And so, on the right, libertarian principles creep from business to abortion. If the individual is free, the individual is free. Keep government out of my factories, keep government out of my ovaries. On the left, belief in abortion “rights” becomes ever more libertarian while belief in government direction of the economy increases. The individual is free to control her body but the businessman is bound by a conception, someone else’s conception, of the greater good. The political dynamics differ, but the process of accommodation to power unrestrained by principle is the same.
To be fair to our candidates and the major media, I think they avoid these questions in part out of a real deference to America’s religious pluralism and a recognition of the dangers of religious division. To a small extent. Almost all of them have absorbed the secular mind and assume that religion — and philosophy too, though this they don’t see — has nothing to say about our common life, especially our political life, beyond the broadest affirmations of the most general virtues. It’s a source of liberty but not of our understanding of what liberty is.
If journalists actually asked the God Question, the Question About Fundamentals, and asked it in ways that forced the candidates to answer it, we would know them much better than we do and they will have said things that would bind them in office — to the extent a politician is ever to be bound. We will have some idea of the things they will not do, the things they will resist doing, the things they will try to do even when it’s politically harmful. Which is something we do not have.
But for now, may God bless America, whoever God is, as long as he doesn’t tell America anything.
David Mills, former executive editor of First Things, is a senior editor of The Stream, editorial director for Ethika Politika, and columnist for several Catholic publications. His latest book is Discovering Mary.Follow him @DavidMillsWrtng.