- The American Conservative - http://www.theamericanconservative.com -

The End Of Liberal Democracy?

Remember the “Flight 93 Election” essay [1] by the pseudonymous writer Decius, who advocates voting for Trump as a last, ‘Hail Mary’ pass to restore a Republic deformed by liberalism? What if the truth is that there is no “saving” the Republic in the sense he means, because liberal democracy was always destined to turn out this way? That is, what if the problem is not that liberal democracy has gone off the rails, but that it has not.

In a 2014 essay in TAC [2], Patrick Deneen talked about this problem in a specific Catholic context. Excerpt:

The “radical” school rejects the view that Catholicism and liberal democracy are fundamentally compatible. Rather, liberalism cannot be understood to be merely neutral and ultimately tolerant toward (and even potentially benefitting from) Catholicism. Rather, liberalism is premised on a contrary view of human nature (and even a competing theology) to Catholicism. Liberalism holds that human beings are essentially separate, sovereign selves who will cooperate based upon grounds of utility. According to this view, liberalism is not a “shell” philosophy that allows a thousand flowers to bloom. Rather, liberalism is constituted by a substantive set of philosophical commitments that are deeply contrary to the basic beliefs of Catholicism, among which (Catholics hold) are the belief that we are by nature relational, social and political creatures; that social units like the family, community and Church are “natural,” not merely the result of individuals contracting temporary arrangements; that liberty is not a condition in which we experience the absence of constraint, but the exercise of self-limitation; and that both the “social” realm and the economic realm must be governed by a thick set of moral norms, above all, self-limitation and virtue.

Because of these positions, the “radical” position—while similarly committed to the pro-life, pro-marriage teachings of the Church—is deeply critical of contemporary arrangements of market capitalism, is deeply suspicious of America’s imperial ambitions, and wary of the basic premises of liberal government. It is comfortable with neither party, and holds that the basic political division in America merely represents two iterations of liberalism—the pursuit of individual autonomy in either the social/personal sphere (liberalism) or the economic realm (“conservatism”—better designated as market liberalism). Because America was founded as a liberal nation, “radical” Catholicism tends to view America as a deeply flawed project, and fears that the anthropological falsehood at the heart of the American founding is leading inexorably to civilizational catastrophe. It wavers between a defensive posture, encouraging the creation of small moral communities that exist apart from society—what Rod Dreher, following Alasdair MacIntyre, has dubbed “the Benedict Option”—and, occasionally, a more proactive posture that hopes for the conversion of the nation to a fundamentally different and truer philosophy and theology.

Over the weekend, I read The Demon In Democracy [3] by the Polish Catholic philosopher Ryszard Legutko. I cannot recommend it to you strongly enough. This book is absolutely essential reading for any conservative, especially any Christian conservative, who wants to understand what’s happening now. It’s written plainly and punchily, accessible to any reader (though how much of this is due to the translator’s gifts, I don’t know). The last time I read a book of political theory and cultural criticism so short but so powerful was when I took up Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences in college, and it turned me rightward. Let that be an enticement to you, or a warning. For an American, even a conservative American, reading Legutko is like taking the red pill. [4] It’s hard to go back to what you used to think about liberal democracy after this book. I am going to talk about it at length in a series of posts.

In the 1930s, fellow travelers of the Bolsheviks tried to take the sting out of communism by referring to it as “liberalism in a hurry.” Decades later, the conservative writer Joe Sobran quipped, “If communism was liberalism in a hurry, liberalism is communism in slow motion.” The core argument of The Demon In Democracy is that Sobran was right. That sounds radical, even kind of crazy. Not long ago, some emigre friends from the Eastern bloc (they defected during the Cold War) told me that what they see happening in the West now reminds them of their communist youth. These are highly intelligent people, but I found it hard to understand this point of view. After reading Legutko, I get it. Boy, do I get it.

Legutko [5], now a European parliamentarian, was during the Solidarity years an editor of one of its underground journals. He was an anti-communist dissident, and has become a deep skeptic of liberal democracy. Legutko begins the book by wondering why it was that former members of Poland’s communist regime had so little difficulty making the transition to liberal democracy, and ended up helping to run things in post-communist Poland, whereas many dissidents could not transition. The reason, he says, is because both communism and liberal democracy come from the Enlightenment, and share much in common. “They are both fueled by the idea of modernization,” he says. And:

In both systems a cult of technology translates itself into acceptance of social engineering as a proper approach to reforming society, changing human behavior, and solving existing social problems. This engineering may have a different scope and dynamics in each case, but the society and the world at large are regarded as undergoing a continuous process of construction and reconstruction. In one system this meant reversing the current of Siberia’s rivers, in the other, a formation of alternative family models; invariably, however it was the constant improvement of nature, which turns out to be barely a substrate to be molded into a desired form.

Both systems regard modernization as an ultimate good, and demonize anything that stands in the way of modernization. “[P]rogress is largely in the same direction, and backwardness is represented by the same forces,” he writes.

Having cast away the obligations and commitments that come from the past, the communist and the liberal democrat quickly lose their memory of it or, alternatively, their respect for it. Both want the past eradicated altogether or at least made powerless as an object of relativizing or derision. Communism, as a system that started history anew, had to be, in essence and in practice, against memory. Those who were fighting the regime were also fighting for memory against forgetting, knowing very well that the loss of memory strengthened the communist system by making people defenseless and malleable. There are no better illustrations of how politically imposed amnesia helps in the molding of the new man than the twentieth-century anti-utopias 1984 and Brave New World. The lessons of Orwell and Huxley were, unfortunately, quickly forgotten. In my country at the very moment when communism fell and the liberal-democratic order was emerging, memory again became one of the main enemies. The apostles of the new order lost no time in denouncing it as a harmful burden hampering striving for modernity. In this anti-memory crusade, as in several other crusades, they have managed to be quite successful, more so than their communist predecessors.

“You can’t turn back the clock,” said the communists, and so say our liberal democrats (note well that “liberal democrats” in the sense Legutko means takes in democratic parties of the left and the right). Both systems are totalizing systems, meaning that they will not leave any sphere of society untouched by their principles, “including ethics and mores, family, churches, schools, universities, community organizations, culture, and even human sentiments and aspirations.

The people, structures, thoughts that exists outside the liberal-democratic pattern are deemed outdates, backward-looking, useless, but at the same time extremely dangerous as preserving the remnants of old authoritarianisms. Some may still be tolerated for some time, but as anyone with a minimum of intelligence is believed to know, sooner or later they will end in the dustbin of history. Their continued existence will most likely threaten the liberal-democratic progress and therefore they should be treated with the harshness they deserve.

If you wonder why on earth the NCAA has involved itself in trying to compel universities and polities to open their bathrooms to transgenders, well, now you know. If you wonder how we get to the point where the president of the Society of Christian Philosophers publicly apologizes for a speech [6] given by the world’s most eminent Christian philosopher, in which he (apparently) defended the orthodox Christian position on homosexuality — there you go.

The ultimate goal is what James Kalb calls “equal freedom.” He defined it in his 2008 book The Tyranny of Liberalism [7], and in this interview [8]. Excerpt:

By liberalism I mean the view that equal freedom is the highest political, social, and moral principle. The big goal is to be able to do and get what we want, as much and as equally as possible.

That view comes from the view that transcendent standards don’t exist–or what amounts to the same thing, that they aren’t publicly knowable. That leaves desire as the standard for action, along with logic and knowledge of how to get what we want.

Desires are all equally desires, so they all equally deserve satisfaction. Nothing is exempt from the system, so everything becomes a resource to be used for our purposes. The end result is an overall project of reconstructing social life to make it a rational system for maximum equal preference satisfaction.

That’s what liberalism is now, and everything else has to give way to it. For example, traditional ties like family and inherited culture aren’t egalitarian or hedonistic or technologically rational. They have their own concerns. So they have to be done away with or turned into private hobbies that people can take or leave as they like. Anything else would violate freedom and equality.

Anything that gets in the way of equal freedom must be tolerated only until the point at which they can be crushed, at which point they must be crushed. More Legutko:

In a way, liberal democracy presents a somewhat more insidious ideological mystification than communism. Under communism it was clear that communism was to prevail in every cell of social life, and that the Communist Party was empowered with the instruments of brutal coercion and propaganda to get the job done. Under liberal democracy such official guardians of constitutional doctrine do not exist, which, paradoxically, makes the overarching nature of the system less tangible, but at the same time more profound and difficult to revers. It is the people themselves who have eventually come to accept, often on a preintellectual level, that eliminating the institutions incompatible with liberal-democratic principles constitutes a wise and necessary step.

The power of both communism and liberal democracy is that the people inside each system cannot conceive of any better way of organizing society. That is, they are acculturated according to the system’s totalizing values, such that any deviation from the progress promised by the system is seen as an impermissible deviation — impermissible because it makes things worse. Legutko:

The only change that one could imagine happening was one for the worse, which in the eyes of supporters meant not a slight deterioration, but a disaster. The communist would say: if communism is rejected or prevented, then society will continue to be subjected to class exploitation, capitalism, imperialism, and fascism. The liberal democrats would say: if liberal democracy is not accepted, then society will fall prey to authoritarianism, fascism, and theocracy. In both cases, the search for an alternative solution is, at best, nonsensical and not worth a moment’s reflection, and at worst, a highly reckless and irresponsible game.

I’ll stop there for now. I will be posting several times this week on Legutko. I should make it very clear here that he does not claim that communism is equivalent in any way to liberal democracy. Liberal democracy is a much better system, he says. But from the point of view of the ancients, and of their successors in the West, the Christians, liberal democracy is fundamentally irreconcilable with what it means to live a Good life. And we who have been formed under liberal democracy don’t understand this, which is one reason why conservatives, especially conservative Christians, can’t grasp the nature of the battle we find ourselves in.

If you haven’t yet read Catholic philosopher Michael Hanby’s 2015 First Things essay about the end of “the civic project of American Christianity,” [9] you really should. Hanby:

Too often we are content to accept the absolutism of liberal order, which consists in its capacity to establish itself as the ultimate horizon, to remake everything within that horizon in its own image, and to establish itself as the highest good and the condition of possibility for the pursuit of all other goods—including religious freedom.

Just to remind you, The Benedict Option [10] is my program for living out an authentic Christian resistance to the tyranny of liberal democracy, or rather, what liberal democracy has become, having raised its anchor from its grounding in Christianity, and set sail across the turbulent waters of liquid modernity [11].

117 Comments (Open | Close)

117 Comments To "The End Of Liberal Democracy?"

#1 Comment By anonymousdr On September 28, 2016 @ 1:40 am

@Anne

Are you prepared to consider the human beings who comprise a culture of virtue ‘inherently’ unequal?

Yes. I am. Any society has to draw distinctions between halal and haram. Liberal society does it all the time.

How far are you willing to go to enforce equality?

Would you force me, a physician to learn to do abortions and sterilizations? Force me to participate in euthanasia? Or just exclude me from the medical profession, because, you know, equality?

Do you think it is fair that at a public university you can teach frank atheism or one of the numerous substitute religions that get a free pass because they are non-theistic (like Marxism), but to teach Christianity as true is essentially forbidden, because like we are all totally equal?

Most of the recent conflicts between Catholics and the state have, as of late, come from the state forcing participation of Christians to achieve some sort of “equality”.

Equality before the law, sure. Even liberty to go get a sex change or euthanasia? Not ideal, but I could live with it. Forcing me to participate on those things? Nope.

#2 Comment By Kubanek On September 28, 2016 @ 6:53 am

As a Polish citizen and an educated political scientist, I can only add, that it is not about Communism and Conservatism, but about Marxism, Liberalism and Corporatism.
These 3 ideologies or rather “3 ideological families” have already existed in this world. As Poland, a Liberal-Corporatist society shows and as it history shows, Liberalism, sometimes, can be useful against the Marxism. Problem lies not in Liberalism itself, which I can accept, if it is balance by Corporatism(American Christian, especially Protestant can call it Conservatism), but in Marxism.
Marxism is the source of all evil in this world, since the mid of 19th Century, frankly, even earlier (French Revolution for me, was nothing more than a prequel to Russian-bolshevik one). And Poland had experience with both, German and Russian effects of it. Even Hitler’s National-Socialism and the German occupation of Poland, shows the elements of Marxism, of Nietscheanism and Darvinism, to be precise.
Liberal Democracy is failed, because democracy can exist only in small political entities, like Tribal State or City-State. Liberalism, just like Marxism, bases itself on the same “equality” slogans. Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Cambodians, North Koreans, Poles and others, have enough experience with “equality”.
But we should blame, the first and foremost Marxism, not classical Liberalism, which, has some elements positive, since Corporatism is also about the dignity and freedom of an Invidual, just like Liberalism. Marxism is the opposition to both, Liberalism and Conservatism/Corporatism.

#3 Comment By Kubanek On September 28, 2016 @ 7:02 am

I’ll add, something about the Catholicism and religion. I am an agnostic, although I have the respect to Polish Catholism. Problem is, that Poland is Catholic rather theoretically, than in reality. Polish mentality is of Liberal nature, people here are natural-born indviduality-oriented persons. Any communitarian/corporatist effects, have been diminished by the era of communism, but also by partitions. Neither of our partitioners, Germany/Prussia, Austria, Russia was interested for Polish people to be a oriented on the community. Atomization of society, also under communism and enforced communist-like collectivism, destroyed the role of community and strenghened the Liberal individualism. So, I am not as optimist as many Conservatives in the West. EU membership and pro-Western, non-critical orientation of ordinary Poles are not making us, more “Conservative/Corporatist”. I think, that Polish society is going to be more and more Liberal. The only positive thing is that have never been susceptible to Marxist propaganda, people despise “the reds” of any kind. As long as Law and Justice is pro-EU party, I cannot see positive signs of changes in attitude of ordinary people, towards EU and its disgusting Marxist-Liberal policies.
About 12-15 years ago, Polish Conservatives (like Legutko and similar)were giving argument for EU membership saying “we will re-Christianize Europe and make it more Conservative”. They were ridicoulosly naive.

#4 Comment By Rob G On September 28, 2016 @ 7:38 am

“Nothing of the kind is evident in any of his work showcased here.”

As I said, Legutko is condensing and distilling a larger argument based on his reading and experience. If you want “back up” you can read any of the numerous other authors that have been mentioned here, by myself and by others. Somehow I don’t think it would matter though.

#5 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 28, 2016 @ 11:03 am

Would you really want to forfeit our entire legacy of liberalism and constitutional democracy for some theoretical “culture of virtue”?

Um, yes? If a tradition is bad, it needs to be done away with.

Russians, Ukrainians, Chinese, Cambodians, North Koreans, Poles and others, have enough experience with “equality”.

As I’m sure you’re aware, most Russians want Marxism (of a sort) back…..

That’s a principle that’s spread worldwide by now; surveys by international organizations find a belief in it even within the most authoritarian of societies and cultures.

I’m chortling while reading this, because youre naivety is really hilariously amusing. It’s like, as you say, reading neocon apologetics for the Bush Freedom Agenda (or before that, for Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy’s paeans to the longings for freedom in the human soul) all over again.

Evidently you haven’t been seeing the survey results coming out of eastern Europe in the last few years, but that’s one of the major regions in the world where people are not, in general, very interested in freedom as you or I would understand it. Something like ten to fifteen percent of Russians believe that democracy, competitive elections, etc. is the best form of government. Democracy has had very low approval ratings in a number of the other former Eastern Bloc countries as well (the Ukraine for a start, I think Hungary too). Even the liberal dissidents tend to admit that much. The wildly overrated hack who won the last Nobel Literature Prize, Svetlana Alexeyich, complained that when she went home to Belarus, she asked people “Don’t you wish you had more freedom?” and they said “Why would we want that? We have lots of different kinds of sausages and vodka.”

People don’t really want freedom, they want sausages and vodka. And they’ll follow any social system- communist, socialist, capitalist, democratic, monarchical, fascist, Christian, or whatever- that provides those things to them, and then they’ll raise that system to the status of something Unquestionably Obviously Good which can’t be questioned, and won’t even bother considering whether the premises of the ideology are, well, true or not.

#6 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 28, 2016 @ 11:05 am

As for the Middle East, um, no, they don’t ‘want our freedoms’. Most Libyans think they were better off under Qadafi. The regime in Iran seems to be broadly popular, the fever dreams of the 2009 Tehran democracy rioters notwithstanding. And Egyptians seem to be relieved these days that their ill-adviced experiment with democracy was ended by the military and that their first and only democratically elected president is currently sitting on death row.

#7 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On September 28, 2016 @ 11:42 am

It’s sad to see how basically shaky the commitment of some on the Right really is to the very principles this nation was founded on. I, for one, remember how eloquently Catholics argued the opposite case in 1960, when we finally won the full confidence of our fellow citizens in the compatibility of Catholicism and American democracy. Now, what? Some are willing to throw it all over and call all that a lie? So much for Vatican II’s case for religious liberty?

Conservatives and Catholics should be loyal to, respectively, the principles of conservatism and Catholicism. If those are incompatible with liberal democracy, then they should withdraw their support from liberal democracy. I’m not seeing how this is so hard to grasp.

Your second paragraph boils down to “well, in the 1960s Catholics argued their religion was compatible with liberal democracy, so we can’t dishonor their memory.” That’s a distinctly unimpressive argument on any kind of principles. What if John F. Kennedy, John Courtney Murray, etc., were, you know, wrong? Where is your evidence that they were actually right? I don’t find “defer to what our parents or grandparents thought” a very impressive argument.

It’s not even convincing from a traditionalist viewpoint since for nineteen centuries the Catholic Church taught exactly the opposite. Liberal democracy is in my view utterly incompatible with most comprehensive ideas of virtue and goodness, including Roman Catholicism but not limited to it.

#8 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 28, 2016 @ 1:28 pm

Would you force me, a physician to learn to do abortions and sterilizations? Force me to participate in euthanasia? Or just exclude me from the medical profession, because, you know, equality?

Contrary to sloppy modern usage, that has nothing to do with equality. There is a curious notion that if one has a right to something, vs. the police powers of the state, then others have an obligation to deliver it. Not so.

E.g., Roe v. Wade never established a “right to abortion.” It established that there is an individual right to make a CHOICE, free of constraints by the police powers of the state. That includes the right to CHOOSE LIFE. I often remind pro-life friends that if a government ever comes to power dedicated to a vast program of social engineering, including MANDATING abortion in certain circumstances, the law professors from Liberty University, Pacific Legal Foundation, the Rutherford Institute, will be citing Roe all through their legal briefs petitioning for an injunction to halt the operation of such a law.

I’m afraid the fanatics who mounted Operation Rescue started the ball rolling on modern sloppy usage. There was a modest legitimate concern that a mob of people who did NOT believe abortion to be a moral choice should not physically PREVENT an individual woman from acting on whatever choice SHE had made. So, the teeth of mass lawlessness, there were efforts to afford some protection from the mob. But it does not follow that a doctor MUST perform abortions, even if they don’t believe it moral to do so.

To be fair, another fallacy was contributed by feminists who more or less cried “Its legal, have one any time. Kids are a drag!” By establishing the pattern of “abortion clinics” they provided a lightning rod for political strife… whereas Justice Blackmun wrote about a private decision between a woman and her physician. If it stayed atomized, individual, private, and routine, there would have been no central point for Operation Rescue to target.

#9 Comment By JonF On September 28, 2016 @ 1:41 pm

Re: Would you force me, a physician to learn to do abortions and sterilizations?

What on earth does that have to do with equality?
But if you said, “I will not treat [black, male, Catholic, gay, etc.] patients then we are talking something reprehensible, and even Hippokrates would have turned a cold shoulder to you.

#10 Comment By JonF On September 28, 2016 @ 1:50 pm

Re: The Xhosa weren’t intent on destroying the material basis of their civilization when they decided to follow the advice of a fifteen-year old prophetess and do this:

Hector, what in the world does that have to do with the discussion here?
If someone were going to start a nuclear, or unleash a devastating virus or commit genocide,m then heck yes, extralegal and even violent means of stopping them would be justifiable.
But we are not talking about anything remotely like that in this case. We are talking about plain old run-of-the-mill non-apocalyptic policy differences, and no, violence, is NOT and NEVER can be an acceptable tool to resolve those, full stop.

#11 Comment By JonF On September 28, 2016 @ 2:04 pm

anonymousdr

I can of think of vastly greater evils than single parenthood– starving people to death and leaving them with no medical care for example which is what your “End the welfare state” would entail– is one that an order of magnitude or so worse. It would be genocidal in the name of morality, which is a ghastly corruption of anything remotely moral.*
Aslo, as a child I was in a single parent household for more than three years owing to my mother’s death. Obviously losing a parent was a Bad, Sad Thing, but it did not doom me to a life of despair and vice. Moreover it is modern technology which makes the welfare state necessary– be replacing human labor with mechanical labor and leaving no few number of people without any means of support.

* You may reply “But people would not suffer because they would behave better”. Setting aside the other issue– that of the replacement of human abhor– nope, that’s not what history shows at all. A while back Megan McArdle over on Bloomberg posted an account of New York City’s foundling hospital c. 1900. What’s a foundling? Well, reflect on that literal meaning of that word. Because back not so long ago poor women were still sleeping around and getting pregnant– and they simply abandoned the babies they could not afford, and the infants, if even found in time, were schlepped off to a foundling hospital where, 90% of them died. That is what you are advocating we return to. I would not care to stand on Judgment Day with that idea on my conscience.

#12 Comment By Anonymousdr On September 28, 2016 @ 2:31 pm

@hector St Clare

Great series of posts.

Your comments about 1960s Catholic idealism are spot on.

#13 Comment By Anonymousdr On September 28, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

@JonF

There are serious thinkers that think physicians should not be able to claim any sort of conscience rights, or have them very seriously curtailed, in the name of equality.

[12]

I have heard, with my own ears, seriously connected people in medical education argue that ALL medical students should be required to learn abortions in the name of equal access.

As for the hypothetical of “dismantling the welfare state” I admitted that in an earlier post, one of the ways that Catholicism is in conflict with classical liberalism is that to correct the manifest injustices Catholics of good will will have cause to ally themselves with progressive liberals to reduce human misery. But that those alliances may create political conditions that undermine the transmission and practice of the faith. As the example of the public funding of medical education in the setting of legalized abortion threatens to exclude faithful Catholics from medicine.

I don’t see how I as a Catholic I can ignore either the downstream effects of social welfare spending or embracing certain kinds of technology. There may be some technological innovations from which we will have to abstain (some gene editing perhaps?) even if it could massively expand life spans and cut human suffering. Also the same argument about human suffering is made with regard to euthanasia and abortion already.

Some kinds of social spending have downstream effects. If, say, increased social spending leads to decreased religious participation, you are putting people’s souls at risk. How many QUALYs is it worth to save one soul? I don’t have the answer, but i have to at least ask the question. Would I live in a society more faithfully directed toward Christ if it meant a 5 year decrease in overall life expectancy? Maybe. These are extremely tough questions, but I don’t think that one can simply say we have to “reduce suffering” no matter what the consequences for Christian faith and practice. Eternity is a long time.

#14 Comment By Richard M On September 28, 2016 @ 4:05 pm

I, for one, remember how eloquently Catholics argued the opposite case in 1960, when we finally won the full confidence of our fellow citizens in the compatibility of Catholicism and American democracy.

To the extent that that case was being made intellectually by Catholics, it was being made by Fr John Courtney Murray (he even made the cover of Time Magazine that year), who was a more problematic figure than many Catholics – from George Weigel on the right to Fr Thomas Reese on the left – really appreciate. His understanding, which posited too sharp a distinction between nature and grace, was problematic enough, in fact, that it did not end up making it intact into the Second Vatican Council’s declaration on religious liberty. In practice, unfortunately, it’s become the de facto posture of most American churchmen in the years since – at greater cost to the Church than most appreciate.

That was the problem, in fact, that Leo XIII framed in his critique of Americanism: that Catholicism is not, in fact, entirely compatible with American liberal democracy, and efforts to make it so would come at an unacceptable price.

But that doesn’t mean that Catholicism is a mortal threat to American liberal democracy. It means it has to exist with it in some tension. Which means it’s up that secular order to decide how much tension it can tolerate. If it is unwilling to accept *any,* then we truly know that its own express claims to pluralism really are a fraud after all.

#15 Comment By Richard M On September 28, 2016 @ 4:07 pm

P.S. Thanks for the book recommendation, Rod. It just moved into my Amazon shopping cart.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On September 28, 2016 @ 5:41 pm

Your second paragraph boils down to “well, in the 1960s Catholics argued their religion was compatible with liberal democracy, so we can’t dishonor their memory.”

Hector misses some essentials here. Just as conservatives and Roman Catholics can reject constitutional republican government (which I distinguish from liberalism), the adherents of constitutional republican government would be justified in disfranchising Roman Catholics and conservatives. Its all realpolitik, right? Fair and fair alike.

Roman Catholic immigrants (and clergy) had been insisting for decades that Catholics were good American citizens, fully loyal to the Constitution of the United States of America, that to say otherwise was rank bigotry and prejudice. The Kennedy election was the payoff for that persistent protestation of loyalty. So, harking to Rod’s comments about vows and keeping one’s word, one could say the Catholics made a bargain, to be accepted as full citizens, and they are obligated to keep it.

Sure, they could have pulled off what many think Muslim immigrants are going to pull off — some kind of guerilla warfare mixed with boring from within, so as to take over the apostate American state. There have always been those who advocated that — as documented in Paul Blanshard’s excellent book, American Democracy and Catholic Power. But, they didn’t. If they had, my ancestors would have disfranchised and deported them. (My Anglo-Welsh-Dutch and unknown other ancestors… I also have Jewish ancestors who would have been more or less caught in the middle).

I distinguish liberalism from constitutional republican government because my experience with communism, even from a distance, or in small ways bereft of real power, convinced me that a soviet socialist government can only serve the people if the people have the protection of a constitutional republic. I know that the letter of the Soviet constitution provided more liberties than the American constitution — so obviously the written document is not sufficient, it has to be backed up by institutions structured to make it all real. Also, there are issues of non-class origin, and its a drag on any socialist or communist party to have to form a correct line on such things — let a hundred school compete.

Hector does not share the respect I have developed for constitutional republican government, therefore he too writes it off as mere liberalism. Thus, he finds himself in alliance with conservative reactionaries, albeit he has abandoned Anglo-Catholicism for heterodox Protestant faith with a high tolerance level for gay marriage.

Which just goes to show… no ism can accurate reflect the diversity of human thought and loyalties.

#17 Comment By Gregorius Wilhelm On May 3, 2017 @ 10:42 am

I have heard the phrase “modern liberalism is dead” all too often of late.
It seems to me that Hobbes’ Leviathan, Mill’s utilitarianism, and Rousseau’s totalitarian democracy are alive and well today. Add in the even more revolutionary (as if modern liberalism was not revolutionary in of itself) mindset and class/culture warfare of Marxism and the Marxists and indeed there is no way for liberal democracy to go but this way.