Sometimes," Paul Ryan said last Wednesday night in Tampa, Fla., "even presidents need reminding that our rights come from nature and God, not from government."
President Obama sure could have used some of that reminding before he first signed off on the Democratic Party's 2012 platform. The Democrats eliminated any reference to God in the initial version of their official policy document. The Almighty was only restored late Wednesday after unfavorable media coverage. It came in a chaotic, controversial, and clearly undemocratic floor vote that was a last-minute effort to control public relations damage. (The vote also restored language confirming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.) Both the dissension and the original omission are unsurprising, given how much the Democratic Party has changed in the last ten years.
In 2000, Gallup asked respondents from each party how often they went to church. Thirty-three percent of Republicans and Democrats said they attended church services weekly. Only 33 percent of Republicans and 35 percent of Democrats said they seldom or never attended.
Fast-forward to the same Gallup poll in 2011. Republican church attendance is actually up, with 40 percent attending services weekly. Democratic weekly attendance is slightly down, to 27 percent. But the percentage of Democrats who never attend church has skyrocketed. The majority of Democrats, 52 percent, told Gallup they never go to church.
Even so, the spiritual needs of non-churchgoing Democrats did not disappear into the ether. Like all humans, they still have an innate need to belong to a larger group, to submit to a higher purpose.
Hence the video that kicked off the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, which included the line "government is the only thing we all belong to." After Mitt Romney immediately tweeted out a response, "We don't belong to government, the government belongs to us," the Obama campaign tried to disavow all knowledge of the video, claiming it was created and produced by the Charlotte host committee, not the Obama campaign or the Democratic National Committee.
But the damage was already done. The video was clearly produced by Democrats, for Democrats, and it is a perfect representation of the party's increasingly secular worldview.
If our rights come from government, not God, then government can always redefine them. As Cass Sunstein wrote in his book "The Second Bill of Rights," "Even the people who most loudly denounce government interference depend on it every day. Their own rights do not come from minimizing government, but are a product of government."
Or, as Obama put it more pithily, when lamenting small-business owners' reluctance to pay higher taxes, "You didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen."