Dear Mr. Speaker:
As you proceed with your primary election campaign against Florida governor Charlie Crist to determine which of you will be the GOP nominee in the U.S. Senate race next year, you need to be told something that your advisers aren’t telling you. Therefore your Curmudgeon will bring you the news: There’s something seriously wrong with your campaign message.
Part of it is fine — the part about free enterprise, small government, low taxes, spending restraints, term limits, states’ rights, and the like. Each of those principles clearly distinguishes you from your opponent. A campaign based upon those issues should secure you the Republican nomination. But there’s another part your message that may actually harm your chances in the primary, and the primary is only the beginning. You still need to win the general election, and that’s where the troublesome part of your campaign message will definitely be harmful.
It’s that other part that we want to talk about — the part about creationism (calling it intelligent design doesn’t fool anyone) and your bizarre assault on “separation of church and state.” It’s true that the specific phrase isn’t in the Constitution, but neither is “separation of powers” or “limited government,” yet those phrases accurately describe the Constitution.
That second part of your message isn’t necessary for you to win in the primary, and we fear it will be your downfall in the general election. It reeks of theocracy, which the Founding Fathers strongly opposed. They knew the dangers of government involvement with religion. They knew of the religious strife in the early colonial period. They knew about the witch trials in Salem. And they knew about the death and devastation caused by all the European wars of religion. They were determined to avoid those evils in the new nation they were creating, and they were successful.
The big difference that separated the thinking of the Founding Fathers from pre-Revolutionary thinking was the Enlightenment. That is the intellectual dividing line that makes our world so different from the world before — a world which was terrorized by the Inquisition, and which is rightly called the Dark Ages.
The Founding Fathers decided that their new nation would have no heresy trials, witch hunts, sectarian warfare, or any of the other disorders inherent in the union of church and state. The Constitution they gave us assures that we will never have that kind of madness in America — unless the brilliantly-conceived separation of church and state is abandoned. Yet that is the issue you’re so casually playing with in your campaign. As a state legislator, you are undoubtedly aware that the principle of separation of church and state is also assured in the Florida Constitution (Article I, Section 3).
What we’re saying is that you can support either the principles of the Constitution or of the Inquisition, but you can’t rationally support two worldviews that are fundamentally opposed to one another. You must make a choice. You can admire either the Founders who created our secular government or the theocrats who created the Inquisition, but you can’t have it both ways. As a Catholic, you already know that your church does not oppose the theory of evolution, so what we’re suggesting involves no personal compromise. In fact, by unnecessarily trying to flatter denominations that reject science, you dishonor your own.
Many observers are profoundly concerned about your claim to represent two incompatible traditions simultaneously in your campaign. We’ve heard it said that your stance calls into question either your sincerity or your sanity. We don’t think you’re crazy, but we strongly suspect that … well, you’re pandering.
We understand what you’re trying to do — you want to build a coalition. You imagine that you can win the support of those who approve of the first part of your message, and add to that those who support your theocratic message. But it’s an impossible coalition, because the first group cannot coexist with the second.
What good is a tax cut, if you favor a perversion of the Constitution that could give us a Secretary of Faith with state-supported inquisitional powers? A tax cut is small consolation for someone accused of heresy for teaching evolution, geology, or astronomy. An ideological cipher like Crist is far more preferable than a theocrat who has no objections to a Grand Inquisitor or Witch-Hunter General. Yes, we’re exaggerating, somewhat, but only to illustrate the problem.
So here’s our advice: Drop the Dark Ages theocracy. Just drop it. That means you’ll need a Sister Souljah moment in which you publicly repudiate the extremism of Senator Ronda Storms, whose creationist legislation you supported last year.
You’ll lose some votes doing that, but those people won’t vote for Charlie Crist. They’ll probably stay home on election day. Don’t worry about the primary; you have more than enough genuine Republican principles to distinguish your campaign from Crist’s. But to compensate for the primary voters you’ll lose, you may very well gain a great deal of support you never dreamed could be yours. In the general election there’s that large block of voters called the “undecideds” who will never vote for an extremist, but they just might vote for you — if you change your message.
/s/ The Curmudgeon
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