Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Decadence and prophecy

"When people accept futility and the absurd as normal, the culture is decadent. The term is not a slur; it is a technical label." - Jacques Barzun

The term decadence implies a falling off, a situation in which "there are no clear lines of advance."  It has long been an argument of this blog that we live in such times.

The difficulty in making such a proposition is that one cannot demonstrate a general falling off by mere anecdotes.  It must be pervasive.  And even in decadent times, there are positive developments, which are often reactions against that decadence.  Thus we have a resurgence in craft brewing and movements to support local agriculture. 

But on the whole, our culture is decadent.  As a certain presidential candidate reminds us, we just don't win anymore.  That could be the epitaph for the Bush and Obama administrations.  We remain bogged down in an utterly pointless war in Afghanistan, one which the President will not end to ensure that the inevitable blowback will be blamed on his successor.  Such are the absurdities we accept as normal.

To choose another example, real median family income has not increased as compared with almost two decades ago.  Historically, a few decades of wage stagnation are not abnormal.  But we do not live in normal times, and economic growth has become an assumed part of our experience.  We did experience a recession in 2001, as well as a more substantial one in 2007, but the jobless recovery has not benefited the average American.  That the rich might grab ever larger shares of an expanding pie is one thing; to do the same for a pie that is not expanding is quite another.  To make matters worse, the very banks whose reckless lending fomented the housing bubble (aided and abetted as always by the Federal Reserve) were bailed out by the taxpayers in a stalwart example of bipartisan cooperation.  Another perfectly normal absurdity. 

Which brings us to the present and Donald Trump.  Comparisons to Hitler are, frankly, ridiculous, but there is a strong whiff of Caesarism about his campaign.  This, to borrow from Barzun, is not a slur; it is a technical label.  Our government, like our other institutions, seems utterly incapable of doing the bare minimum to maintain the support of the masses it purportedly serves.

The State does not consistently enforce the law: it blatantly allows some--those who run banks, politicians like Hillary Clinton--to violate it with impunity, while those without political connections are punished for violating its smallest jot or tittle.  The State does not protect the citizenry from invaders: it insists that preventing unrestricted immigration is an affront to decency; its chief executive is utterly derelict in his duty to enforce that law, while the Congress makes no effort to hold him accountable.  The State does not mint honest money: the supply is fraudulently debased at the behest of the banking sector, and the populace is surreptitiously taxed through inflation. 

In short, the government is completely and totally corrupt.  And the citizens, who have also learned to embrace absurdity, have turned to a thrice married, narcissistic, sophistical billionaire as the best chance to reform the government.

The remarkable thing is that they are probably right to do so.  Not that Trump will necessarily arrest the decline, but that he is the right type of tool for the job.  Just as Caesar was required to shock the moribund Roman Senate, Trump, or someone like him, will be required to chastise our governing class.  That Trump does not have the character of Caesar is beside the point.  He remains the only Caesarian figure in the race.

Prophecy is a difficult art, but I can think of four possibilities for what follows:

1) Trump wins the Presidency and proves capable of reforming the government.  He bends the corrupt plutocracy to his will.  He builds his wall.  The State is reinvigorated and continues to be reformed in the years following Trump's presidency.  We rise a bit from decadence. 

2) Trump loses the race for the presidency.  It is difficult to see how either the people or the elites would learn their lesson from such an event.  The elites would probably try to run another establishment candidate under the guise of electability, while the people would search out another, more effective, Caesar. 

3) Trump wins, but proves either incapable or unwilling to reform the government.  I suspect this plays out just like number 2.

4) Trump wins and goes full dictator.  As much as I wish to discount the possibility, there's always that option.

I consider number 4 least likely.  When everyone is screaming that you're a dictator, you don't tend to be able to dictate many things.  Caesarian candidates can always theoretically become dictators, but there are a lot of people who depend on the status quo with whom Trump must contend before he can assume that kind of power.

Number 3 strikes me as most probable.  Trump has tapped into a deep dissatisfaction.  If he cannot quench the desire for something better, the masses will turn to someone who can.  Those who are scared of what President Trump might do should be much more frightened if he proves unable to deliver on his promises. 

Who comes after Trump?

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Dumping the GOP

In 2004, as a sophomore in college, I sat at my desk in my dorm room.  I was writing a piece (now mercifully lost) titled: Time to Dump the GOP?  My roommate, who fancied hockey more than politics, asked what I was up to and chuckled as I explained.  This was the impetus behind the creation of this blog, as well as the pieces I later published in the school newspaper.

By the end of the first Bush term, it was clear to me that despite the rhetoric about limited government, the Republicans were concerned with anything but.  If it wasn't quite clear what a disaster the war in Iraq had become, it was apparent that the Bush administration was much more preoccupied with curtailing civil liberties (via the Patriot Act) and expanding entitlements (via the not yet fully implemented Medicare Part D).  The man had even created an entire new department in the bureaucracy, that of Homeland Security, to ensure that no airline passenger ever flew unmolested again. 

In compensation for which, we got some tax cuts. Granted, they weren't offset by any reductions in spending, so they would be paid for through inflation, but this was before the Ron Paul campaign of 2008, and people took that sort of thing in stride. 

The truly damning thing about the Bush years was that the Republicans had control of the House and Senate.  The argument that the Republicans are powerless without complete autonomy has always been dubious; Congress controls the purse, and therefore can deny funding for any programs they deem unnecessary while the President wields the veto pen.  It was apparent that even with control, the Bush Republicans had no intention of enacting any of the reforms their party advocated in election years.

So with a disgruntled heart, I voted for the libertarian candidate, Michael Badnarik, in that year's election.  He got some small fraction of one percent of the vote.  It would be the last time I would exercise that privilege, though I did throw my support behind both of Ron Paul's campaigns.

This isn't the space for rehashing my reasoning behind refusing to vote.  Instead, I want to talk about the current GOP.  The question I asked twelve years ago appears to be on the minds of an electorate that seems even more disgruntled than I was.  Spurning the wishes of the donor class to nominate another Bush, or his Cuban clone, Rubio, the masses have turned to an outrageous billionaire and reality star named Donald Trump.

Trump promises to build a big beautiful wall and have Mexico pay for it.  He has other issues, though undoubtedly immigration restriction is the most significant, especially when the establishment candidates are supporting amnesty. 

There are many interesting things about Trump; one is that the voters seem totally unconcerned about his flaws.  That he has changed his mind on a significant number of issues is indisputable, but it doesn't seem to matter.  On the issue of the wall, voters seem to believe him more or less, and--this is the key point--they believe him more than they believe anyone else in the race.

The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that it is hard to take anything any of the candidates seriously.  The voters have been betrayed so many times (and in the case of Rubio, by these same candidates) that they expect little more this time around. 

If Trump betrays them, well, they know what that feels like.  But maybe he won't, and isn't that worth a shot?  Anyway, the people that have stabbed them in the back hate Trump, and this seems like a good way--perhaps the only way--to get back at them.

Trends seem permanent until they change, at which point the alteration seems obvious.  The establishment Republicans thought that with $100 million, Jeb Bush could outlast the other candidates and emerge the nominee, just as McCain and Romney had.  If Trump hadn't entered the race, it's distinctly possible he would have.  But nothing in history is inevitable, and instead of looking at a rematch between Bush and Clinton, the Republican Party looks set for the dustbin of history alongside the Whigs. 

I was off by twelve years, but better late than never.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Islam and the West

I write this following the latest attack by Muslim terrorists.  This time, the target was Paris, and some 129 of its citizens have been murdered. 

I adore the West and although I possess not a drop of French blood, I have a special fondness for France, the eldest daughter of the Church.  When Clovis, leader of the Franks, was being instructed in the Faith, he became enraged upon learning of the death of Christ, informing his teachers that he and his men would never have allowed such a thing to happen.  Although the point of the crucifixion escaped him, one wishes someone in France would take up the mantle of Clovis.  His spirit is needed in a country gone soft in mind and body.

It has been almost fifteen years since the West was reminded of Islam on September 11th.  Since then, we have fought a totally ineffective war on pockets of insurgents.  Ineffective is, in some ways, an understatement, for our efforts have only served to further radicalize our enemy as well as increase their number.  We have done little more than fan the flames of violence.

Worse, we have pretended that by fighting the terrorists "over there", we could be made safe at home.  And we did so while importing millions from lands that reliably produced terrorists.  The rationale has been, not all Muslims fly planes into buildings--or kill people at concert halls.  That is as true as it is beside the point. 

There is no group of people that is uniformly murderous.  Even if the category were IRA members, there were those who pulled the trigger and those who ran logistics.  What matters is the amount of damage even a small amount of committed fanatics can inflict upon a populace, as the IRA did in Northern Ireland. 

From that standpoint, it is clear that importing millions of Muslims is a bad bargain.  Granted, one cannot put a price on flooding once Christian Europe with those who despise it, for our elites see Muslims as an ally against the Christian enemy.  But surely dead Parisians, or train passengers in Madrid, must be weighed in the balance against sticking it to the benighted believers.

This tragedy was completely unnecessary.  Europe is a Christian thing gone apostate.  Only briefly, and under conquest, has it been Muslim to any significant extent.  There was no reason to import millions of Muslims given that a portion of them are intent on the destruction of the West.  One can only conclude that our myopic leaders see this destruction as a good thing.

There are plenty of Muslim countries.  Wonderful ones, really, where female circumcision, cousin marriage and honor killings are orders of the day.  There is no tradition of freedom of speech, either, especially when it comes to criticism of the Prophet.  Is it really xenophobic extremism to insist that Muslims remain in their own wretched lands, while the westerners retains our own?

Our foolish President made reference to universal values in his lamentations for the attack on Paris.  But such values do not exist, as even a cursory glance at the Muslim world shows.  Obama is blameworthy for his idiotic meddling in Syria, which has precipitated the crisis.  We should resolve to leave the Middle East well enough alone.  In the meantime, the refugees should be settled in that part of the world.  One hears nice things about Saudi Arabia.  

Some day, the West will awake from its somnolence.  The sooner we do so, the sooner we can extricate ourselves from Islam with the least amount of violence.  Prolonging the inevitable separation will only render the affair more painful. 

In other words, if the sensible parties refuse to take this matter seriously, if they march in solidarity but do nothing to address the problem of Muslim immigration, the people will turn to someone who will.  If the elites consider Le Pen and Trump to be Nazis, they should wait and see who comes next.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Trump on immigration

Donald Trump has been widely derided as a joke candidate who is only running for President for spurious reasons.  Whether it's because he's a Clinton pal, sent by Bill to help torpedo the Jeb campaign (as if Jeb! needed help); or because he's trying to feed the flames of his gigantic ego, Trump's run is not serious.

This may well be true, but this supposedly less than serious candidate has released a very important (and quite serious) policy paper on the subject of immigration.  It has three main points:

1. A nation without borders is not a nation. There must be a wall across the southern border. 

2. A nation without laws is not a nation. Laws passed in accordance with our Constitutional system of government must be enforced. 

3. A nation that does not serve its own citizens is not a nation. Any immigration plan must improve jobs, wages and security for all Americans.


This is quite refreshing.  Let's delve a little deeper into each of his points.

1.  Every nation is a geographical entity, and is thus defined by its borders.  It is possible for a nation to remain indifferent to its geographical definition, but only if it likewise indifferent to whether its neighbors parcel out its land or migrate and take that land for themselves.  Such a nation is as unserious as Trump's campaign is reported to be.  If we would not carve out the southwest and give it to Mexico, nor more should we risk the accomplishment of the same through mass migration.

2.  A law that is not enforced is no law at all.  While ordinary Americans are penalized for the smallest infractions--missing a solitary line on any number of bureaucratic forms, having too much liquid in one's container at the airport, etc.--illegally trespassing into our lands is so ill enforced that the number of criminals is estimated in the millions. 

The counter argument is that illegals are sometimes deported, and, much more frequently, stopped and turned away at the border.  But the salient point is that with so many successful trespassers, potential law breakers are only encouraged. 

This ill enforcement inculcates a culture of lawlessness.  If a host country doesn't enforce the most basic procedures concerning who may reside in that country, why would it enforce less important laws, such as those governing the roadways or commercial transactions?  And even if the latter are more readily enforced, how does one prosecute someone for, say, drunk driving if the driver is uninsured and unlicensed, as well as illegal?

3.  This point is perhaps the most sound, as well as the least likely to be mentioned by any of the other candidates.  We are not bound to take in masses of immigrants in perpetuity.  On the contrary, we should take in only those immigrants who will help the nation as a whole.

Except for the sort of people, i.e. the rich, who are anxious to clamour for more illegal immigration, i.e. cheap labor, wages have been stagnant during this most dismal of economic recoveries.  We don't need unskilled laborers, no matter how hard working, when our own citizens are underpaid (or unemployed).  We don't need guest workers to compete with skilled workers, competing with them and driving down their wages in the process. 

There may come a time when these sorts of workers will be needed.  Then again, given the trend towards automating most manual labor jobs, such a time may never come.  Regardless, the government ought to set policies that serve its own citizens first. 

These positions shouldn't be controversial.  They should be cosigned by every candidate for national office.  Trump has many flaws, but it is to his lasting credit that he introduced the national question into what otherwise would have been another dreary election cycle. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

In defense of Trump

Donald Trump is a demagogue.  One could call him a flip-flopper, though that would imply that he is a man of principles, whereas he is, in all probability, a man of unabashed self-interest. 

He is also leading the polls in the race to be the GOP Presidential nominee.  The strength of his campaign can be explained thus:

1) He loudly opposes illegal immigration.  One wishes he would go further and demand a moratorium on immigration of any kind, as well as an elimination of our nearly two dozen guest workers programs.  Nonetheless, this opposition is refreshing, especially coming from a party that once foolishly nominated John McCain.

Many Americans realize, correctly, that immigration drives down wages and drives up housing costs.  If you live in one of the super zips Charles Murray writes about in Coming Apart, you might not care, but to working class citizens, it's a real concern.

I might add in passing that since the GOP hasn't been able to get more than 40% of the Hispanic vote, it's political suicide to grant amnesty to so many potential Democratic voters.  The Trump supporter intuits that the GOP would much rather stick it to the conservative base than the political opposition.

2) The base loathes the joke that is the Republican party.  Two terms of Bush gave us: a bloody, expensive, stupid, wasteful war; a huge expansion of the healthcare system; and a whole new Homeland Security Department--which has proved completely ineffective at reducing the flow of illegals, but has ensured that grandma gets patted down by a high school drop out before she flies out to visit her grand kids. 

In 2008, the GOP pushed warmonger and amnesty supporter John McCain.  When the electable moderate failed to win, they pushed milquetoast Mitt  Romney, who also went down to defeat.  Naturally, the elites are rethinking their strategy; all the big money is backing Jeb Bush, the brother of the man who has done so much to ruin the Republican Party.  Naturally, he supports amnesty.

Even the Tea Party has been hijacked by elites.  Despite the GOP majority in the house, Obamacare has not been defunded.  Congress dutifully rubber stamps the legislation they were elected to oppose.

3) Trump doesn't waste his time appeasing those who cannot be appeased.  He realizes, correctly, that anyone who runs against Hillary will be denounced as sexist, just as anyone who criticized Obama was denounced as racist.  Cowardly Republicans apologize for minor transgressions and hope to curry favor with a media establishment that hates them. 

Trump returns fire and refuses to back down.  It can't prove any less effective than Romney's nice guy routine.  The Democratic Party refuses to even consider eliminating funding for the baby killers of Planned Parenthood.  We're not dealing with reasonable people, but with radicals, who ought to be severely criticized for that radicalism.

I have no idea if Trump can win the nomination, let alone the Presidency.  But given the reliability of Republican betrayal, it's not irrational to side with the wild card in the race. 

Trump 2016! 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Learning from English Catholics

“What was it like to live each day in the hope for an end to the “patriotic” religious hatred that forced every citizen to choose between loyalty to country and fidelity to faith?” Dena Hunt, Treason, p. xii

This question is posed in the preface to a novel about Catholics in Elizabethan England.  We think of England as a Protestant country, but despite her father Henry VIII's attempts, it remained a very Catholic one at the time of his death.  Queen Mary had little trouble restoring the Faith among the majority of her subjects, for there was little to restore.  The elites, especially those made rich by the dissolution of the monasteries, were a different story. 

Like her father, Queen Elizabeth wanted nothing to do with Catholicism.  She made martyrs of some, especially the priests, like the famous St. Edmund Campion.  She also sought to cut off the people from their religion. 

“The attempt to obliterate the memory of traditional religion was not confined to the eradication of Catholic ritual and Catholic drama.  Both the bishops and their Puritan critics were especially aware of the potent influence of what they called the “monuments of superstition”, the physical remnants of Catholic cult which represented both a symbolic focus for Catholic belief, a reminder of the community's Catholic past and its corporate investment in the old religion, and a concrete hope for its ultimate restoration.” - Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 582

As George Orwell famously put it in 1984: "Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past."  Catholic drama and ritual—above all, the Mass—along with physical manifestations of culture, such as art and architecture, connected the English with their Catholic past. 

But the drama and ritual were forbidden until they were mostly forgotten; the art was destroyed and the architecture was confiscated by the State.  Although a remnant kept the Faith, on the whole, Elizabeth's policy proved tremendously successful: 

“By the end of the 1570s, whatever the instinct s and nostalgia of their seniors, a generation was growing up which had known nothing else, which believed the Pope to be Antichrist, the Mass a mummery, which did not look back to the Catholic past as their own, but another country, another world.” - Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars, p. 593

It would be almost three hundred years until Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman would convert to Catholicism.  That substantial interlude is a dark period in English history, at least for Catholics. 

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that American Catholics under President Obama are in the same position as English Catholics under Queen Elizabeth.  But it would be fair, indeed wise, to ask ourselves Mrs. Hunt's question: “What was it like to live each day in the hope for an end to the “patriotic” religious hatred that forced every citizen to choose between loyalty to country and fidelity to faith?”

We are not yet at that point, but it is good to consider our answer.  Hunt writes of white martyrdom, those who “bear the cross each day of their lives.”  Brendan Eich, a Catholic, has already been forced to resign because of his opposition to gay marriage.  There will be others.  The triumphalist left will no more rest on its laurels than Elizabeth relaxed once Queen Mary was locked in the tower. 

In the mean time, we can learn from the example of the English Catholics.  We must build up Catholic culture so that it will be able to resist the attacks of the secular State.  If our rulers strike at our culture, we may fare no better than did the English, but with their example, we can use our time to prepare.  It may not be too late.

And above all, we should ask the English martyrs to intercede on our behalf. 

St. Edmund Campion.  Pray for us.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Family and State

"We that are Christians believe that the family has a divine sanction.  But any reasonable pagan, if he will work it out, will discover that the family existed before the State and has prior rights; that the State only exists as a collection of families, and that its sole function is to safeguard the rights of each and all of them." - G. K. Chesterton, G. K.'s Weekly, Jan 3, 1935 (quoted in Joseph Pearce, Race with the Devil, p. 160)

It is said that we Christians must work to evangelize modern pagans, much like the early Christians evangelized the pagans of the Roman Empire.  In a sense this is true, but it is an error to conflate the modern secularist with the ancient pagan.  As Chesterton's quote demonstrates, there are things so obvious that only a thorough modern education could remove knowledge of them.

The family existed before the State.  It will exist after the State (in its present form) has withered away.  The family, like the State, is one of those permanent things that civilization must possess to some degree if it is to retain that distinction.  Even as we evolve beyond the nuclear family, its absence has already devastated aspects of our society, from the ghettos of Baltimore to the hills of Appalachia. 

But Chesterton's quote is insightful for another reason.  In a healthy society, the State works with the family; in an unhealthy one, it turns against it.  Once the State has ceased to be the safeguard of the family, the State begins to claim the family's rights and responsibilities for itself.

The State does not safeguard the rights of parents to educate their children.  It begrudgingly permits it in some cases, but in the vast majority, the State reserves this right to itself.  And this vital process must be started ever earlier, until, perhaps, on some great day, the new born baby will be whisked from the delivery room into the loving arms of a schoolmaster as in Plato's dystopia.

The State does not seek to ensure that at least one parent can stay at home with the children.  It prefers that both parents serve corporate masters while the children are taken care of by someone else.  One could as easily provide tax credits for stay at home mothers as for day care, but while the latter is politically practicable, the former is not.

Even when it comes to providing food and shelter, the State steps in when one parent is lacking.  It does not seek to provide compensation for a working parent; instead, it offers handouts.  Through this simple gesture, the State has ensured spectacular rates of illegitimacy among the underclass. 

The State has not attempted to do something about our high divorce rate.  In fact, its family courts have contributed to it.  The State would never dream of using its authority to compel a husband and wife to take their vows seriously.  Instead, it deprives the children of one parent, and generously insists that the deprived parent pays dearly.

These examples could be multiplied, for the logic is always the same.  When the family is struggling, the State does not try to build up that fledgling building block of civilization.  The State does not let a crisis go to waste and uses the opportunity to increase its power.

At first, the State provides education to orphans; a short time later, it provides education to everyone.  Perversely, those who insist on educating their own children are the weird ones.  The exception becomes the rule. 

In many ways, the State is now the enemy of the family. 

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Different worlds

I stumbled upon an older piece from Alan Jacobs, titled Lena Dunham’s Inviolable Self.  Jacobs contrasts the value system of the novelist Jane Austen with that of Lena Dunham, the creator and star of HBO's show Girls.  

In an essay called “Leading a Life,” the philosopher Charles Taylor points out that there are two distinct senses in which we may say that an idea or a belief or a moral account is incommensurable with some other idea or belief or moral system. “The first is where we have to make a choice with two different goods at stake” goods that are different enough that we have difficulty knowing how to weigh them together in the same deliberation.”  It could be argued that the difference between Austen’s world and the world of many fans of
Girls is of this kind: For instance, one might say that the good of protecting naive young people from catastrophic moral harm (Austen’s prime concern) conflicts with the good of freely pursuing erotic pleasure.

But the difference goes deeper than that. For Austen, “pursuing erotic pleasure” is simply not a good; and for many fans of
Girls, “catastrophic moral harm” is not a meaningful category.

This is the primary reason why the cultural war will not end.  If Austenians and Dunhamites (for lack of better descriptors) held similar values, but disagreed about how best to handle value conflicts, it would be possible to arrive at a resolution.  But no such compromise can be achieved when we are dealing with what Jacobs calls "radically alien models of the sacred."

Austenians like to point out the disastrous consequences of the sexual revolution: higher rates of illegitimacy and divorce, lower rates of marriage among people who would prefer to be married, ubiquitous pornography, and on and on.  We are surprised that, when made aware of these unfortunate facts, our opponents remain steadfast in their support of what Jacobs dubs the "inviolable self." 

This might be infuriating, but it shouldn't be surprising.  If one believes that pursuing erotic pleasure is a good and catastrophic moral harm is not a meaningful category, the effects of the sexual revolution are unrelated ephemera. To us, it sounds insane to say the Dunhamite philosophy of sex has nothing to do with the divorce rate.  To them, it sounds equally insane to connect the two.

It's tempting to try to attack this belief straight on.  After all, the self is not inviolable, and very few of our actions have no impact on others.  But Jacobs cautions against this route.  He quotes Kierkegaard, who enjoins: “an illusion can never be destroyed directly, and only by indirect means can it be radically removed.”

In other words, to tell a Dunhamite that his promiscuous sexual pursuits cause harm will be seen as an attack.  Who are we to tell him what he can do in the privacy of his own home? 

So what can we do?  Like Austen, we can tell stories that reveal moral goodness and truth.  We can create, as Jacobs says, "better fictional worlds, by which I mean fictional worlds that rhyme with what is the case, with what is true yesterday, today, and forever." 

He closes his piece wonderfully:

At the end of After Virtue , Alasdair MacIntyre writes, "We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another "doubtless very different" St. Benedict." I wait, with all the patience I can muster, for another Jane Austen.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Silence dissenters

I know of no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America. - Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol I, Chapter XV

I can think of no better example of Tocqueville's brilliant observation than what has taken place in this country regarding gay marriage.  Once a fringe issue, championed only by radicals, it has now all but become a plank in the platform of the Democratic party.  Moreover, all resistance to the tyrannical majority is... well, let Tocqueville explain:

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. Not that he is in danger of an auto-da-fe, but he is exposed to continued obloquy and persecution. His political career is closed forever, since he has offended the only authority that is able to open it. Every sort of compensation, even that of celebrity, is refused to him. Before making public his opinions he thought he had sympathizers; now it seems to him that he has none any more since he has revealed himself to everyone; then those who blame him criticize loudly and those who think as he does keep quiet and move away without courage. He yields at length, overcome by the daily effort which he has to make, and subsides into silence, as if he felt remorse for having spoken the truth.

Does that not describe the defenders of traditional marriage?  And will this not become truer still when the Supreme Court commands that gay marriage shall be the law of the land?

This is a real problem for conservatives.  The self-righteous majority does not recognize our opposition as legitimate, and our system of government grants power to that majority.  This is not to say that we should cease making our case, only that we should be realistic in not expecting a fair hearing.

I'll have more to say on the matter later.  But one last point: the best case for traditional marriage will be made by our families.  We do this not by putting on an act so as to convince the world that marriage is always easy and that children are unmitigated delights.  It is not and they are certainly not.  Instead, we ought to provide a quiet example by living virtuously.

Marriage, between a man and a woman, is the foundation of civilization.  Our marriages must produce good children, who will help us to shore up our fledging society.  In this manner, just as the early Church attracted converts, we can win back our post-Christian world. 

Monday, April 13, 2015

That next election

Over at The American Conservative, Daniel Larison explains why it makes little sense for Marco Rubio to run for president:

When [Rubio] was absurdly being touted as a “savior” of the party, he played at being like McCain and backed the Senate immigration bill, which angered many conservatives in the process and caused some of his previous supporters to feel that he had let them down. Alarmed by the backlash, he then ran away from the bill and started going out of his way to placate his conservative critics in a most Romney-like fashion. This has mostly earned him a loss of respect from both sides of the debate. As far as his conservative critics are concerned, he showed his true colors in supporting the bill, and in the eyes of “reform” supporters he caved immediately when he encountered the slightest resistance. In the end, the one big legislative effort Rubio was involved in produced no results, and he suffered political whiplash in the process.

Conservatives would be wise not to forget this episode. The National Question, as John Derbyshire has termed it, is too important to get wrong.  Politically speaking, creating millions of new voters, most of whom will support the Democratic party is sheer folly.  More importantly, it's insulting to unemployed and under-employed Americans.

But this incident is illustrative for another reason.  The immigration bill which Rubio sponsored was to be his signature legislative accomplishment; it was to demonstrate his readiness for higher office.  This would have set him apart in the field of candidates, for not a single one boasts a solitary success at the federal level.

Those who hold federal office and are seeking the Republican nomination are newcomers: in addition to Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz are running.  None of these have accomplished anything substantial; their candidacies all hinge on the fact that they have won federal elections, but are seen as too fresh to be held accountable for the paucity of their congressional records.

The other groups are former governors, notably Jeb Bush, but also Scott Walker; and those who claim success outside of the realm of politics, such as Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, and Doctor Ben Carson.  There will always be something appealing about non-politicians, for any sensible conservative or libertarian is thoroughly sick of the political class.  But the nature of the race is such that these candidates lack the resources, acumen and name recognition to be successful.

It is of some interest that, from the Republican side of things, there is nothing I say here that could not have been said about any recent campaign.  Such has been the utter irrelevance of Republican achievement in Washington, that, dating back to Reagan, and excepting the single-term of the elder Bush, all the Republican Presidents had previously been governors.  Based solely on this, I would predict that Jeb Bush becomes the nominee, with Scott Walker as his only real threat. 

It occurs to me, however, that what is true of the Republicans is equally true of the Democrats.  Certainly, Obama had served part of his term as an Illinois Senator before becoming President, but this brief tenure was bereft of achievement.  It's hardly surprising that Republican senators cannot run on a record of futile resistance to government largesse, but it's not clear why Democrats cannot run on the perceived success of any federal program.

This may be the signature feature of the upcoming election.  The Republicans will nominate someone they suspect will fail to enact any significant piece of legislation; but so will the Democrats.  The latter may be uninterested in repealing Obamacare, but we will not see Nancy Pelosi swept into power on the waves of its passage.  We will not see this any more than we have seen any Republican capture the presidency due to his elimination of a government program--if, indeed, a Republican has ever eliminated a government program.

From that standpoint, I can't see how this next election is of a concern to anyone at all, save for this.  The more inept and idiotic our government appears, the more the people clamour for it to do something substantial and sensible.  It is a noble hope.