Sunday, November 10, 2013

For Whom Shall I Vote?

I am happy to say that this blog attracts a very international readership, but this post will probably be most understood by my American compatriots.

Modern American conservatism has become an
irrelevant parody of itself.
As a Catholic I am a registered and voting Republican with no delusions, illusions, or allusions about the Grand Old Party. It is not Catholic, it is not pro-Catholic, and it does not prioritize a restoration of long neglected Christian cultural mores. I am a Republican because being one allows me to influence the nomination of which candidates earn that dubious title "lesser of two evils."
And yet is it not now approaching a reductio ad absurdum? At what point must I stop voting? The Democrats essentially ceased to be a Catholic acceptable party in the 1970s when they embraced Second Wave Feminism, which, ironically, disdains the feminine. Republicans come in two camps these days: 1) cultural reactionaries in desperate search for the mythical era of the "Founding Fathers" and a "return to the Constitution" and "freedom" and then 2) the "establishment" Republicans afraid of saying the most remotely disagreeable thing to the general population's prejudices and which relies on poorly modeled "bipartisanship" and "fiscal conservatism." The first group is unable to have an impact because of the second's stranglehold on money. Yet the gridlock has no long term relevance because both of their positions are divorced from the political reality and ignore Christ, the King of All.
America's political dominance in the last half century and unprecedented material wealth birthed that most democratic of groups, the American middleclass: two Japanese cars, no more than two children, an annual seven day vacation in a tropical setting, a few credit cards (which pay for each other), 40+ hour work weeks, and a lot of television. There are, within the middleclass, two tendencies, one towards a mild nostalgia towards a more pristine American culture in the public sphere and in schools (although these people can hardly be bothered to take steps towards realizing this restoration) and a self-congratulating and passive progressivism. Rarely can those in either category be troubled to sacrifice any of their premier features for the public good. Consider, for instance, the sort of impact a big, happy family has on people; many are uncomfortable at first, but upon seeing a large family observers often are mesmerized by the love and support of the older brother for the young, of the mother for the daughters etc. Yet a third child might mean only one car, a modest vacation, and tracking the checking account rather than living on credit. In short, duty and obligation, not "freedom" and the "Constitution"—that shriveled piece of parchment long past expiration.

In short, given the pseudo-atavistic and material tendencies of modern Republicans and their political inefficacy, I am wonder if it is even worth voting for them any longer. Not only are their ideas less practical and distanced from the Moral Law, but their party base is collapsing under the economic and demographic trends which the current administration has accelerated. Do I feign supporting the "lesser of two evils" still or withhold my, likely menial, vote?


  1. I have been and still am going through the same questions you pose. At one time, in my late teens and early-mid twenties, I was a staunch Republican, going to party meetings, working on campaigns, meeting governors and senators and other elected officials, etc. Alas, this also mirrored a time when my practice of the Faith was weak between enforced Tradness and my eventual Re-Tradversion, so politics seemed to fill a void to have something meaningful and tangibly attainable in life. Sadly, at the time, I did have allusions of a cultural restoration once GWB and his cohort of compassionate conservatives got into office.

    Over the last five years, as I have read more and better able to grasp the traditional teachings of the Church concerning the political and economic order, I have found voting to be a chore, an act at which I hesitate to perform more each time. Last year, I made a clean break from the "lesser of two evils" position refusing to lend my support to Romney let alone Obama; I wrote in Pat Buchanan, the only ostensibly serious Catholic "politician" I know who's name is not Santorum, as a protest vote.I continued to vote R down-ticket. I did mostly the same thing last week in NJ - sodomy-enabling Christie does not get my vote.

    I have no use for the tea-party or Ron Paul simply for the fact that they base their whole case on a sacrosanct constitution and the liberal democratic principles which popes of old clearly condemned. There is no force currently which proposes a Catholic vision of society, and it's certainly not being encouraged by hapless, americanist prelates. I think we are now beyond the point where any moral duty is a factor for Catholics concerning voting in the US. Perhaps, at the local level only. I may have well voted for the last time last week. I see voting R as something which can be morally permissible (but to no avail), but not morally required. Does anyone ever stop to think that the establishment country-club types and their corporatist donors give rise to the very materialistic society which then proposes abortion and sodomy and all other social ills for the sake of convenience and pleasure? I doubt many a tea-partier or Austrian style free-market person ever stops to consider this connection.

  2. These are two very profound pieces of heart-searching about a serious Christian's interraction with the democratic process. May I throw out a few observations from my damp island off the European coast?

    Modern society has been subverted by two once opposed but these days almost co-operating forces.

    In Britain one sees a devil's bargain between both the lazy and ambitious parts of the capitalist Right and the fanatical Left.
    Selling the young inappropriate clothes, toys video games, etc., happens because corporations want to make them consumers and also because the Left has been hard at work for at least two generations weakening parental control over their own children.
    Maybe the Left was hoping to turn the state into the all-sufficient parent figure for all the state’s young but seems to have settled for now, for infantilizing their parents, the adults, and allowing children to be at the mercy of the forces of the untrammelled market. It seems to enjoy encouraging children to have sex with each other, although captialism doesn’t seem to have found a way to take any profit from that yet.

    The natural intelligence of women, once concentrated on the upbringing of children and co operation with a husband, has instead been monetized outside the family. In this country that usually only pays for accomodation for a family-sized home. House prices have simply risen because sellers could charge more from two-income household buyers.
    Hardline Leftists and feminists still complain women are not becoming board members. But that was never what get rich-quick capitalists intended to offer. Women were offered desk-bound, perhaps rather dull jobs seemingly without complaint in return for the novelty of pay, and without the massive retraining and the readjustment of society that employing men who used to be miners or labourers would require. They weren’t doing it to advance progressive causes but to get willing wage-slaves.
    Feminists and other left-wingers said women should be allowed to work for wages, then it became a right, then it became a duty to your household and to the state. Stay at home mothers are already stigmatized.
    Part of this was a natural shift to the information-based economy we hear so much about. But I don’t think it is so great for ALL manual work to be done only in the Third World.

    Another problem created by poorly managed post-war industry was mass immigration – businesses failed to invest in new technology and instead demanded poor brown men from the old colonies whom they were sure would be grateful to work for peanuts. The poor men from abroad brought their poor wives and families and then the ill-run businesses closed anyway and so they had nothing to do but get radicalized. The Left devoted lots of energy to stopping any white people from being mean to non-whites (fair enough) but has not quite worked out how to criticize let alone stop the dangerous ideology it turns out many would rather follow instead of post-Christain western materialism.

    Now some people of the west are starting to think islam might be an attractive idea. Let’s face it, post-vatican ii, institutional religion has failed to inspire anyone. I say it is practiced by people who were practicing their faith anyway. Then it dissipates their energy over time. It brings no-one into Faith.
    Mark Steyn – always at his best when pointing out the faults of western society – has commented that the elite in the west was bored by its own cultural traditions. Quite. That writer seems to be thought unusual in his North American home: in Britain he was more mainstream, as he worked in the national press and even the BBC.

    Who would have thought democratic forms could be so corrupted that the people could be bribed with their grandchildren’s money? For two centuries or more this did not happen.
    What went wrong?

    1. ...continued :

      I have a suspicion we have been living beyond our means since the oil crisis – before Your Traddiness’s time, but you are an historian! We then did not stop spending and governments found they could always borrow more.

      I suspect it was the fault of western welfarism, but also the cost both human and financial of fighting ruinous wars to try to stop the balance of european power shifting – Germany beats France because it is slightly bigger; we know that now, a pity we could not face that simple truth in 1914, and the century wait has meant nearly the whole of europe beats pretty much nobody else. It isn’t completely clear why America got involved in 1917 – I think Wilson always fancied it, but I read it took Churchill to engineer the attack on US shipping. So both the Left and the jingoistic Right have brought us to this pass.
      Now however it is the whole of society that is on welfare – “I want it now” - including credit that is never repaid. And the state will always borrow more if you can’t.

      Some in the West think they need have no children in order to have a career and then a pension. But it is a fact that if you have no children [and remember, at least three is the bare replacement rate], you WILL grow old in a society run by someone else’s grandchildren. So, whose will they be?
      The governments of europe have to find future workers from somewhere to pay the pensions bill today, hence even more immigration -I think the issue is different in N. America.

      John R and I have gone several rounds on his own blog over the question of earthly monarchy as a spin-off of the divine. I still say it is no guarantee of good governance. The politicians here are able to hide behind the pageant of kingship and circus of royalty – not sure what they hide behind over there. The protestant monarchies of North West Europe seem to have zero role in governance, although the late, great King Baudouin made a public stand against abortion. In a way. But then the French Republic is in a perilous state too.

      Germany thrives and maybe we should remember two things. America spent money and time on its political, societal and economic rehabilitation in its own image. AND [contrariwise?] there seems to be a consensus there about the value of family and a state-mandated effort to encourage it, for instance, no shops open after lunch on Saturdays to give everyone a weekend space for family life. A third thing. Germany MAKES THINGS. It has been careful to maintain its manufacturing industry as its economic base. It has worked not to outsource jobs to the second or third world.
      But we mustn’t listen to Lefty German religious ideas. They seem to belong to the other Germany, leftovers of the seventies world of sex-communes [the German clergy seem to want more sex] and the Baader-Meinhoff gang [can’t think of another crack about radical-chic terrorism]. Now they really didn’t like hard-working small industrial enterprise and respectable family life.

      Laissez-faire capitalism doesn’t seem to have succeded so well.

      Having had a [post?-]protestant and pro-capitalist upbringing in late twentieth century Britain, some of the Papal encyclicals about the proper political arrangements used to seem like pinko sops. These days, following in the wake of John R, I am not so sure.

  3. Oh, and nobody in Britain knows who Ron Paul is. Although that may be the fault of the mainstream media, but I don't read much about him from Mr Steyn, either.
    If he was in Star Wars, I didn't see that.

  4. Having gone on about the wickedness of left and right, I did not address whom to vote for. Over here - or Over There depending on your point of view - I think there is only UKIP left, although they are no more Christian than any other party. They promise a general reform as well as their signature move of leaving the european organizations. Some of your lazier state department officials, taking their cue from that nice Mr Kissinger, want Britain to stay in them. Sorry, not a good enough reason to subvert national sovereignty.
    Would britain on its own be any more Christian than inside Europe? Probably not, until we have exorcised our national demons. Figuratively. But the smaller the unit, the greater the chance of doing something right.

    The British national religion probably has been anti-religiousness since the command economy of the war, of which the welfare state was a mere offshoot. The state replaces the Church as the open-handed provider.
    The Tory or Conservative party was the party of 'Church-and-King' but that meant anglicanism which was a department of state by another name in any case, and used to be a potent political force until it stopped being. Labour was obviously the party of the poor working man. To some extent it was supported by Irish Catholics, but few moved into leadership positions.
    No one knows what the Liberal party stands for. I find its leader a joke figure like the narcissistic (ah: a papal phrase!) architect in that sitcom starring Neil Patrick Harris. It does seem to be the repository for votes of quite a few people who are really either Leftists or Rightists but cannot quite bring themselves to vote Labour or Tory. I can see their point in a way.
    The real activist Liberals are now running the Labour party. And the judiciary.

    The British national religion used to be anti-Catholicism - a state policy introduced by the unappealing Cecil for Ann Boleyn's illegitimate daughter Elizabeth.
    It is a scandal that while actual protestant belief here crumbled a while ago, a residual anti-Catholicism seems still to be permissable in some odd and even official places. Perhaps because many still associate Catholicism with a serious commitment to the Faith. Some 'progressives' appear to admire protestantism because they can see it weakened the Church [btw, the answer, VaticanTwoers, is not to take that into the Church, just the people], without of course having ANY interest in biblical religion. The Cate Blanchet films called Elizabeth were utterly bizarre. In order to sit and watch them you have to hate the Catholic Church, but there is no need to like a protestant one. Or is there? Do you sit there and just let the travesty of history about cranmer's Prayer Book wash over you as you think it was just the precursor to universal franchise and tv dinners? In the seventies, these films could not have been released: back then tolerance really did apply to all.
    Liking Elizabeth I requires a belief in the old national myth of English protestant destiny or else sweeping that under the carpet. The Glenda Jackson show was not anti-Catholic; it was a pageant and a romance. In the eighties they could not have been made like that, and were of course, not made then. Now we seem to live in an age when the Church can safely be attcked again. When did that happen? The religious themes are mistated and ignore the point that Cecil was firmly committed to his own religious policy, not some left-wing liberalism. I nearly said not 'materialism' but he WAS committed to that. You only have to see the houses the ur-puritans built themselves to know consumerism began with them. Maybe Cecil would have sold tv dinners if it had kept him in power.

  5. The leagcy of the propaganda of Foxe's book of martyrs and the lies of the 'Popish Plot' live on. 600+ Catholic martyrs (not 'Forty', silly Paul VI; that was at Sebaste); thousands persecuted by Henry VIII ("The Killer") and fewer than three hundred executed under Queen Mary - in a political and 'public relations' disaster, no doubt about that - but none of whom could have been tried without a denunciation by their neighbours. Few of them were sure what they stood for, probably only five (yes, five = 05) could be desdcribed as conscientious Biblicists. Some others might have been interested in anabaptism [which is hardly Episcopalian], but a lot were simply confused and thought they would be difficult after they had had their conventional faith shaken by the disruption of a few years of the Edwardian regime. There's a lesson here: doing wrong - despoiling the Church, forcing people into heresy - has consequences: it does harm. I read that some were denounced because they refused to participate in the community occasions of a Palm Sunday or Corpus Christi procession. Who knows why they were refusing, but it was mostly for the crime of being anti-social and not fitting in that they were condemned. Sad; but not because they were 'protestants'. Whatever one of those was later defined as.

    In Britain there is now talk of introducing 'open primaries' but it seems unlikely to produce change. It does seems highly open to fraud - people could register for a party they dislike in order to influence its choice - and then vote their desire at the actual election. But I am told this is not a problem. I suppose the 'open' ones would mean everyone gets to say what a certain party should campaign on. Maybe the Republicans should try that. Or maybe they shouldn't.

    Presidential elections are covered here in loving detail to the exclusion of all other issues - the journos get a nice excursion out of it - and the disconnect between what the candidates say to their
    core voters at primary stage and what they say in the final contest seems, if not a hostage to fortune situation, then at least a vast amount of effort for little result, and that diverted from the main election.

    I would like to ask whether you think the US parties are susceptible to accession by concerned voters or if the machine stops that. The tea party's existence seems to suggest they are. I accept that they are hardly avowedly Christian, but then this is politics. Have I just answered a question? There is no Christian influence on politics?

  6. To put it simply, I do not vote, period.

  7. A further thought: you might benefit from reading Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind to give you
    some more food for thought on the political front. Thanks for your posts.