"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Faithless Fiduciaries (a polemic)

Mitt Romney, the 2012 candidate for president who thought his greatest obstacle to the office was his too-straight-laced, too-family-centered, too-Mormon persona, turned out to be a misogynist. He wanted a "war on women." He kept binders of women. Gave women cancer. Nasty stuff. He also used racist tones, and wanted to put black people "back in chains." What's more, for all his religiosity, he was a liar. He tried to insist that Barack Obama did not call Benghazi a terror attack, and he was done in, in large part, when Candy Crowley live "fact" checked him. Nasty, nasty stuff.

The NYT acknowledged last month that the 2012 "fact" was at best "ambiguous." But that's spilled milk.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchers?)
They watch themselves...
on a four-year tape delay.


Besides, Mitt didn't complain. He didn't retaliate in kind. He didn't go nasty. Mitt was a good loser. A very good loser. An EXCELLENT loser. American virtue remained ostensibly in tact.

But being essentially controlled oppo is only fun for the ones in power, who get the fine consolation prizes. The folks at the bottom only get something if they win. They will at least have a show. And to their own taste. They'll find a dog who'll eat a dog.

Trump's nasty, because politics has become nasty. Because culture has become nasty and politics sits downstream. The Kardashians, famous because of a sex tape, now have Americans tuning in to a 12th season. Americans have a strong stomach. Anderson Cooper, who now "moderates" our presidential debates, derided the wave of energetic and peaceful Tea Party activists in 2010 with a gross sexual slur, responding that they didn't have a "voice" in politics because "It’s hard to talk when you’re teabagging.”Even Miley Cyrus figures, with this crew, why shouldn't I be taken a serious advocate against "objectifying women"? This is the gal credited with a peculiar flare for feigning sex on stage with assorted objects. We have twerked our way to peak parody.

Trump's hero isn't Reagan, it's Bill Clinton: credibly accused of serial sex abuse, frequent flyer on convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s “Lolita Express," and responsible for subjecting Americans to an endless parade of disgusting dress "stain" jokes, and yet a majority of Americans -- and a near unanimity of celebrities and media types -- would elect him tomorrow, tsk-tsking Trump's foul mouth along the way. These people hold the hose pumping raw sewage into the water supply and then complain about the miasma.

We have the candidates we deserve. Two dogs willing to eat each other. We nasty.

To the matter at hand: there are those -- most earnestly Hugh Hewitt, having plausibly concluded that, nasty hot-mic tapes having aired and more probably on the way, Trump cannot win -- who hope the GOP candidate would step down. Such meager dreams! Why, probabilities being clearly no object,  should we not just pray that everyone write in Tom Hanks or Vin Scully, or that Christ himself return? These possibilities are at least on par with either of these candidates of ours ever considering stepping down willingly. For the good of the country? Their parties? Be serious. This is a dog fight, not Adams and Jefferson reenacting the Miracle of 1800.

I have also heard whispers of Faithless Fiduciaries coming to our rescue. Prior to the meeting of the electoral college in mid-December, the electors already legally designated within the various states could pledge now to vote, instead of for the popular choice, for Mike Pence. In turn, the electoral college could vote a new vice president without a popular vote ever having been taken.

"What a news story that would be," said a friend. "Kind of like electing a Pope."

Very much like, I should think. In a roomful of armed anti-Catholics. The people who nominated our clods will not sit for "faithless fiduciaries." They've paid their admission; they will have their spectacle.

About the ticketholders, I'm torn. Trump disgusts me, but in his supporters I see Orwell's proles:
And yet to the people of only two generations ago, this would not have seemed all-important, because they were not attempting to alter history. They were governed by private loyalties which they did not question. What mattered were individual relationships, and a completely helpless gesture, an embrace, a tear, a word spoken to a dying man, could have value in itself. The proles, it suddenly occurred to him, had remained in this condition. They were not loyal to a party or a country or an idea, they were loyal to one another. For the first time in his life he did not despise the proles or think of them merely as an inert force which would one day spring to life and regenerate the world. The proles had stayed human. They had not become hardened inside.
They have virtue -- despite that they follow vicious candidates -- because they aren't out to vindicate a theory of history, to prove a political philosophy, like all the ideologues. They are still human because they aren't slaves of reason, or adherents of that strict religion of human "progress." The most enlightened and brilliant nation on earth, the home of Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche -- reasonable men all -- gave us two world wars and the Holocaust. That’s Russell Kirk’s key insight -- that the birth of ideology at the time of the French Revolution has led to all of the catastrophes that have befallen the West.

The proles, instead, are Chestertonian:
The man who is most likely to ruin the place he loves is exactly the man who loves it with a reason. The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason.

....

only those will permit their patriotism to falsify history whose patriotism depends on history. A man who loves England for being English will not mind how she arose. But a man who loves England for being Anglo-Saxon may go against all facts for his fancy. He may end (like Carlyle and Freeman) by maintaining that the Norman Conquest was a Saxon Conquest. He may end in utter unreason—because he has a reason.
The entire Living Constitution idea is people shopping for a reason to love America. Only those so deeply in need of finding a reason could arrive at such nonsense that America isn't what it most certainly is, and that it is things that never remotely occurred to it. And so among our intellectuals, our judiciary, the words "her penis" may be overheard in ostensibly serious conversation. And this, no doubt, will lead them to find a "right" in the Constitution to have a doctor cut it off. Where in the Constitution might such things be found? It is a higher thing, and a harder one, to amend a constitution than to ignore it. So in two minutes expositing the role of the Court the other night, Hillary Clinton took it low and easy.

Trump, working a different angle, taps into the proles, the ones sick of being played by parties and pundits and pollies chattering about the "right side of history." But Trump doesn't care about the Court either. Not really. To win some desperately needed Republican support, though, he gladly waves around a list of judges the Federalist Society handed him. They are excellent judges, though, and given the alternative, that's good enough for me. Best case, Trump offers a term under one hapless demagogue rather than a generation under nine cunning oligarchs -- as one Ninth Circuit oligarch confessed: “The judgments about the Constitution are value judgments. Judges exercise their own independent value judgments. You reach the answer that essentially your values tell you to reach.”

In the end, I'm no more a values voter than even judges are: I just want my vote to have value. Sure, I'm a perennial sucker for anyone standing up for babies and first freedoms -- "Mr. Trump promises to support religious liberty and the dignity of the unborn," said Dr. James Dobson; "Mrs. Clinton promises she will not" -- but I know they're just more milker issues to milk the same votes the next election, not meant to reach resolution but to maintain titillation.

But in the end, the dogs will turn on us. And why shouldn't they? A people that puts up with a government this big, this unresponsive, this feckless, and this expensive, probably deserves it.

"The food at this restaurant is terrible."
"And such small portions."


We did this to ourselves. We're still doing it.

________________

[Addendum: Working in the medium of civilizational exhaustion does not lend to sunny prescriptions. But maybe I wussed out at the end: a Trump presidency would save us, & precisely for the reason his detractors give: he would take us to the brink, and even beyond. He would ruin us. And being at ruin, no longer merely chatting about it in abstractions, would finally put us to the decisive question: are we — not our government, not our statehouses, but our people, our songs, our ideas — are we worth defending?

The trouble with a nation in which “extinction-level event” is just something that livens up an op-ed is that it is full of people demanding consideration for their loyalty. That we are in the habit of saying “thank you for your service” to military personnel betrays that we have no comparable frame of reference for sacrifice. We select nations the way we select a cereal in the breakfast aisle, and nod at the security guard on the way to the car. Chesterton:

“a man criticises this world as if he were house-hunting, as if he were being shown over a new suite of apartments…But no man is in that position. A man belongs to this world before he begins to ask if it is nice to belong to it. He has fought for the flag, and often won heroic victories for the flag long before he has ever enlisted. To put shortly what seems the essential matter, he has a loyalty long before he has any admiration.”

But few now have been called to defend our nation from extinction. So most of us haven’t enough interest in our country to revolutionise it. We do not love the city enough to set fire to it.]

2 comments:

Tom Van Dyke said...

Great stuff, Tim. The final nail is that to love one's country--to love one's fellow countrymen first--is "nativism," a crime against reason, against humanity. How can a community, a family, survive when it loves others more than its own?

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