For several weeks now, what one critic has called “the anti-God squad” has been at work attacking Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, and other presidential candidates who publically display their Christian values. A torrent of abuse from the New Yorker, New York Times, and Washington Post has caused even the moderate Times columnist Ross Douthat (August 28) to lament the double standard being applied to religious Republicans. His fellow journalists, says Douthat, have vastly exaggerated the danger of theocratic government posed by Evangelical Christians. Most American presidents in the past have also been professing Christians and presided over a country that was far less secularized than we’ve since become. An emphatically Christian culture in the past did not result in a national theocracy. Moreover, far from erecting a theocracy, conservative Christians have been losing influence in the US for decades, as evidenced by the political success of the gay movement and by the strenuous separation of church and state that has been enforced since the middle of the last century.

Douthat notices the sudden concern exhibited by the liberal media about explicitly Christian presidential candidates, a concern that these journalists never showed when faced by the religious associations of candidate Obama. Why should Evangelical Christianity or Romney’s Mormonism upset our journalists more than Obama’s intimate association with the Black Nationalist minister Jeremiah Wright? The obvious answer: for the liberal media the major eyesore is not Black Nationalism but Christianity. 

Equally ludicrous is the attack on Texas Governor Perry for supporting the teaching of creationism together with evolution in Texas schools. For most journalists and academics of my acquaintance, the theory of evolution is a convenient club for going after those they despise. Just ask journalists to provide a detailed account of Darwin’s theory about man’s descent from less cognitively developed life forms; and what one typically gets are poorly digested phrases about random selection and fossil records. The discussion conducted by Darwin and his followers about socially significant genetic differences between genders (dimorphism) or races, has become a no-no among the politically fashionable.  The same liberals who stress the indispensability of Darwinist convictions in a presidential candidate insist no less emphatically that gender and race are mostly social constructs and therefore have no serious implications. The Evangelicals are correct when they suggest that Darwinism has become a tool in a cultural war. Whatever the merits of evolutionary biology for academic research, as a political issue, it is about politics, not science.

Despite their malice, Rick Perry owes the antireligious bigots big time. They have helped turn someone with a mixed record on immigration and job creation into a Republican Right hero. Indeed, by mentioning his fervent faith at a prayer breakfast and by making it appear that he believes in creationism, Perry has enlisted the “anti-God squad” for his campaign. The more they scream, the better he does in hiding his identity as a Bush-look-alike, from the same state and with some of the same key policies as the former president. (Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post takes the opposite view, noting Perry’s recent rhetoric rather than his record. As late as 2008, however, Perry backed the very liberal Republican Giuliani for president.)

Many of the new jobs that Perry boasts of having brought to Texas were in the public sector; nonetheless, if one focuses on added jobs in the private sector, according to Michael Barone, one finds that Texas under its present governor wouldn’t finish in the top ten. Under Perry the state debt has more than doubled; and this may be related to his public sector approach to unemployment. Like Bush, Perry presents himself as a benefactor of publicly subsidized education. As Texas governor he expresses the hope that all high-school graduates will be able to attend a university for a cost of no more than $10,000 per year. Need we even wonder whether the state debt will be increased to pay for this favor? In foreign policy, Perry is also imitating his Republican predecessor in the governor’s mansion. This candidate has brought back Bush’s neoconservative advisor Douglas Feith, and he sounds like the former president in stating his vision for America’s role in building global democracy.

On immigration, Perry again resembles Bush. Like Bush, he frantically courts the Latino vote, which he considers crucial for a Republican presidential victory. Although Perry has blasted Democrats for permitting “sanctuary cities for illegals,” here the pot is calling the kettle black. Perry has been for in-state tuition fees to Texas universities being granted tor those who are here against the law. He has sniped at Arizona’s Republican governor for going too far in trying to ostracize illegal residents. A large immigration-reform organization, Numbers USA, gives Perry the same “D-grade” it assigns to the current Democratic administration. None of this would look so bad if Perry weren’t pretending to be tough on illegal immigration.