William F. Buckley

Which is to say that a candidate holding out his affiliation with a religious body as a reason to presume harmonious values with other voters of the same faith has to prepare for a likelihood of resentment among coreligionists if he appears lax in the practice of his faith. Members of a club can be relaxed about the member who does not pay his dues. But there is the risk there of continued neglect gradually understood as disloyalty.

The way things work in modern times, under modern pressures, more people's attention is attracted by defiance of a protocol than by inconsistent attention given to it. The guest who neglectfully fails to bow when the queen enters the room is not especially conspicuous, but becomes so if it crosses the mind of others that he is challenging the legitimacy of the sovereign, rather than merely to being absent-minded about protocols.

There is the factor that in any political contest others are aspiring to win the voters' approval. It is natural that candidates will call attention to the failures of their rivals, and that interested observers will join in. Gary Bauer, for instance, a longtime champion of the relevance of the Christian faith in politics, cannot be expected to be indifferent to the anomalies we speak of. James Dobson is likely to be heard from. And then there are the bishops and priests who will not wish to be thought indifferent to the indifference of others to the cosmic commitments they have made.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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