many things might have changed the results in November. Hurricane Sandy might have
headed into the Atlantic instead of the Atlantic states. Or moods might have
shifted, so that memes like “the war against women” might have flopped rather
there’s no explaining away what happened, and the re-election of Barack Obama,
a pure representative of the media-bureaucratic complex and the intolerant
social leftism it stands for, must show something. He may have won because the
Republicans failed to come up with an appealing candidate and message, and not
because the majority was smitten with his social views, but that failure must
show something as well.
people have the sense that the election revealed a basic change in American
life. What it shows is the extent to which advanced liberalism has become our
established faith. It’s the one our most influential authorities accept and
rely on, and they feel called upon to import its principles into all aspects of
life. That’s why abortion is the law of the land and voters aren’t allowed to
say otherwise. The election returns showed that they have grown used to that
situation, and no longer find it seriously objectionable.
that’s what the election showed, then it had to do with fundamental tendencies.
On that point, it revealed that the Republicans believe in nothing, while the
Democrats believe in Nothing.
believe in nothing is to have no beliefs except success. Individual Republicans
may be decent public-spirited people, and they are likely to believe on some
level in other things, the role of marriage as a distinct fundamental
institution, for example. The point though is that for the national party such
issues aren’t taken seriously. They function as campaign slogans for particular
audiences. What’s taken seriously is American power abroad, economic success at
home, and victory for Republicans. That’s what the party, as a party, believes
and success are not bad things. Power is the ability to achieve goals, and
success is actually bringing them about. Both are good as a general rule, and
politicians should favor them, but they’re not enough for a political outlook
that makes sense. Something more is needed to tell us what to aim for and what
to do with it when achieved. The Republicans have nothing that serves that
Democrats do: they have Nothing. To believe in Nothing in the present-day
manner is to turn the denial of goods that transcend will and desire into a
philosophy of life, and even into what amounts to a religion. At bottom there’s
no good or bad, that nihilistic view tells usthere is just people doing stuff
they feel like doing and trying to get stuff they want. That’s what life is
about, so the point of law and morality is to help people do and get those
things, as much and as equally as possible.
that view, the religion of Nothing, that is now established among us. All views
to the contrary are considered hateful and divisive (that is, blasphemous and
heretical), so if you have doubts you have to keep quiet about big issues, like
what makes life good, and confine your comments to subordinate matters, like
success considered purely as such.
authority of that view entitles judges to rewrite the laws, and requires every
Democratic politician to assert the supremacy of Will and Technology (a.k.a.
Choice and Change) over natural law and human life. The latter principles tell
us that some things have value whether we like it or not, and such principles
have to be kept out of public life. They’re at odds with the Supreme Court’s
insistence in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that concepts “of existence,
of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” must be strictly
individual and self-defined.
the case of the Republicans, individual Democrats have their own beliefs, which
are whatever they may be, and their private lives are normally better than
their public commitments. There are sincere Christians and devoted family
members in both parties. Nonetheless, there is a difference: by and large, the
statements and actions of leading Democrats show that they genuinely believe in
their cause. They have a public religion, they’re forthright about what it is,
they’ll take risks and make sacrifices to advance it (as Obamacare shows), and
they don’t like, don’t respect, don’t understand, and won’t compromise with
those who reject it. Resistance is bigotry, in their view, so it has no
legitimate place in public life.
Democrats are of course not alone in their faith commitments and their aversion
to those who reject them. An established religion has to be accepted by social
leaders generally, and the religion of Nothing is actively promoted by the
academics and media figures who define what is considered rational and
respectable among us. They have good reason to favor it, since it denies the
authority of principles higher than the value-free technical expertise and
manipulative skill such people stand for. It says that they are truly our
intellectual leadersthe clergy and preachers of our New Jerusalemand there is
no one who could outrank them even in principle.
and businessmen who form the operational branch of our governing class go along
with the religion of Nothing as well. They lack the imagination to conceive an
alternative, and the religion helps get rid of family, cultural, and religious
considerations that complicate economic and organizational decisions. Selling
products and dealing with human resources become easier if family and community
ties are suppressed so we all become interchangeable consumers and careerists.
conservatism still has a following, but it’s weak because it’s almost purely
populist. Nobody who runs things at the upper levels has much sympathy for
family, community, cultural, or religious institutions or the habits,
attitudes, and beliefs that support them. Why should the higher-ups favor
authorities and ways of doing things that compete with them and the
institutions they control? The Republicans might give traditional values lip
service, but they don’t make much of a case for them and drop their support
long before push comes to shove. The result is that social conservatism is
reactive, it can’t make its case, and it can’t defend itself against propaganda
and the deconstruction of the American people through the disintegration of
family and cultural ties.
that’s the bad news. The good news for Catholics who want to take part in
public life is that the present situation creates an obvious public role for
the Church as defender of ordinary people and the understandings and
arrangements, now under attack, that enable them to carry on dignified,
rewarding, and productive lives independently of government and business.
That’s what the Catholic conceptions of subsidiarity and social justice are all
about. Catholic social justice doesn’t mean that there’s a big bureaucracy that
takes care of everybody. It
means a setting in which families have what they need to function as
families, the Church has what it needs to act as the Church, and so on for
individuals, local communities, and all the institutions and associations that
make up society. It’s the opposite of the tendency, now considered progressive,
to abolish as irrational and unjust the role and authority of all institutions
other than state and market.
We’re often told that the
Church is in trouble because her position on family and related issues is out
of touch with modern ways of doing things. The truth of the matter is that
modern ways of doing things are in trouble because they’re out of touch with human
nature on those issues. For proof, look at what’s happened
to rank-and-file Americans since the supposed liberations of the Sixties. What the election shows most basically is
that neither party has any idea how to lead the country out of its
self-destructive course. Far from showing the growing irrelevance of Catholic
teachings to American life, it demonstrated their urgent and growing necessity.