by Casey N. BlakeI recommend Paul Baumann's review of Damon Linker's
new book, The Theocons: Secular America Under Siege,
in the current issue of Washington Monthly.
Linker previewed his argument in "Without a Doubt," in
the April 3, 2006 issue of TNR.
Baumann argues that Linker's book is a "tendentious"
and "frequently cartoonish" polemic against Father
Richard John Neuhaus, editor of the conservative
journal First Things, where Linker himself was an
editor from 2000 to 2005. Baumann disputes Linker's
portrait of Neuhaus as a fundamentalist theocrat and
argues that The Theocons exaggerates his significance
within the conservative Catholic movement at the
expense of other Catholic intellectuals who have moved
from left to right since the 1960s.
More important, Baumann makes the case that Linker's
endorsement of a purely secularist approach to
politics actually plays into the hands of Neuhaus and
others who insist that an allegiance to the Republican
party follows naturally from religious commitments.
Baumann writes, "Linker thinks the explicit disavowal
of religious-based moral claims should be a
prerequisite for entering into the political debate.
He's wrong, both philosophically and historically."
The waning of Catholic support for liberal Democratic
candidates since the 1970s is one of the most important
developments in recent American history. It's a trend
that's unlikely to be reversed by demonizing Neuhaus
and a handful of other "theocons."