Maggie Gallagher
The proliferation of new political labels is a sign of the times: The old Reagan coalition, that potent conglomeration of libertarians, entrepreneurs, social conservatives and anticommunists, is cracking apart. The Dems appear headed for electoral victory, but without yet a sign of a coherent governing philosophy among them.

A new political coalition is slouching toward Bethlehem, waiting to be born. What will be its contours?

Now is the theocon moment. Or so argues Ross Douthat, one of the interesting young Atlantic Monthly conservatives, who says in The Wall Street Journal that theocons should embrace the label with a wink and a grin. Theocons, he says, offer "the closest thing to a credible public philosophy the GOP has to offer."

Maybe. But before I sign up I'd like to know one little thing: What the heck is a theocon? As far as I can tell, a "theocon" is someone who a) believes in God and b) rejects at least one political position passionately advocated by Andrew Sullivan.

Antitheocons adopt the pose that they are advocating something called "modernity," which includes liberal democracy and moral pluralism. Except when they don't. Opponents of "theocracy" tend to define democracy in a peculiar and self-serving fashion, in which the only legitimate political opinions are those a) uninfluenced by religion, unless you b) agree with the conclusion, in which case religious influence is fine. "Theocrat" is a political label intended to delegitimize disagreement. The people who use this label for their opponents typically seek to exclude as democratically illegitimate the political beliefs of fellow citizens with whom they disagree.

Antitheocons often pose as rationalists. They proclaim that only moral views supported by science and reason (like their own) should be allowed to enter political discourse -- except when they don't. "All men and women are equal," for example, is a moral and political value that (I promise you) has absolutely no scientific validation. Yet equality concerns are used by antitheocons to trump democracy, or liberty, in the public square.

Maggie Gallagher

Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.