Monday, September 05, 2005

An afterthought ...

In my post yesterday I said that Jonathan Rauch's review of Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family was the best review of the book I had seen. I should have added that it's one of the best book reviews I've ever read, period. If you want to know what a really good book review looks like, read that one. (Here's the link.)
For one thing, Rauch has obviously read the book, not just flipped through the pages looking for phrases he can use to attack it. Most of what has been written about Santorum's book that I have seen has obviously been done in attack mode: That awful right-winger has written a book expounding his troglodytic moral views; isn't that awful?
Rauch, by contrast, teases out the implications of Santorum's views and plausibly wonders if this does not portend a problem for the conservative movement and the Republican Party.
One engages with Rauch's review precisely because it so incisive. I don't myself happen to think that the problem he discerns will amount to much in the long run. Santorum's more rigid moral views simply do not command consensus either among Republicans or among Americans in general. Neither do more extreme libertarian views, for that matter.
The Republicans have cobbled together a fairly broad coalition whose consituents do not agree on everything and in some instances do not agree, period. But they can work together, with all involved reasonably expecting to get something of what they want. If the so-called religious right dominated Republican politics the way Democrats say it does, the Republicans would never win a national election. On the other hand, Democratic politics really is dominated by the anti-war left, precisely to the degree that Democrats claim the religious right dominates the Republicans. And that is why Democrats have a hard time winning national elections.

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