- What to worship?
- Whither the Benedict Option?
- Pepto Bismol Time
- Buchananism reigns
- Winning “the popular vote”
- The decline continues
In case you hadn’t noticed, hyper-polarization is growing in the United States. It’s become all about Team Red versus Team Blue. We now abhor the idea that our children could marry someone from across the aisle. And over the next four years, we will be at each other’s throats even more. This is what threatens to destroy us. Not a nuclear holocaust provoked by Donald Trump’s impulsiveness or Hillary Clinton’s hawkishness, but our own tendency to tear one another apart over our political views.
What is this sickness that has taken us? The symptoms we see in society might baffle secular observers, but they are actually quite familiar to anyone who is a Christian or is Biblically formed. We have turned politics into an idol.
In the modern world, the question of religion is often framed in terms of “To worship, or not to worship?” But the Bible teaches that this question has already been answered: As humans, we were made for worship and we can’t not worship. The question is not whether to worship, but what to worship ….
(Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry) Gobry also suggests a cure.
[I only classified this as a “first thing” because of the condemnation of idolizing politics.]
Some people are already asking me what this means for the Benedict Option. Answer: nothing different. I’ve said all along that politics can’t fix what ails us. I believe that the erosion of our religious liberties will probably cease for the time being under Trump (and for that, thanks be to God), but the deep currents in society and culture are towards atomization and the abandonment of religious belief and tradition. There are a lot of conservative Christians who have faith that Trump can turn this around. They hope in vain. They forget that we are not to put our trust in princes. This would be true even if the princes were good, which is not the case here ….
There are two major parties with major indigestion today — or there should be.
Donald Trump isn’t a very reliable Republican, and for that and other reasons stirred great opposition within the party, not ending at the Convention.
But here they are:
- He is the de facto head of the party.
- He won after making many populist campaign promises contrary to Republican orthodoxy, e.g., on free trade, and explicitly repudiated our Bushite Iraq involvement.
- He won after a record-shattering number of vulgarities and dog whistles to people who, if you took an establishment Republican and gave him truth serum, would be rated “deplorable.” These dog whistles may continue.
- The Bush dynasty is dead. Buchananism is ascendant. UPDATE: Reaganism may finally be laid to rest as the right approach for the time, but not forever.
- Republicans control both House and Senate. There’s no opposition party to hide behind. If anyone in the party understands that the boom-boom days are gone for good, he must be dreading the possibility that “all will be revealed” economically on a Republican watch.
- The party and its new head must find an overall modus vivendi or else haggle over every issue where Trump wants to march to a populist drummer.
- Populist shifts will threaten big-money donors and slow the flow of “the life-blood of politics.” They can’t count of self-funded billionaire populists every quadrennium.
The Democrats have their own indigestibles:
- Who now leads the party? “The most qualified candidate ever” lost fairly decisively to the least qualified candidate ever.
- Bernie Sanders polled very well on populist promises outside current Democrat orthodoxy and a record of accomplishments in public life almost as thin as Trump’s.
- The Clinton dynasty is dead.
- The Obama coalition ain’t much without Obama, whose personal popularity didn’t save the party from electoral slaughter.
- The Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislation, is incredibly unpopular at present because of soaring premiums.
There’s probably more woes for Democrats, but I identify less with them and the well runs dry more quickly.
I can’t begin to enumerate what evils President Trump might visit on the nation, but one that worries me, much as I desire détente with Russia, is his jabbering about renegotiating decades-old treaties with NATO nations. That sort of thing, if done at all, needs a lot of finesse.
All the preceding assumes that Trump actually meant the things that support my characterization of the GOP heartburn. There’s a real tangle of complexity with Trump such that if someone wants to say “Trump’s a con man demagogue, not a real populist,” for instance, I’m not inclined to disagree. But the urge to map the future is strong, and you’ve got to start at some benchmark or else just throw up your hands.
UPDATE: Wall Street Journal has two very strong headlines and ledes Thursday morning, one for each party:
- Title: Donald Trump’s Win Starts a New Era for Republicans. Subtitle: Party members across the country move toward adopting positions held by the president-elect that they previously opposed. Lede: Overnight, President-elect Donald Trump has reshaped what it means to be a Republican, leaving some longtime party officials scrambling to find their places in a new political era.
- Title: Democrats Seek a Fresh, More Inclusive Approach. Subtitle: The party needs to recruit younger candidates and address the anxieties of working-class voters who flocked to Donald Trump’s candidacy. Lede: Shaken by the election results, Democrats are pointing to Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the presidential race as a repudiation of the party’s message, candidates and reliance on high-dollar donations. (That’s just about perfect except the subtitle should mention Bernie Sanders, too. The story does.)
After a long litany of much that’s wrong with Clintons’ view of the world and of human nature:
But I do not have to write of these things this morning, though I am sure I’ll be given occasion to down the road, as I have so frequently in the past. No, rather, I find myself remarking with amazement that the principles of Pat Buchanan seem to have come from the modest primary victories of 1992 and 1996, through the failure of the Reform Party in 2000, and on through the long self-destructive triumphalism of the second Bush administration, to a sudden resurgence in 2016.
How an aging New York playboy given to outrageous vulgarities and possessing all the rhetorical suavity of an epileptic seizure managed to bring those principles over the finish line to victory I do not understand. But it has been a long time coming, and I am pleased to see it. We are on the cusp of a Trump administration, but it is not “Trumpism” that has triumphed. Rather the long simmering righteous indignation of those peasants with pitchforks to whom Buchanan first gave voice, those who long since found their doctrine — Buchananism — have at last found their candidate. We have chosen our president.
(James Matthew Wilson, The Triumph Of “Buchananism”) For the record, Wilson, a poet of some accomplishment and gentle soul, is probably “pleased to see it” because it means far less looking abroad for dragons to slay and more looking out at the neighborhood from the Front Porch.
A word of reproof to those who think Hillary won because of the popular vote:
Reviewing the presidential election results, many commentators note that Donald Trump — like several previous Republican presidential candidates — prevailed in the electoral college without winning the popular vote. This is true, but it’s also irrelevant. It’s irrelevant legally, of course, because the Constitution provides for the election of a president through the electoral college. But it’s also irrelevant in terms of the democratic legitimacy of the result.
In the election concluded Tuesday, Hillary Clinton received more popular votes than Trump. This does not mean, however, that Clinton would necessarily have prevailed in an election that was determined solely by the popular vote. This is because the popular vote total is itself a product of the electoral college system. As a consequence, we do not know what the result would have been under a popular vote system, let alone whether Clinton would have prevailed ….
Different angle, same conclusion: If Hillary lost the popular vote and won the electoral vote, you’d be fine with it. You can’t protest a system only when you lose.
A reader writes:
My office, which is largely staffed by people who are graduates of prestigious universities (Ivy League, public Ivies, etc.) is like a graveyard today. People legitimately look like they are holding back tears …
Let me just wrap this by saying that I am no Trump fan. I did not vote for him either in the primaries or in the general (I wrote in). I find him boorish, amoral, and woefully unprepared to assume the presidency. That being said, I am allowing myself a few days of schadenfreude at HRC’s loss and the ensuing pearl clutching by the left broadly and SJWs in particular before I return to the realization that, in the broader culture anyway, not all that much has changed and politics will not save us. I will react to this election the same way I did to the past two: I’ll go on with my life.
Good for you! I expected to wake up this morning to the reality of a coming Clinton presidency. Regular readers know that I dreaded it, primarily because of what I expected President Clinton II to do to religious liberty, via her executive orders and court appointments. But I was planning to get on with my life and my work. Well, now that we’re going to have President Trump, I’m feeling much less distressed about religious liberty, but I’m worried about other things — including the fear that conservative Christians will grow complacent about our place in post-Christian America, and fall victim to the delusion that all will be well now that a Republican is going to be the next president.
The decline continues, no matter who is in the White House. In some ways it has probably been slowed, in other ways, perhaps it has been accelerated. We will see. Whatever the case, life goes on, and we have work to do.
(Rod Dreher’s blog, quoting a reader and responding)
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“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)