The Big Picture: A Suggestion

In my search for a silver lining in this Presidential Campaign, I have found precisely one: it’s not boring.

Rod Dreher commends an article five months ago in Politico as “what I still think is the most insightful essay describing what’s happening, and what is going to happen, in US politics after this year.” It doesn’t immediately explain the turmoil of the election, but it’s evocative:

  • What we’re seeing is a “reassembling of new Democratic and Republican coalitions [which] is nearly finished.”
  • “Today’s Republican Party is predominantly a Midwestern, white, working-class party with its geographic epicenter in the South and interior West. Today’s Democratic Party is a coalition of relatively upscale whites with racial and ethnic minorities, concentrated in an archipelago of densely populated blue cities.”
  • “In both parties, there’s a gap between the inherited orthodoxy of a decade or two ago and the real interests of today’s electoral coalition. And in both parties, that gap between voters and policies is being closed in favor of the voters — a slight transition in the case of Hillary Clinton, but a dramatic one in the case of Donald Trump.”
  • “[C]ountry-and-western Republicans have gradually replaced country-club Republicans.” but the GOP platform and budget still reflect the priorities of the latter.
  • “Social issues spurred a partisan realignment by changing who considered themselves Democrats and Republicans. Over decades, socially conservative working-class whites migrated from the Democratic Party to join the Republican Party, especially in the South. Socially moderate Republicans, especially on the East Coast, shifted to the Democratic coalition. Now, there’s little disagreement within each party on social issues. Liberal Republicans are as rare as Reagan Democrats.”
  • “The rise of populist nationalism on the right is paralleled by the rise of multicultural globalism on the center-left.” Much of the Republican establishment is aligned with the center-left on globalism.
  • In the next two decades:
    • “The Republicans will be a party of mostly working-class whites, based in the South and West and suburbs and exurbs everywhere.”
    • “The Democrats … will be even more of an alliance of upscale, progressive whites with blacks and Latinos, based in large and diverse cities.”
  • The two parties’ coming ideologies are deeply at odds.

I believe I’ve written before that 1972 was a turning point for the Democrats: turning away from blue collar labor unions and toward teachers, intellectuals, and sexual revolutionaries.

It had not occurred to me that, the Supreme Court having decided all key social issues in the progressives’ favor, the Republican coalition would collapse because the platform social issue positions would be so clearly pandering blather.

Were I a Democrat mucky-muck, I wouldn’t be too confident about keeping blacks and latinos in coalition with yuppies. Maybe their common urbanity will suffice, maybe not.

I do know that if I were a Republican, I’d be fighting like crazy to retain the Electoral College, which, by adding Congress and Senatorial seats to determine a state’s electors, gives the numerous red flyover states a bit more say in Presidential selection, consistent with our bicameral legislative system. Direct election of the President will tilt things toward the populous blue states, mostly coastal.

This is all the law and the prophets (for today). The rest is commentary.

  1. Red State pathologies
  2. Complete disasters, all of them. Pathetic.
  3. The chief end of man
  4. Did Trump really win the last debate?

1

Before I move on to others’ contemporaneous comments, a bit of “commentary” of my own.

I’m reminded by my brother-in-law — though it’s never far from my mind and though he didn’t put it in these terms — that it’s increasingly untenable for Red Staters to paint themselves as the party of marriage and morality. The social pathologies of the red states are by many measures worse than those of the blue.

Yes, it’s partly that the bed-hopping, whelping out of wedlock and other titillating predilections of our (liberal, blue) entertainment and music stars don’t scale down very well to the (red) trailer park. Neither do the musings of Justice Anthony Kennedy about “the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

But it’s partly that the residents of the trailer park are famously abandoning church and in many cases ceasing to profess any religion. And it’s partly that if they went back to church, they’d probably go back to one where a self-appointed religiopreneur assembled a band and a show inferior to what you can get for free on TV. Then the Reverend would get up and preach a sermon that owed a lot to the week’s newspapers, very little to the Bible, and nothing whatever to the Christian tradition of 2000 years’ duration.

Time-transported to a 2016 megachurch, non-denominational church, or any self-identified Evangelical or Fundamentalist church, a Christian from Pentecost to the death of the last magisterial Reformer would not know he (or she) was in something that purported to be a Christian Church, engaged in something purporting to be Christian worship.

No wonder nobody’s buying the  “concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” they’re selling.

Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie wiping the dirt from his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved

I suspect that many of my friends and colleagues, currently Republican, will very soon be more comfortable in the Democrat party. Many of them will be there in 2020, I suspect, more as a matter of class solidarity than conviction.

Whether they can “accept the things they cannot change” by joining a party that promises to defend those things, notably abortion and the sexual revolution, is the wild card — and part of my hope for a third party to emerge, suitable for orthodox Christian people who like me have had their fill of the two parties: the GOP of my youth, which now lacks all conviction, and the Democrats full of their passionate intensity.

2

From the moment he launched his campaign for president, Donald Trump demonstrated that he did unmodulated, contemptuous fury better than any of his 16 opponents. Our immigration policy was a disaster, he said. As was ObamaCare. And the Iran deal. And the Iraq War. And the economy. And our conduct of the war on terror. Complete disasters, all of them. Pathetic.

To those members of the party whose view of the world has been shaped for more than 20 years by rabblerousers on talk radio and cable news, Trump sounded like a long-awaited savior. Finally someone to tear it all down — the Democrats, yes, but also the Republicans who run the party.

(Damon Linker, How Donald Trump destroyed the GOP)

3

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins by asking, “What is the chief end of man?” The answer is simple: “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” In Trump’s GOP, the chief end of man is “winning,” taking up a cross is for suckers, and the last shall just be last. Better to reign in Washington than serve anywhere else. That’s Trump’s party, glorying in its own shame.

(David French) Be it noted that the Westminster Shorter Catechism is formally a Catechism of the Presbyterian Churches, of which Trump claims to be a part.

The old-guard is easier to engage in politics, because they find identity in a “silent majority” of Americans. The next generation knows that our witness is counter to the culture, not just on the sanctity of life and the stability of the family but, most importantly, on the core of the gospel itself: Christ and him crucified.

(Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention)

Small-o orthodox Christians are politically homeless now. The Republicans are largely corrupt and useless (watch how they roll over for Big Business on religious liberty). Democrats despise us and want to punish us; besides, they are led by a cynical woman and her cynical followers who tried to shut up and even destroy women who were sexually assaulted by her lecherous husband.

(Rod Dreher, to whom also a hat-tip for the prior two quotes)

4

Even some Trump opponents think he won Sunday’s debate. But it seems to me that they’re doing so by trying to predict the effect of his behavior on voters who have defied every normal expectation, broken every normal pattern.

Washington Post’s Michael Gerson captures it:

Trump’s performance was perfectly tuned to make a loyal Rush Limbaugh listener burst out in “Hell, yeah!” Put Juanita Broaddrick in the audience? Threaten to jail your opponent? Throw WikiLeaks in her face? Blame her for the death of Capt. Humayun Khan in Iraq? Dismiss all the fuss about sexual predation as locker-room talk? Hell, yeah!

This kind of thing has been normalized in far-right discourse for decades. To the most partisan and polarized portion of the right, these excuses and accusations were familiar and appropriate.

He also explains why he thinks it won’t work with “a national electorate, which actually includes minorities, young people and women who don’t like disgusting boors.”

* * * * *

“In learning as in traveling and, of course, in lovemaking, all the charm lies in not coming too quickly to the point, but in meandering around for a while.” (Eva Brann)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.