As someone equally unversed in both conservative and liberal political philosophy, not to mention theology (in terms of reading background, anyway) I feel I am perfectly suited to respond to some of JJV's points.
Before I begin, it must be said that I have always considered JJV an infinite grub. Thank you.
MacDonald is not objecting to the general “American political idiom” so much as the explicit references to God’s direct involvement in our affairs emanating from past and present officials of the current administration. My impression of the Founding Fathers’ image of God is that of a relatively stand-offish “watchmaker.” In contrast, President Bush frequently invokes his faith in the Almighty as the source of the decisions and hard hard work he undertakes as our Hard-Working Decider. If MacDonald was really perplexed by the overall political idiom she would go straight to the “What’s the deal with ‘In God We Trust’ on the coins?” angle.
Her main objection addresses religious conservatives’ assertion that morality is impossible without religious faith. While the two may follow the same path, as with JJV’s “right reason,” I suspect that is a matter of correlation rather than causation. MacDonald’s point is that religious belief is not a precondition for conservatism, nor is religious belief unique to conservatism. I am not sure that JJV addresses this.
As to JJV’s reference to the recent firing of Metro board member Robert Smith for anti-homosexual remarks, it is my esteemed colleague’s turn to miss the mark. The firing occurred not in a vacuum, but in the context of both a gubernatorial re-election campaign in Maryland in which Ehrlich is trying to position himself as a centrist, and Smith’s position as board member of a public transit agency. Public perception and opinion come into play here and to ignore that is as politically tone-deaf as MacDonald is accused of being.
On the other hand, I am with JJV on his estimation of Ayn Rand, a true American success story in terms of snake-oil units moved. I read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged past the recommended age for reading (i.e., after college and with some real-world experience) and marveled at the turgidity of the endless prose and her third-rate Dickensized character names telegraphing whether they were Good or Bad. I was especially struck, as by a board to the head, with Rand’s choice of name for the revolutionary alloy in Atlas Shrugged: “Reardon Metal.” Make that a revolutionary alloy beam to the head. CLANG! I continue to marvel at accounts of former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan’s status as a Rand acolyte and wonder at its effect on his otherwise-illustrious career. I guess we should be lucky that he didn’t replace the eagle on the front of Federal Reserve headquarters with a naked statue of Andrea Mitchell. You’re welcome.