A few weeks back I was speaking to a member of the Obama administration about the subject of incivility in public discourse. The point he made was a compelling one: Sometimes an audience can be complicit in acts of incivility simply by remaining silent, by not protesting the untoward remarks of a speaker who may be one of their own.
Over the past few weeks various GOP presidential hopefuls have been calling out “the Islam”—to borrow John McCain’s memorable phrase of 2007—as well as atheists and secular America. It would appear that they are expressing these sentiments in an effort to appeal to Iowa’s Conservative Christian voters.
In the video above Sally Quinn and I round up and mull over some of the recent comments. Newt Gingrich frets about his grandchildren growing up in a “secular atheist” America. Herman Cain said he would not appoint a Muslim to his cabinet.
Rick Santorum was “frankly appalled” at a speech—a famous speech—John Kennedy delivered half a century ago in which the president declared “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” And there was a lot more where that came from.
What does it mean? It means this: The research teams for the Republican hopefuls are wagering that attacks on Muslims, atheists, and secularism will resonate with the social conservative base.
I regret to say that this might indeed be true. But I have not lost hope that there are Conservative Evangelicals in Iowa and elsewhere who will be brave enough to challenge this type of rhetoric.