A Litany of Election Complaints
I have to do this, but when I'm done I plan to abstain from talking about politics at least until the turn of the year. I'm also going to limit, if I can, the amount of time I spend reading political news and commentary. And if I can't limit it, I'll have to give it up entirely. It is not in any way productive for me to occupy my mind so extensively and so irritatingly with something I can't do anything about.
Four more years of President Saruman.
So my friend Robert was right. In 2008, and for a couple of years following, I viewed Obama as a fairly benign figure. Although I didn't support him, I didn't see him as being nearly as dangerous as, for instance, Hillary Clinton. I took his conciliatory rhetoric as being sincere. And, like millions of people, I liked the idea of a mixed-race president and hoped his election would help us get past our racial divisions. But Robert insisted all along: "This guy is bad news." How right he was.
And speaking of being right, I posted this on Facebook a day or so after the election:
One of the difficulties of being a pessimist is that you're always hoping you're wrong. One of the satisfactions is that you're so often right.
Boy, was I ever right about Obamacare:
To attempt to impose a single national system on the whole country is folly. And I don’t mean just the euphemistically-named “single payer” system, but any system which is managed by the government. Among many other problems with the idea is that it would increase the polarization of the country by locking our disagreements about abortion, euthanasia, etc. into a health care system that no one can escape, either as a patient or as a taxpayer.
None of this stuff this time around; no "not my choice, but my president." We've had four years to take the measure of the man and of his governance, and there is no point in pretending that he is not doing harm to the nation. Only in the very broadest sense--a bromide such as "We all want what's best for the country"--can I claim to wish anything but frustration for the president in most of what he wants to do. I suppose there might be some common ground on straightening out our fiscal problems, if that's even possible. But he doesn't seem greatly interested in that.
When George W. Bush was president, I read a comment from an anonymous "insider," the sort of thing that always turns up in news stories about big-time politicians: "A lot of people seem to have this image of Bush as not very smart, but a nice guy. Neither is true." Something similar might be said of Obama, with the second part reversed: people think he's very smart, and a nice guy. Neither is true. Sure, Obama is smart in some ways: he seems to be politically shrewd, and he is able to talk the way people who think of themseves as being distinguished by their intelligence talk. But I see no depth of intelligence in him, and certainly no wisdom. And as for the "nice guy" part: only his dazzled fans, and I mean "fans" in exactly the same sense that I would use it of any celebrity's fans, could continue to believe it. Anyone not similarly dazzled can see that he conducted at least as vicious and demagogic a campaign as any in memory, and that when he speaks of unity he means that everyone should do as he says.
E.J. Dionne begins his column on the election by noting that Obama voters were "younger, highly diverse, and broadly progressive." True enough, I suppose, at least if you use "diverse" in its current euphemistic racial sense, and at any rate consonant with the picture liberals like to paint: Obama's opponents are older, predominantly white and presumptively at least mildly racist, and hopelessly intent on turning back the clock. What is most significant here, though, is what Dionne doesn't say, and which progressives will rarely admit: progressivism is a fundamentally anti-Christian movement. I know, Dionne is a Catholic, and there is such a thing as Catholic progressivism, but progressivism is still in its essence an ideology that looks to displace religion, and especially Christianity, with a vision of purely material happiness. There is never any advantage in pretending that unpleasant facts are not facts, and while Christians shouldn't be reactionary in defending whatever progressivism attacks, or vice versa, and certainly shouldn't be hysterical or paranoid, we should be clear about the situation.
Most liberals commenting on the election have made much of the defeat of white males by racial minorities and "women," by which they mean single and Democratic women--they don't like to notice that married women went for Romney and generally tend to vote for Republicans. The observation that a majority of white people voted for the white man usually carries at least an insinuation of racism, and is followed by a note of triumph that power is being wrested from these bad people. This sort of thing is the most poisonous aspect of Obama's presidency. In fairness it must be said that Obama has not done so much of it himself (but think of how a white politician would have fared if he had referred to someone as "a typical black person" in almost any context). But his supporters have been relentless with it, and he hasn't repudiated the tactic. One wonders whether they consciously intend to foment racial conflict, or just can't think in any other terms.
At any rate, they are playing with fire. It has been the assumption since the 1960s that all ethnic groups except whites should band together and seek the advantage of their own people, that this in fact is and should be their chief political interest. Whites were expected to accept this on the assumption that they would always be dominant and must be forced to move over and give space to others, and anyway they owed payment for the sins of their ancestors. And they were not expected to react in kind. Now we are treated to frequent happy reports that whites are soon to be a minority, and last week saw all right-thinking people united in the prospect of their becoming ever less dominant politically. It's madness to think that you can single out a group of people for historical hostility, celebrate its decline and diminishment, and expect it not to begin defending itself. Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
It's not that life changed from Tuesday to Wednesday, not that I expect that in the next few years Homeland Security (thank you, George W. Bush) will start rounding up Catholics as enemies of the state. But the HHS mandate may become, like Luther's assertion of his 95 theses, the symbolic reference point for a great historical change.
If I remember correctly, a short piece called "A Wind of Lies" was my contribution to the first issue of Caelum et Terra.
...many of the goods offered to us, are produced by a system, and for reasons, which most of us instinctively feel to be dreary at best. And so the advertisers make up stories which they hope we will like better—they show us Mr. Kraft in a horse-drawn wagon delivering cheese on a sunny morning, or a white-haired old lady baking bread in a wood-burning oven.
This election may be seen, many years from now, a point for marking the transition of the republic which had been the United States of America something else. Our structures are being hollowed out, their substance removed, and the shell left in place over a new reality. The Constitution and much of the language of the unwritten culture that surrounded it will remain, like the picture of Mr. Kraft and his wagon, while the real machinery is something altogether different.
It's often said that in the United States a movement for greater personal freedom always wins against any attempt to restrain it. And that's generally true, but Christianity is an exception. If it's a high school valedictorian praising Jesus in her speech, or a cross on public land, or a Christian student group at a university, the Christian will be treated as the aggressor to be resisted, though there may not even be any actual person who can plausibly be considered a victim. These scuffles don't usually amount to much, although their cumulative cultural effect is great.
But the HHS mandate that Catholic employers provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and abortifacents is in a different league entirely. I know a lot of Catholics don't think this is a big deal, but I think it is, because it establishes in law (or at least regulation, which, as a consequence of the hollowing-out referred to above, is practically the same as law) that the state has the right to force the Church to do something contrary to its own teachings. Another Facebook remark I made some months ago: "Freedom of religion vs. free birth control. In 21st century America, the outcome is in doubt."
If it were merely a single act by a single administration, I would not be so concerned. But it's a regulation promulgated under a law of which we are unlikely to rid ourselves. The chances of doing so under a Republican president were not great, but now they're zero.
Of course Mitt Romney was in many ways a very unattractive candidate, and it was very easy to demonize him. Perhaps someone else might have been able to beat Obama, but I doubt it was any of the Republicans who ran against Romney. And he had the media against him.
As for the media--meaning the still-dominant big commercial media including the TV networks except Fox, the big-city newspapers, the general hive of like-minded journalists, and, maybe most influentially, the cloud of pop semi-journalistic babble that surrounds journalism proper--they have simply become a part of the Democratic establishment, and functioned as an arm of the Obama campaign. Self-styled referees in the game of politics, they have shamelessly intervened in favor of one team, sticking out a foot to trip a Republican runner, or spotting the ball ten yards ahead of where a Democrat was tackled. They have the respect they deserve.
Slow decline or quick collapse due to our trillions of dollars in debt? There's no way to know, but what is extremely unlikely is quick renewal. If renewal possible, will be slow, because the problem is far deeper than politics.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
--John 16:33 (KJV)