WaPo columnist Richard Cohen argues that Mike Huckabee owes us an explanation of how his faith is going to affect his policies. You see, according to Cohen, in a democracy we argue, and you can’t argue about something held on faith, so we need to know what Huckabee won’t let us argue about.
I’d like to know what Cohen won’t let us argue about. As is evident from this passage, the authority of science is pretty close to the top of the list:
When Huckabee says he favors the teaching of intelligent design in public schools, he’s taking a distinctly religious position. Intelligent design has no basis in science. And when any issue, any question, becomes a matter of faith, it means it cannot be argued. That’s not what we do in a democracy. We argue about everything. (This column is my modest contribution.)
First of all, I doubt that Huckabee argues that we should teach I.D. instead of evolution, but rather both. In other words, he encourages discussion (which Cohen apparently can’t distinguish from argument).
And then there are all the "self-evident truths" (both those in the Declaration and those that are ordinarily the subjects of pious belief by right-thinking bicoastal elites): can we argue about or discuss them, or are they off limits?
Perhaps Cohen should write a column explain how his unexamined or nonnegotiable commitments influence his policy recommendations. Or does he just mean to suggest that "argument" involves shouting about one’s secular commitments. Perhaps we can’t do that about religion because genuine conflict is likely to follow. Tell that to the victims of the Russian and Chinese Revolutions, not to mention all those who died in the killing fields of Cambodia or in Nazi concentration camps, to name just a few instances of atrocity accomplished by people with nonnegotiable secular commitments.
Religious fanaticism surely poses a threat to our decent regime, as does its secular counterpart. But I don’t see Mike Huckabee or Mitt Romney as a religious fanatic. And I think they’re capable of making reasonable cases for the positions they hold, as President Bush has been for the positions that Cohen claims are motivated entirely by his faith. By the same token--just to be clear--I don’t think that any of the plausible Democratic nominees (or Cohen himself) poses a threat to our regime. They may be profoundly mistaken or misguided, but that’s a different "argument."