such extremism by accepting its proponents into their ranks. A similar case can be made for the Democrats -- would it really be morally right to lend mainstream respectability to, for example, environmental terrorists (a more suitable anology for Rauch to have employed)?

Rauch seems to believe that the parties will moderate the fringes. What if, instead, the fringes radicalize the parties and introduce wild-eyed ideas into the bloodstream of the body politic? Exhibit 1: The Dems' embrace of Michael Moore. That's a recipe for a poison that could choke civil society in very short order.


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