by Zack Beauchamp

Ed Kilgore cuts to the chase:

Major presidential candidates like Perry and Bachmann really are something new under the sun. They embody a newly ascendant strain of conservatism that is indeed radical or extremist in its claims to represent not just good economics or good governance, but eternal verities that popular majorities can help implement but can never overturn. They deserve all the scrutiny they have attracted, and more.  

Benen agrees. Michelle Goldberg zooms in on abortion. What's so troubling about the phenomenon Kilgore highlights is its fundamental hostility to liberal rights. In liberal democracies, we believe that it's wrong to use the government to force people to live according to your religious rules. You can certainly advocate for positions informed by your religious beliefs, but you damn well better be able to give citizens who don't share your beliefs a compelling secular defense. Otherwise, you're violating their core right to live according to their own religious values. Theocons who cry "but doesn't this ban all Christian social conservatives from public life" entirely miss the point. Of course you can advocate for laws that accord with your religious values in public life, provided you can explain why for reasons other than the eminently unsatisfying "my God says so."

The core problem with Bachmann/Perry types is that they jettison even the veneer of respecting this idea. Every issue – even economic issues – are decided by appeal to theological principle. It's the establishment of religion in everything but name.