A well-intended effort to be reasonable with the enemies of reason.
It’s all in the definition of terms: The right is, in the main, made up of the forces of the anti-Enlightenment, who repudiate secularism and egalitarianism and are heavily invested in religion. Worse, by humanist attorney Niose’s (Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans, 2012) account, the argument has shifted. On that religious front, he writes, “even liberals have come to expect, and too often accept, an atmosphere of visible public piety, even though it is historically invalid and unquestionably obstructs egalitarian policy.” The liberal surrender that has made this possible has other aspects, including the loss of the language and branding war—though that situation is getting better with the abandonment of terms such as “gay rights” in favor of the more broadly accepted “marriage equality.” In Niose’s view, underlying the anti-science, anti-education, anti-intellectual tea party strain of the right is barely disguised corporatism, and his remedies involve taming “the corporate beasts.” He aims to effect that taming by means of a constitutional amendment that deprives corporations of legal personhood while embarking on a vigorous program of campaign finance reform. Easier said that done, of course, especially when coupled with Niose’s hope that somehow the public discourse can be made smarter (“We need to encourage—or better yet, demand—rational, fact-based policy discussion and lambaste politicians who proudly reject science”) and that public secularism can be restored in the place of creeping theocracy. Niose’s brush is sometimes broad, trending into the merely rhetorical: “[T]he incorporation of patriotism and militarism into ordinary American life has been executed with seamless precision by the government-corporate establishment, aided by a population that has found much comfort and security in the notion of military strength.” Readers will judge how realistic the program is, but despite the verbal flourishes, many will feel that the time is right for it.
A smart diagnosis, if accompanied by too much wishful thinking.