Tag Archives: clerisy

The Clerisy and the Kakistocracy and the Administrative State

If anything, both Left and Right have developed a newly intense resentment of the way in which purely private actors can exercise tremendous influence over their lives: corporate mergers and restructurings take away jobs and upend the economic situation of communities dependent on them; Facebook and Twitter endeavor to silence unpopular political views, or else are used as vehicles for ochlocratic attacks on hapless Starbucks staffers and Chipotle managers; in 2008–09, the world economy was convulsed by the fact that a great many Wall Street firms made bad investments that they did not quite even understand, necessitating trillions of dollars in bailouts and “quantitative easing” to stave off economic disaster. It is easier for a man to walk away from his wife and children than from his credit-card debt or student loans. Nobody seems to really know what his health insurance will cover — or what it will cover the day after tomorrow. A third of the teachers participating in a grant program found themselves saddled with loans — loans they had never signed up for, sometimes amounting to tens of thousands of dollars —because of paperwork issues. Innocent men and women are wrongly prosecuted and end up financially ruined even when they escape jail, and even as prosecutors boldly boast about abusing their powers.

The burden of these developments always seems to fall on those who do not have much money or power. You miss filing a 1040EZ one year and you’ll get your bank account hijacked by the IRS; Lois Lerner hijacks the entire IRS for a political project and she ends up with pension that’s twice what most American households earn in a year. Corporate executives flit from one gilt perch to the next, politicians flout both law and morality without real consequence, and their cronies and minions rarely miss a paycheck. Meanwhile, the New York Times is full of advertisements for Rolex and Cartier, Tiffany and Zegna — and stories about how nobody can really be expected to get by on $200,000 a year.

In Francis Fukuyama’s magisterial Origins of Political Order, he specifies three things that undergird the development of political development: the state, the rule of law, and accountability. The first we have plenty of — more of than we need, really. The other two . . . less so. Irrespective of how you feel about the current legal efforts being made against President Trump, it is impossible for any intelligent person to look at the situation and conclude that anybody — anybody — involved in this mess is simply working to apply the law rather than conducting a political jihad or counter-jihad through legal means — lawfare, as they call it. The rule of law took a beating during the Obama administration, and the chaos of the Trump administration does not seem likely to contribute much to its recuperation.

Who’s in Charge Here?

Crony capitalism and statolatry all the way down.

The Clerisy

We can see much more clearly now the decadent path on which Western culture had been descending for the better part of the Twentieth Century. To one who reached his maturity in the ‘Fifties, when God was in His heaven and all seemed right with the world, perhaps the most surprising fact is the speed with which cultural decay has undermined seemingly solid institutions. Here is one measure: In the ‘Sixties and ‘Seventies the chant of “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western Civilization’s got to go” was the more or less exclusive mantra of coddled college students with too much time on their hands and too little in their heads. That same slogan today has infected the bloodstream of the entire Democratic Party, and appears to be the very raison d’etre of its dominant wing. Similar sentiments, mutatis mutandis, are echoed by many liberal interest groups, the professoriate, and the news media. The barbarians, in a word, are not only inside the gates; they are far more numerous, dispersed, and powerful than they once were.

. . .

I think it beyond argument that we do face a genuine crisis, that it is very deep, and that it is essentially moral and intellectual rather than merely political in the narrow sense of that term. I also think that conditions are likely to get worse before we see improvement. But when and if the denouement arrives, I believe the resolution will strain our constitutional order as nothing before. I say this because a significant percentage of the population seems to have lost faith in the foundations of the American constitutional order. That should not be altogether surprising, inasmuch as they have been badly tutored. The loudest and most influential among their instructors have argued for two generations or more that the Founders’ Constitution is not merely mistaken in this or that feature, but is fundamentally flawed, even illegitimate. For many if not most left-wing intellectuals it is seen as an anti-democratic plot foisted upon naïve citizens by corrupt white males. This disposition, once the more or less exclusive property of hot-headed pamphleteers, agitators, and the professoriate, has surfaced increasingly in the rhetoric of prominent public officials, who disparage the Constitution they have taken a solemn oath to protect and defend.

The Constitution of their oath, however, is not the constitution that attracts their loyalty. Their constitution does not derive from the laws of Nature and Nature’s God; and it is certainly not devoted to securing natural rights and limited government. Theirs, rather, is a constitution in thrall to the prospect of perpetual change and ever-expanding government. This view of constitutional things in the United States was born over a century ago in the writings of leading Progressive thinkers and politicians. They set about to alter the foundations of the American regime, and to a remarkable degree they have succeeded. Their teaching dominates schooling at every level, book publishing, the news media, and popular culture. Despite occasional setbacks, the Progressive chattering class seems confident that its agenda will remain in the vanguard of American political culture.

The Struggle Ahead

 


The Administrative State and the New “Conservative” Majority on the Supreme Court

 

America, 2018

Why have conservatives abandoned the coasts?

. . .

If real estate cast votes, the United States would be practically a one-party state. And, to be sure, as things stand, the Republicans are doing well, controlling the presidency and both houses of Congress while enjoying a commanding position in the states. “Who needs California?” they ask, often with a sneer. “Who needs New York and New Jersey?”

The answer: America does.

Conservatives, too.

In its quest to “Make America Great Again,” the Republican party, and to a lesser extent the conservative movement that animates itself, has taken a position of enmity toward much of what made America great in the first place. With all due respect to those amber waves of grain, coastal urban America has in many ways led the way: Hollywood, Wall Street, Ronald Reagan, punk rock, Ellis Island, Edison, Apple, Facebook, Google, J. P. Morgan, General Electric.

The modern conservative movement was not a product of the Old South or the Midwest but an intellectual phenomenon that percolated up in Southern California and New York City. (With apologies to Mr. and Mr. Koch, there’s a reason William F. Buckley Jr. did not choose to launch a journal in Wichita.) It’s all good and fine to point to the troubles — and they are many — of the Democrat-dominated states and cities, but in their rhetorical frenzy to abominate the Democrat-leaning parts of the country, Republicans have put themselves at odds with many of our most successful industries, institutions, and communities. Republicans sneer at Silicon Valley and at the elite universities that educate the people who work there. In favor of what? A resentment-driven cultural milieu that insists that the “Real America” is to be found elsewhere, and that the “Real America” looks like Hee-Haw without the music or self-deprecating humor. They insist that San Francisco is Hell on Earth but never ask why it is that so many people want to live there — or they just write off those who do as degenerates and hopelessly un-American.

That’s bad politics.

From Sea to Shining Sea

Beneath the sex scandals, moronic tweets, ridiculous characters, and massive incompetence that dominate Washington in this mean period of our history lie more fundamental geopolitical realities. Increasingly it is economics—how people make money—rather than culture that drives the country into perpetual conflict.

What’s Red, Blue, and Broke All Over? America.

Credentialism and Catholicism and “Going Along”

When Catholic parents use Getting Into A Good School (even if it’s a Good Catholic School) as a motivator for everything from academics to athletics to “community service,” we embrace a cultural norm that is just as corrosive to the faith as any innovation in the understanding of marriage and sexuality. Indeed it is more corrosive, because “respectability” now contains within itself all those innovations we abhor, and want our children to abhor.

Countercultural Catholic witness, especially passed down within a family, must be comprehensive, or it will fail. We must discard the polarized lens of the “culture war,” which filters out those threats to the faith that don’t neatly fit a particular and outdated political narrative. We can’t rail against same-sex marriage and abortion on demand on Tuesday, then wax poetic about the importance of getting into a top-tier school on Wednesday, and expect our emerging adults (or anyone else) to see this as a coherent response to an ailing civilization. It is senseless to condemn respectable evils such as abortion and fornication, then to urge our children to submit themselves for judgment to the gatekeepers of respectability.

Worshipping at the Altar of the College Admissions Committee

A movie some years back entitled Pay it Forward was based on the idea that those to whom good deeds had been done should “pay it forward” to others. The reality is frequently less benign. What people “pay forward” is often the result of a job poorly done or a problem unaddressed, a malfunction that gets passed along from one bureaucratic official to another until it gets dumped on someone who has neither the power nor the position to pay it forward any further.

Let’s say you are a young priest freshly graduated from a program in canon law and are assigned to a diocesan tribunal where you idealistically hope you can apply the wisdom and practices you have been taught, based on centuries of Church tradition, to the pastorally difficult challenges of annulment cases. What you find, however, is that the tribunal hasn’t been following that wisdom or those practices for years. Their attitude is “just get ‘em through,” and they reject very few annulment petitions.

. . .

Thus when priests repeatedly tell their congregations that the key Christian virtue is “being nice,” those congregations have a hard time knowing why any Catholic institution would deny what they take to be legitimate desires, because denying people what they want is not “nice.” When you pander to the culture of autonomous liberalism and preach the Gospel of moralistic therapeutic deism, you’re nourishing the roots of our cultural weeds, many of which will sprout vigorously in the back yard of someone else who hasn’t sufficient resources to get rid of them.

So we could continue arguing bitterly and endlessly about the tribunals and the schools where the problems get dumped – though at that point, the difficulties are so great and the resources so minimal that you’d be lucky to get a Band-Aid. Or we could get serious about what’s happening in the culture, and not happening in the Church, and start making people elsewhere in the system, starting with ourselves, responsible for no longer just “paying it forward.”

Paying it Forward Until. . .

“Urban Renewal” and The Kakistocracy


Adventures in Buffaloland – Episode 1 – Tim Tielman in Niagara Square, downtown Buffalo

Urban renewal was the lethal marriage of progressive urban engineering with what Tim [Tielman] calls the “kakistocracy“—thieves who justify their crimes against place in the canting and condescending language of efficiency and inevitability.

New York’s Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, while being driven through urban-renewal-decimated Auburn, New York, “In the 1950s, with a progressive government and newspaper, you got into urban renewal and destroyed everything of value in your town. If you’d had a reactionary newspaper and a grumpy mayor, you might still have it.” Try to imagine Chuck Schumer or Kirsten Gillibrand saying something one-ten-thousandth as perceptive. (Confirming Moynihan, the largest American city to reject urban renewal funding was Salt Lake City, whose voters, following the lead of their delightfully cranky libertarian Mayor J. Bracken Lee, rejected the federal bulldozer in 1965 by a vote of 29,119 to 4,900.)

Moynihan had a soft spot for Buffalo, probably because it was filled with the ethnic Catholics who claimed his heart, if not always his head. His support was critical in saving Louis Sullivan’s terra cotta-ornamented Guaranty Building (1896) from senseless demolition. (In a 1961 essay in Commentary, Moynihan called Buffalo “a big, ugly, turbulent city.” I once asked him if that description caused any problems in his campaigns. He looked at me incredulously. “How many people in Buffalo do you think read Commentary?”)

Tielman says, “Absent the federal and state money, none of this devastation occurs in Buffalo or Niagara Falls.” He elaborates: “Where did this free money go? To the existing power structure”—whose acts of destruction were facilitated, I regret to say, by urban Catholic mayors, who sacrificed significant portions of their cities to the Greatest Generation’s Greatest God: Progress.

. . .

[T]he Canal District [in Buffalo] is now threatened by every parent’s nightmare: a children’s museum, a $27 million project, jointly funded by a state development corporation and corporate donors, with the city offering a $1-a-year lease for forty years.

Tim is not enthusiastic. “Did you know Buffalo is the largest city in the country without a children’s museum?” he asks in mock outrage. “We can’t let that stand!” More seriously, he notes that “children’s museums attract fewer people than cemeteries,” and that this one “has nothing to do with the Canal District—it could be anywhere.” (It could be anywhere—what an apposite caption for so many of the edifices that deface our cities: This could be anywhere.)

. . .

Jane Jacobs occupies the catbird seat on Tim’s bookshelf. He rhapsodizes Jacobsian over pre-urban renewal Buffalo, which was “dense with buildings and crowded sidewalks, where one could wander block upon block, past shop after shop, restaurant after restaurant, office building after hotel, without apparent end. Buffalo was a beehive, where all of life’s necessities, pleasures, and luxuries could be had within the square mile of its core.”

Its demolition was not the work of some invisible hand or inscrutable force but rather, in Tielman’s phrase, “social engineers” who destroyed the essence of the city.

. . .

Next time you’re in Buffalo—and you really ought to visit; the Buffalos and Lowells and Pittsburghs are so much better for the soul than Orlando or Myrtle Beach—take one of the Campaign for Greater Buffalo‘s open-air bus tours.

The Real Buffalo Rises: How one American city lost, and then reclaimed its destiny.


Adventures in Buffaloland – Episode 2 – Tim Tielman visits two office buildings in Buffalo


Adventures in Buffaloland – Episode 4 – St. Paul’s Cathedral and Sullivan’s Guaranty Building<

Credentialism and “Meritocracy” and Philosopher Kings


Does America Really Need More College Grads? – George Leef

The Chinese imperial bureaucracy was immensely powerful. Entrance was theoretically open to anyone, from any walk of society—as long as they could pass a very tough examination. The number of passes was tightly restricted to keep the bureaucracy at optimal size.

Passing the tests and becoming a “scholar official” was a ticket to a very good, very secure life. And there is something to like about a system like this … especially if you happen to be good at exams. Of course, once you gave the imperial bureaucracy a lot of power, and made entrance into said bureaucracy conditional on passing a tough exam, what you have is … a country run by people who think that being good at exams is the most important thing on earth. Sound familiar?

The people who pass these sorts of admissions tests are very clever. But they’re also, as time goes on, increasingly narrow. The way to pass a series of highly competitive exams is to focus every fiber of your being on learning what the authorities want, and giving it to them. To the extent that the “Tiger Mom” phenomenon is actually real, it’s arguably the cultural legacy of the Mandarin system.

That system produced many benefits, but some of those benefits were also costs. A single elite taking a single exam means a single way of thinking:

The examination system also served to maintain cultural unity and consensus on basic values. The uniformity of the content of the examinations meant that the local elite and ambitious would-be elite all across China were being indoctrinated with the same values.

All elites are good at rationalizing their eliteness, whether it’s meritocracy or “the divine right of kings.” The problem is the mandarin elite has some good arguments. They really are very bright and hardworking. It’s just that they’re also prone to be conformist, risk averse, obedient, and good at echoing the opinions of authority, because that is what this sort of examination system selects for.

. . .

[T]his ostensibly meritocratic system increasingly selects from those with enough wealth and connections to first, understand the system, and second, prepare the right credentials to enter it—as I believe it also did in Imperial China.

And like all elites, they believe that they not only rule because they can, but because they should. Even many quite left-wing folks do not fundamentally question the idea that the world should be run by highly verbal people who test well and turn their work in on time. They may think that machine operators should have more power and money in the workplace, and salesmen and accountants should have less. But if they think there’s anything wrong with the balance of power in the system we all live under, it is that clever mandarins do not have enough power to bend that system to their will. For the good of everyone else, of course. Not that they spend much time with everyone else, but they have excellent imaginations.

America’s New Mandarins – The paths to power and success are narrowing. So is the worldview of the powerful.

Statolatry

The Party of “Civil Servants”?

The economic interests attached to the Democratic party are fairly easy to identify: people who work for government at all levels. You may come across the occasional Ron Swanson in the wild, but when it comes to the teachers’ unions — which are the biggest spender in U.S. politics — or the AFSCME gang or the vast majority of people receiving a taxpayer-funded paycheck, the politics of the public sector is almost exclusively Democratic. And what they care about isn’t social justice or inequality or diversity or peace or whether little Johnny can use the ladies’ room if his heart tells him to — they care about getting paid.

Here’s an interesting point of comparison. When Barack Obama was running for president in 2008, he opposed gay marriage. So did Hillary Rodham Clinton, but Obama’s opposition was especially interesting in that he cited religious doctrine in support of his position: “My faith teaches me . . . that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. For me, as a Christian, it is also a sacred union — God’s in the mix.” George W. Bush, who was derided as a fundamentalist bigot by lifestyle liberals, never said anything like that. (Dick Cheney was well to the left of the Democrats on the question.) But there was barely a murmur of opposition to Obama’s staking out this ground “on the wrong side of history.” Social issues are for the naïfs.

. . .

What is the Democratic party? Is it a genuine political party, or is it simply an instrument of relatively well-off government workers who care about very little other than securing for themselves regular raises and comfortable pensions?

If I were a progressive, I’d be curious about that.

What Is the Democratic Party?

How the mainstream media clerisy might have covered Jesus of Nazareth

[Herodian Herald, c.f. Matthew 10:1-4] As part of Jesus ben Joseph’s surprising (and ill-fated) attempt to run for Messiah, the carpenter’s son has reportedly chosen his inner circle, or Apostles, as they are now calling themselves. What is most unfortunate about Jesus’ “cabinet” is its crude uniformity, all of them young Jewish men. Moreover, there is a palpably disproportionate number of fishermen, suggesting this nascent movement will be heavily biased in favor of the fishing industry. At least half are a real basket of deplorables. Indeed, what is the public to make of his choice of spokesman, an abrasive, and loudmouth fisherman named Simon, who is known more for his poor professional tradecraft than leading a populist movement? That Simon is now going by the name Peter will fool no one.

. . .

[Daily Sabbath] Reports continue to abound of Jesus’ alleged miracle-working, as witnesses note his ability to heal an assortment of individuals across Judea and the hinterlands. The blind, crippled, sick, demon-possessed, and many others suffering all manner of maladies have allegedly been cured at the hands of this snake-oil salesman. Even if these reports are true, Jesus’ actions are highly insulting, implying that there is something wrong with the diverse crowd he encounters. Rather than “heal” such individuals, this supposed Messiah should instead seek to affirm them where they are, and stop trying to change those who don’t need to be changed.

They Could Not See Him for the Press

Clerisy

“Too often Christians in DC are intimidated by power”

If Baptists are truly concerned that the new administration will leave them out in the cold, they could easily designate a disgruntled pastor lacking real moral gumption to be Trump’s pet while Moore continues to speak out for biblical truth and actual justice. Political organizations do this all the time. In almost every group there are those who put on the public face and play nice while others in the organization uphold principles and actually get the job done.

Too often Christians in DC are intimidated by power, bowing down to the next Nebuchadnezzar instead of representing right no matter how hot the furnace. I hope the Southern Baptist Convention will resist this illusion of temporary political expediency and instead stand strong with the ERLC as led by [Russell] Moore. We need more leaders like him, especially in times like these.

Christians Need More Leaders Like Russell Moore

Also see “God, Not Politics

No more statolatry.

Smuglies

Stuck with the consequences of their immigration and refugee policies (in response to the demography of contraception and abortion), governments across Europe have found themselves in a political pickle. People haven’t become used to terror hits quite yet; and while the numbers are only modestly rising, they are still at the stage where they wonder if something effective could be done. For that and a dozen allied reasons, they threaten to throw all the “natural governing parties” out of power.

There is a real threat to the “smuglies,” as I call them (short for something more rude). Things like Brexit and the Trump win in America have wiped the smiles off their faces. Across the Continent, once secure politicians are asking, “Could it happen here?” They’d be happy to write off a few hundred a year, like traffic accidents. But now something infinitely more important is at stake: their own careers.

From their view, the whole order of the world is threatened, as a direct consequence of their assumptions about it, and they have nothing in their intellectual arsenals to defend it except smears and slanders.

. . .

Calling people “fascist,” “racist,” “sexist,” “homophobic,” or just “deplorable,” no longer works. It does not inspire them to vote for you, once it becomes clear that these terms must apply to more than half of the electorate. We now have hyperinflation in such terms, and of the phantasies that underlie them: the final extension of the old Communist agitprop. And as the cussing loses its effect, the cussers can only reveal their bewilderment. The tree these beavers were felling is falling on them.

. . .

For a precedent I would turn, most optimistically, to the eleventh century. Europe was transformed — by a collapse of security from multiple invasions (Vikings from west, north, and east; Muslims from east and south; roaming tribes within, &c) — into small feudal statelets. Even (and especially) within the descendant Charlemagnian realms, local and regional “warlords” took charge: . . .

The result was exactly the opposite of conventional expectation. It was the emergence of an unprecedented trans-European unity; of a coherent Catholic Christendom made without human foresight; of a vibrant and self-confident, a chivalric sense of belonging to something beyond the authority of any local ruler. Yet this is something that is not studied, because it strays beyond the comprehension of any modern academic discipline, requiring a synthesis of political, military, economic, social, intellectual, and religious history. I think Christopher Dawson (1889–1970) was the last to expound it worthily.

Surprisingly much of Europe remained unChristianized, on the eve of this “cultural revolution.” Christianity infilled the pagan pockets, and passed over the pagan frontiers, because it offered the very universals for which people longed. It could do so again, for it still offers the only possible groundwork for civilizational recovery in the West, whatever the outward events. (We can see where “secular humanism” has got us.) Or rather, the only alternative would be an Islam, that could only be imposed by force and fear.

. . .

The formation, and reformation of a civilization is not done by planning. It does not depend on the efficiency of the police. It happens under no political regulation, but by a trillion trillion tiny acts of human decency. By faith.

Which is the only way I know to proceed: by faith. Stop wrecking and scout beauty again; reject evil and embrace the good; withdraw your support for the false gods, and seek only the True. This is in fact the central message of Advent. It is a voice crying in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”

Recovery

smuglies = the clerisy

Appoint a Special Prosecutor

A few observations after the USA election. . . .

1. How easily the college-educated go barking mad.

2. The most reliable “safe space” is a padded cell. The least reliable ought to be on campus.

3. The new administration might want to consider “transitioning” several Ivy League universities into mental homes to serve an urgent public need.

. . .

6. On the specific question of his taste in fixtures and furnishings (including likely cabinet choices), we must be firm. On the basis of his Manhattan apartment alone, I’d be inclined to appoint a Special Prosecutor.

. . .

12. He (Mr Trump) is, it should be said, a dangerous republican. He has already eliminated two political dynasties, within the USA (both the Bushes and the Clintons). Monarchists in Europe take note. Do not invite this man into your castles.

. . .

18. Have you noticed that people who accuse him of hate crimes are frothing at the mouth? . . . No? . . .

19. I have.

Postmortem

It became easy to say that a “crude” Trump and a “crooked” Clinton polluted the 2016 campaign. The real culprits were a corrupt Washington elite, who were as biased as they were incompetent — and clueless about how disliked they were by the very America they held in such contempt.

A Blow to the Non-Elite Elite

[T]hose who advance their theory that God intervened in the election of Trump fail for the most part to grapple with the complicating biblical truth that God chastens whom he loves (Hebrews 12) and that he may judge and punish us by giving us exactly what we ask him for (1 Samuel 8). A second complicating truth for hard-identity Christians is that, while human events are indeed influenced by spiritual powers, not all spiritual powers are of God (Ephesians 6).

Trump and the Divine-Intervention Theory

Politics Is Poison to the Human Spirit, Idolatry for Many

[A]ny visit to an awesome commercial center, teeming with life and full of human diversity, would be palliative. Or maybe it is a visit to a superstore to observe the products, the service, energy, the benevolence, of the commercial space. We can meet people, encounter their humanity, revel in the beauty and bounty of human life. Or it could be your local watering hole with its diverse cast of characters and complicated lives that elude political characterization.

. . .

In this extremely strange election year, escaping the roiling antagonism and duplicity of politics, and finding instead the evidence all around us that we can get along, however imperfectly, might actually be essential for a healthy outlook on life.

. . .

The message that politics beats into our heads hourly is that your neighbor might be your enemy, and that the realization of your values requires the crushing of someone else’s.

That’s a terrible model of human engagement to accept as the only reality.

. . .

What if the whole of life worked like the political sector? It would be unrelenting misery, with no escape, ever. As it is, this is not the case. We should be thankful for it, and remember that the thing that makes life wonderful, beautiful, and loving is not crushing your enemy with a political weapon but rather the gains that come from turning would-be enemies into friends in an environment of freedom.

. . .

A slogan passed around some years ago in academic circles was that “the personal is the political.” That sounds like hell on earth. The slogan should be flipped and serve as a warning to all of us: whatever you politicize will eventually invade your personal life. We should not allow this to happen. The less that life is mediated by political institutions, the more the spontaneous and value-creating impulses in our nature come to the fore.

Politics Is Poison to the Human Spirit

Our real and immediate interest is to rebuild the character of our civilization; to recover that common understanding of up and down; of right and wrong; of what is worthy and what is unworthy; of what is godly and what is ungodly; along with the telling power of example. Let the world titter in its cynicism: the recovery begins when we fast and pray.

Hard rain chronicles

Supreme Court nominees will not save you. National security advisers will not save you. An Ivy League education will not save you. A quarterback who’s cool under pressure will not save you. Tax breaks will not save you. The love of Mr. Right will not save you. A traditional priest will not save you. A progressive priest will not save you. This pope will not save you. A different pope will not save you.

If there’s any heresy the internet encourages, it’s the passionate conviction that “all we need is….” All we need is a Republican president or a more compassionate bishop or a baby who sleeps through the night or a diet that actually works or a higher minimum wage or better paternity leave or free reign to go after ISIS or a new iPhone or a good harvest and then we’ll be happy.

No. All you need is Jesus.

We all seem to know, Christian or not, that we’re in desperate need of a savior. Every four years, we find that savior in a political candidate, appalling as he or she may be. In between, our savior might be an ecclesial movement or a dear friend or a cup of coffee. They’re not bad things until they’re everything and then they’re idols just as much as any golden calf or statue of Bel.

. . .

It’s not just politics, of course. We look to money and love and fame and comfort to save us just as much as we do to our political leaders—more. We make them our gods, confident that what we need is a raise or a faithful spouse or a vacation or more reliable internet provider and then we’ll be okay.

Those things might be nice. Or they might be bricks building up into a wall of self-sufficiency, good things that blind us to our need for a savior. And without making a single deal with the devil or even skipping a single Mass we suffer the loss of our souls because we have installed created things in the place set aside for the creator.

Looking for our savior in all the wrong places

Statolatry, Idolatry

A republic, not a democracy

Over the past half century, the Reagan years notwithstanding, our ruling class’s changing preferences and habits have transformed public and private life in America. As John Marini shows in his essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis,” this has resulted in citizens morphing into either this class’s “stakeholders” or its subjects. And, as Publius Decius Mus argues, “America and the West” now are so firmly “on a trajectory toward something very bad” that it is no longer reasonable to hope that “all human outcomes are still possible,” by which he means restoration of the public and private practices that made the American republic. In fact, the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire.

Electing either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump cannot change that trajectory. Because each candidate represents constituencies hostile to republicanism, each in its own way, these individuals are not what this election is about. This election is about whether the Democratic Party, the ruling class’s enforcer, will impose its tastes more strongly and arbitrarily than ever, or whether constituencies opposed to that rule will get some ill-defined chance to strike back. Regardless of the election’s outcome, the republic established by America’s Founders is probably gone. But since the Democratic Party’s constituencies differ radically from their opponents’, and since the character of imperial governance depends inherently on the emperor, the election’s result will make a big difference in our lives.

After the Republic

The Ruling Class, Politicians

Maybe one needs to be sick to run for office. [Anthony] Weiner is a disciple of New York senator Chuck Schumer.

Schumer famously said, “I was born to legislate.” This goes to the heart of the political sickness—the need to tell others how to live. As economist Walter Williams puts it, “I respect ordinary thieves more than I respect politicians. Ordinary thieves take my money without pretense. (They don’t) insult my intelligence by proclaiming that they’ll use the money that they steal from me to make my life better.”

In the next weeks, as cameras record every utterance burped up by politicians at the political conventions, I’ll take comfort knowing that when politicians can’t force us to do things, people often ignore them (remember, government is force; this is why politicians are important, and dangerous).

Ignoring Politicians