Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Millions are called, few are chosen

Well, today's the day. The Most Important Election in the History of the Universe. I don't have to subscribe to Zippy's belief that modern "mass market universal suffrage elections are the lex orandi to liberalism's lex credendi" (roughly, that the voting ritual is the homage we pay to the governing liberal creed) to believe that there is something wrong with the way we go about choosing our leaders. If democracy works so well, why is this the most important election in history? The only reason it's important is that, I've been told, we're confronted with a choice between the forces of Light and those of Darkness. You'd think a well-functioning system would possess some kind of built-in restraint that does not force us into making such a choice. The Darkness should simply be out of bounds, never allowed to set foot in the arena. But the way it works in real life is that the people get to choose what Darkness and how much Light and whatever shades of grey they'd like on display. It is conceivable that we might have a saint as one candidate and the devil's henchman as the other. The henchman should never have been let in, but what's to stop it? There ought to be a law, but there isn't. The will of the people is sovereign. Well, you might protest, there are laws that even the people cannot transgress. There are limits to what they can do.

Really? Why is pornography so ubiquitous, when once it wasn't? Why is the easy-sex-pill (contraception) so widely available and its use approved of when once it wasn't? Why is it legally acceptable to kill unborn children and disabled people when once it wasn't? Why is it all right to discriminate against one race in favor of another, when once this was considered fundamentally unfair? Why has the protection of the law been extended to the practitioners of certain sexual behaviors once considered aberrant, such that now the behavior is to be lauded, and the parties to it mourned as victims of a reprehensible discrimination if they are not allowed to marry?

Get the picture? All of these are things the people want, and the law seems to have a way of figuring us out.

Consider what actually goes on during an election, before which comes the campaign. This is a period - covering today a span of at least two years before ballots are cast - during which it is socially acceptable for candidates to lie about each other, exaggerate, distort, and commit murder by soundbite. That's the culture we live in and the candidates submit to it. It is the season of general calumny. Recall even as sympathetic a figure to conservatives as Michelle Bachmann beating up on Rick Perry during the debates over the latter's approval of an HPV vaccine program in Texas. Perry admitted he'd been wrong, but she wouldn't let go, kept hammering him like a harpy about 12 year old girls, all to further her political ambitions. After getting whupped in the South Carolina debate, Mitt Romney ran ads in Florida that made Newt Gingrich look like that devil's henchman mentioned above. Some of those ads were outright lies. Democrats had Paul Ryan throwing granny off a cliff - in her wheelchair. Mitt Romney was accused of firing some guy and causing his wife to contract cancer. Joe Biden said the Republicans want to put black people back in chains. The whole Democratic apparatus accuses Republicans of hating women, of quite literally declaring war on them.

Some of the candidates, like Clinton and Obama, have patronized our cultural detritus by going on channels like MTV to show young people how sympathetically cool they are and to talk about their underwear. And there is the generally pathetic spectacle - campaign stop after campaign stop - of what I assume are usually men of some accomplishment pleading with the masses for their votes. They try to please so many constituencies that they end up compromising their principles. They take the stage in the company of rock music stars and Hollywood vacuities. Like their principles, whatever habitual dignity they possess gets compromised by all the pandering.

When election day finally arrives, millions of Americans go to the polls to do their civic duty. Because they've been told it's their duty, they feel important. They will help determine the course of the country by making their voices heard. They will feel especially important if their candidate wins. It always feels good to be on the winning team. If their candidate loses, the one thing you the voter must not tell yourself is that your vote was wasted, even though it was, because that would destroy that sense of self-importance that will bring you back to the polls in four years to make your sovereign voice heard once again. Except that no one hears your voice, just the voice of the aggregate. That's what all the pandering was about: to attract not the little grain of sand that is you, but a sufficient number of sand grains to make a beach out of rabble.

Here's the worst part: the leader of this country is going to be chosen by millions upon millions of stupid people. I don't use 'stupid' in a strictly defined sense. Many of them may have minds that could ostensibly be trained to think; it's just that they haven't been. They are much like what Obama thinks of babies in the womb: potential human life. It ought to bother us that drug dealers, gang members and whores are allowed to vote. It ought to at least give us pause that eighteen to twenty something year olds who spend six hours a day in front of an Xbox playing video games in which the goal is to blow people up for simulated fun are allowed to register for the franchise. The guy who runs a porn studio is granted a say in our country's future. Millions of self-advertised Christian young people (and adults) voted for Obama last time around, having succumbed to the doctrine that their purely private, religiously based moral tenets are not things they should attempt to see embodied in law. They must not impose. And they like the doctrine, because it allows them to feel good about themselves while fitting in with the crowd, and to pretend that they really do care about the babies in the womb while doing nothing to protect them. Do you think that 95% of the black voting bloc who will go for Obama are primarily concerned with preserving the principles of our country's founding? Is that why they're voting for this fundamentally transformational president? Do you think they know what those principles are? How many people do you know who can list the first five presidents of the United States, who have read the Federalist Papers, or can recite the Bill of Rights? You and I hardly know the width and breadth of all that's in Obamacare. How many people do you know who know one-tenth of what you do? I could go on and on in this vein.

There were on the Florida ballot (I forgot to count) somewhere between 10 and 15 presidential candidates. Only two have any chance of winning. We hear often that we ought to have more legitimate choices, but I don't think people really want that. If they did we'd have them. No, they play their part in the system, end up with two viable choices, whine about holding their noses when they vote, but vote they do, and do it again time after time after time. There seems to me something about the whole process that demeans the candidates and sullies what ought to be a more dignified and deliberative cultural endeavor, while supposedly elevating the role of the common man even as he casts his ballot to perpetuate the indignity. I'm beginning to think the common man is the problem, not the solution.

But I wouldn't wish to suppress turnout. As Ann Coulter said on TV last night, "Happy Election Day!"


Lydia McGrew said...

I think it's important, though, to remember here the history and role of the Supreme Court in the progressive move to insanity in the United States. They've kept their external dignity; they don't need to pander to the electorate (and they're proud of it). They never talk about their underwear on TV.

Meanwhile, while keep that above-it-all dignity, SCOTUS, an unelected, elite oligarchy, has jump-started no less than three major social revolutions in less than a century (abortion, euthanasia, and homosexual rights) and in doing so has had to overturn laws supported by democratic majorities and passed by elected representatives. SCOTUS has been responsible to no one but to the opinions of their own "chattering classes" (to use Robert Bork's term), and that has proven disastrous. After that, law, including fake judge-made "law," is a teacher, and the people have duly been taught that x or y is a "constitutional right" and therefore must be right. The fact that abortion is still in the public mind *at all* and has any political consequences after more than a generation of our being told by our Robed Masters that the issue is settled once and for all by their diktat is a surprising testimony to the continued public discomfort with the murder of the unborn.

None of this is to say that our system of a democratic Republic has no flaws. It's simply to say that it's the worst system in the world, except for all the others, to quote Mr. Churchill. And that we can see even in our own country's history, not to mention the history of other countries, reason to doubt that being ruled by the unelected who do not need to "pander to the voters," or even a severely limited franchise, would solve the problems of evil and corruption.

William Luse said...

Well, the common man has just finished returning the moral monster-in-chief to office, and the Supreme Court had nothing to do with it. The enthusiasm for the evils I mentioned remains undimmed. The monster is persecuting my church, and no one cares, including a lot of Catholics. We are a nation of civilized savages, led to that condition by the voice of the decadent, self-aggrandizing mob, which is the soul of pure, participatory democracy. If this is the best the world has to offer, then the world is a beggar, and there is no hope that the best might be yet to come. And so I have none. I think I'll stand by the post.

zippycatholic said...

I don't think the history of the Supreme Court is the disease: I think it is a symptom. If it were the disease then we should expect the other liberal democracies of the world to have done better than us.

Lydia McGrew said...

Why, do the other liberal democracies of the world _not_ have elites with power to teach by diktat in law? Actually, the EU has an _extra_ court like that--the EU court of human rights. They just declared, contrary to the will of the Polish people, that Poland has to make abortions in the case of rape not simply _legal_ but _available_.

Actually, I think the whole picture is incredibly complicated. Of course "the people" are messed up. That's a combination of the Fall of man, the teaching power of the elites (sometimes conspicuously and determinedly exercised by "correcting" the people's initially good laws and mores), racial loyalties, and a host of other things.

The history of the U.S. Supreme Court and its leading, anti-democratic part in the decline of our country, is just one bit of evidence (there are others) that there is not one disease here named "participatory democracy" and that the history of the increasing evil in the U.S. in the last half-century is not, per se, the history of the evils of democracy.

I stand by that dissent.

Lydia McGrew said...

Does it complicate the analysis for you guys at all that, for example, several years ago even in very liberal California Proposal 8 passed with the voters and then promptly got tied up in the courts?

How about the fact that the Senate is reliably more liberal and the House has a higher proportion of conservatives? (Even the Republicans in the Senate tend to be more liberal Republicans.)

How about the fact that my own state passed a marriage protection amendment several years ago that will only be overturned by courts if it is overturned at all?

And again, every time you cite the messed-up-ed-ness of the people on the abortion issue, I'm going to point out that this is after decades of the Roe regime.

There are many such examples one can give. Not to mention the lesson of history from the evils of various monarchies and countries with limited franchises. It's not that democracy is unequivocally good. By no means. Nothing is. It's that you just can't be anything like an unbiased politics watcher in the U.S. with conservative priorities and conclude "more democracy=bad, less democracy=good."

Paul Cella said...

Bill, don't make me have to go and cite Chesterton on such matters as, for instance, the plain fact that the monarchy in medieval times was very frequently a popular institution, defending the faithful masses against the depredations of rapacious and infidel nobles; or the even plainer fact that the mob in Byzantium was not infrequently a theologically-exercised one (most disastrously when, on the eve of Constantinople's conquest, it nearly claimed the Emperor's head for the crime of submitting to the spiritual authority of Rome in return for Catholic aid).

Lydia's point that the Supreme Court's leftism is an essentially plutocratic accretion, alien to the Constitution's original plan for that body, is sound. As is her point that over the past several decades nothing has been a more reliable check on progressive advances than appeals to the people as a whole. That this check is now failing only demonstrates how important it has been.

I'm not ready to throw away the only useful weapons we have, because they happen to be rusty and decaying old blades.

zippycatholic said...

One thing is for sure: if we don't objectively apprehend reality, we won't be in any position to respond to it appropriately. I find the notion that the Supreme Court has made an essential difference here - that but for Supreme Court and other judicial usurpations we would live in a morally upright Christian polity, that the abortion holocaust in the US would be stillborn, etc - to be unrealistic, to put it mildly.

Paul Cella said...

Well, we do not have access to alternative histories, useful though they certainly would be. Where we would be without the Court's usurpations is not a question anyone can answer. The only history we have access to is the one where the Court threw the Republic into generational turmoil by supposing it could settle major moral issues by diktat. You can't miss the irony that it began this adventure with a ruling that removed from the states the authority to legislate on birth control.

zippycatholic said...

We don't have access to alternate histories, but we do have access to lots of alternate liberal democracies.

Paul Cella said...

Indeed. Ours is the only one with a pro-life movement of any consequence.

Lydia McGrew said...

Zippy, it seems to me that "alternative histories" are irrelevant here. What I have pointed out is that *in fact* in our *own* history, we can see the course by which the abortion holocaust became what it is, and *in fact* that historical course of events was strongly initiated by an explicitly undemocratic and anti-democratic institutions striking down the laws of all fifty states!

If that doesn't count as counterevidence against the claim that *the* problem is the people's voting and democracy, I really don't know what would count as counterevidence. To say that it doesn't count as counterevidence merely because we cannot be absolutely sure of what "would have happened" in a totally alternative history is just to blind oneself to what the fact as they actually are actually do say. As a matter of sheer fact of political history, America was not behind the Roe regime. It was imposed initially from above and has had a profound teaching impact since then. That's the truth, whether it fits into a strongly anti-democracy narrative or not. Nor is it by any means the only example of its kind--the corruption of the public schools and their relation to school prayer rulings being just another example.

I had a pro-life activist tell me several years ago that they could not even try to get a Michigan law passed saying that food and water are basic care rather than medical treatment because it would be contrary to the Cruzan ruling.

Again, I hardly know what to say to you if you cannot see that severely limiting (and having severely limited over decades) the very *options* for democratic vote by wrong-headed and outright evil diktats from an unelected oligarchy is a serious part of the problem here! It seems to me that that ought to be obvious to any unprejudiced observer.

William Luse said...

Later. I have to go to work.

zippycatholic said...

This isn't that hard. The experiment has been run, and the variable "supreme court tyranny" has been a control variable in the experiment. We don't have to work with counterfactuals at all.

Percentage of large liberal democracies with that particular feature which are now abortion holocaust regimes: 100%

Percentage of large liberal democracies without that particular feature which are now abortion holocaust regimes: 100%

Perhaps the contention is that our own liberal democracy would have been different absent that factor. I can't help but be reminded of the tautological lament of communists who claim that RealTrue communism has never been tried. Whatever it is that was supposed to keep ours from degenerating obviously didn't work.

Political systems are inherently encounters with reality. How many experiments in liberal democracy have produced abortion holocausts in their encounters with reality? How many haven't?

Paul Cella said...

You're missing a variable. What about abortion in non-liberal democracies?

China: coercive abortion.

Russia: highest rate of elective abortion per woman of child-bearing age in the world.

The picture is complicated by these, the two most massive abortion holocausts.

Lydia McGrew said...

Zippy, I'm not sure which countries you have in mind that are supposed to be "controls," but I find it a little difficult to take the argument seriously in any event, because it is totally ignoring the *actual history* in the United States and pretending that the entire question is a counterfactual one rather than a factual one. I'm sorry, but this is simply a refusal to look at the facts of the actual history in question, which is the history of the United States, in which we *do actually know* that the abortion holocaust was imposed upon an initially unwilling nation by an unelected court! How can that *not* be evidence against the contention that democracy is the one central problem in the United States? To me this is an open and shut case. *Of course* it's evidence that that is an oversimplification.

Suppose that someone tells me, "Alfred is the cause of all the evil in this town. In fact, everything bad that Bob does is just a symptom of the disease of Alfred-ism."

Suppose I then point out that Bob has actually committed some heinous crimes entirely off his own bat and against Alfred's wishes. Suppose I also point that *some* of Alfred's evil actions have been caused by the negative influence of Bob, so that the causal chain in some cases goes in the opposite direction in those cases. So, I argue, we have more than one villain here. Bob is also a villain and is part of the cause of the evil in our town.

It seems to me that I've just counterexampled the other person's thesis. It is simply a poor answer to say that I do no know what *would* have happened in our town absent Bob, and that perhaps Alfred would have committed all the murders (including the ones that I know in fact he opposed) had Bob not been around. Indeed, even pointing to some completely different towns in which, it is alleged, Alfred has committed other crimes absent Bob's influence really is not much to the point.

The fact is that the thesis that Alfred is the cause of all the evil in our town and that Bob's evil is merely a symptom of Alfred's is a *false thesis*, and the evidence I have brought up shows it to be such.

I'm afraid that the attempt to boil everything down to one Enemy, one bad thing, one explanation of a "system" that is causing all the trouble, is overly rigid and tends unto ideology (in the bad sense) and poor history.

The statement that the Supreme Court is "merely a symptom" and that "liberal democracy" is the whole kit-n-kaboodle of the problem in the United States is simplistic and false. I'm sorry if it's not immediately evident that the actual history of these matters, the concrete history of the way that undemocratic institutions have also been a very significant cause of evil, is evidence to the contrary. But that should be evidence, and there's not much I can do if it isn't seen as such.

zippycatholic said...

What about abortion in non-liberal democracies

The practices of extreme forms of leftism don't constitute some sort of counterexample here, in my view.

I think individuals are wildly disanalogous to political systems. It is perfectly true that an already blossoming abortion holocaust in the US was made suddenly universal by the Supreme Court in 1973. Observing that as an historical matter some gas was thrown on an already burning fire doesn't make the case that the fire would have - counterfactually - been put out absent that act. The proposal is especially untenable given all the experimental controls: other liberal democracies without that particular feature which nevertheless are now raging infernos.

It isn't that democracy per se is the problem. (I could swear I've said as much more times than I can count. I always end up repeating myself in these discussions, as if I had never said what I said in the first place).

Liberalism is the problem, including leftism, which is merely a more concentrated and advanced form of liberalism. Elections in liberal democracies and leftist (including communist) polities are the symbolic public ritual of equality; the lex orandi to liberalism's lex credendi. That is how I understand it to be.

When you reply by objecting that liberal democracy isn't the "whole kit and kaboodle" it is as if I were criticizing Christians making pilgrimages to Mecca with Moslems, and you replied that it is ridiculous for me to say that pilgrimages to Mecca were the whole "kit and kaboodle" of problems with Islam. Even though I never said that.

I've concluded, Lydia, that when I speak on this subject you simply don't hear me at all. It would be great to have you reply as if you had actually heard me some time; but I am resigned to the fact that that simply isn't going to happen, for whatever reason.

Lydia McGrew said...

I simply do not view the SCOTUS decision in Roe as "throwing gas on a fire." It is simply an historical fact that the Roe decision (and Doe v. Bolton and one or two others on the subject) were contrary to the will of the majority of the American people. Hence, democracy was not, in the actual history of America, a major cause of the abortion holocaust in America. And indeed, the views that the majority of Americans *now* hold on the subject of abortion have been heavily influenced by the historical and educational legacy of the non-democratically handed down abortion decisions of the Court. It has definitely seemed to me that you disagree with these conclusions as to the major causes of the abortion holocaust in America. It seemed to me above that you were saying that the SCOTUS decision(s) were the symptom of the disease of liberal democracy rather than that the SCOTUS decisions are examples of the dangers of oligarchy corrupting the minds and consciences of the majority of the people. I conclude from what you have said that you blame democracy rather than anti-democracy as the chief cause of the abortion holocaust in America. I conclude this *from* listening to you, not from not listening to you. "Liberal democracy," after all, is *your* phrase, not mine.

If, of course, you agree with me that the actual chief historical impetus for the abortion holocaust in America was *not* democracy but rather the undemocratic institution of the Supreme Court imposing its views against what was at that time and for some time thereafter the will of the majority of the American people, then of course it will be great to discover that we agree. At that point I shall be somewhat puzzled to interpret some of your words, and also to see how all of this fits into a discussion of Bill's distinctly anti-democratic main post, to which my initial discussion of the history of liberalism and SCOTUS was addressed, but my puzzlement will be moderated by gladness over our newly discovered agreement.

zippycatholic said...

It is simply an historical fact that the Roe decision (and Doe v. Bolton and one or two others on the subject) were contrary to the will of the majority of the American people.

Now you are oversimplifying. It may be true that (here we go with counterfactuals again) Roe would have failed a national referendum, if there were such a thing. It is not true that the American people unanimously opposed abortion and made it illegal in every jurisdiction. Perhaps you think that federalism (not universal suffrage mass market democracy) could have put out the already burning fire. I'm dubious, and in any case I don't see the counterfactual gedankenexperiment as carrying anywhere near the same epistemic weight as the actual fact-based empirical experiment.

Maybe, in counterfactual world, the already burning fires would have been quenched here, even though they weren't quenched anywhere else. Maybe in counterfactual world the Communist utopia would have emerged rather than the utterly dysfunctional Soviet Union.

But I don't live in counterfactual world, I live in this world. And in this world, my advice to Christians is to stop offering the pinch of incense voluntarily, of their completely unfettered and uncoerced free will.

zippycatholic said...

The notion that the fire was not already burning at the time of Roe is bad history.

Lydia McGrew said...

. "It is not true that the American people unanimously opposed abortion and made it illegal in every jurisdiction."

Of course not. I never said that it was, nor would I say so. Nor have I nor would I say anything about utopia. It is, however, true that the actual regime put in place by the Roe decision coupled with Doe v. Bolton was contrary to the laws of 50 of the states, even the most liberal ones.

I, too, do not live in counterfactual world. It is astonishing to me that you should say that to me, when your first response to my point about what the SCOTUS has *actually done* was to tell me that I don't know what would have happened absent the SCOTUS decision! Just jaw-dropping. It's right upthread, right up there.

The SCOTUS decision(s) did in fact liberalize the abortion regime in this country greatly and set that large-scale liberalization in stone. That's history. Not counterfactual history but actual history.

zippycatholic said...


You are right, you didn't say "all". You said "a majority", which is just as problematic for the reasons I already stated in my previous comment.

Clearly we differ on whether Roe was gas on an already burning fire. I say it was, and the facts are on my side on that. It is no answer to confirm that Roe added fuel to the fire ("liberalized the abortion regime"), as if that were contrary to anything I've said, ever.

You go ahead and have the last word. These last rounds of comments have confirmed that you are not processing what I am saying, at all.

William Luse said...

we *do actually know* that the abortion holocaust was imposed upon an initially unwilling nation by an unelected court!

I think I get it. The Supreme Court disposes and the populace who embrace the imposition are freed from their obligation to think for themselves, to actually oppose the imposition by impeaching and throwing out of office men who try to legalize murdering babies. In fact, let's allow this resentful, imposed-upon populace to vote their offended collective conscience by returning to office the most monstrously pro-abortion president in history.

Paul brings up the contraceptive "imposition" (Griswold). Except that it wasn't. The decision was wildly popular. Sometimes the court imposes; sometimes it just gives us what we know we want. Lawrence v. Texas was imposed upon us, but even conservative publications like NR had trouble setting their jaw against it. Kennedy gave us what we wanted, but even before that he and
we could already see the gay marriage juggernaut on the march, couldn't we? If the Supreme Court rules against gay marriage, we'll next be lauding this imposing, elitist institution for holding the line against sexual anarchy on behalf of the upright democratic masses.

Paul also says of our liberal democracy, "Ours is the only one with a pro-life movement of any consequence."

One more time: we have just returned to office the most monstrously pro-abortion president in history. And the people like him. He will set the standard for all monsters to come. And the people will like them, too. We have a pro-life movement of absolutely no consequence, in terms of its ability to get something done within the system. (And I am not discounting the efforts of those who hang out at clinics and save lives. They are working outside the system, in its very spite) The fact is that people don't care. They are not disturbed while shopping at the mall that in an office a mere few blocks away some baby is being torn to pieces by a guy in a white coat.

Pure, participatory democracy is a system that over time allows the collective libido to run wild. It is a sordid and degrading process, and what we're witnessing is its long, downhill slide to a bottom not yet in sight. It might not have been designed that way, but that is in fact how it plays out. It elevates to high office Catholic traitors like Biden, who reminds us that he is not the sort to impose his religion upon others while serving a President who imposes his own irrelgion upon Biden's own church; and other breeds of Catholics like Kennedy who, in the name of a heretofore unheard of concept of liberty, strikes down a duly enacted law to demand our respect for the "private lives" - meaning the sexual acts - of a variety his own church calls wicked. And all the equally wicked side-effects I predicted in 2003 are gradually coming true. To the those who would defend it, I say the evidence is all against you. A poster I saw on Facebook sums it up nicely: "Democracy: the system that picks Barrabas over Jesus." I wonder how long the downhill ride will last. As with Rome, it could take centuries. But things to seem to happen so much faster these days.

William Luse said...

It is, however, true that the actual regime put in place by the Roe decision coupled with Doe v. Bolton was contrary to the laws of 50 of the states, even the most liberal ones.

True, but with modification. By 1967 3 states had laws allowing abortion for the usual hard case exceptions. By 1970 four states - New York, Alaska, Hawaii and Washington - had laws "that basically allowed abortion on demand." In 1972, the NY legislature tried to repeal the law, but Nelson Rockefeller vetoed the legislation. Michigan and North Dakota put up ballot measures to liberalize their laws, but a democratic majority voted them down. http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/LIFBFROE.TXT

Call it an ember or a fire, I don't care. These facts only interest me as they fit into the overall trajectory. Something that was afoot then is now exalted.

Lydia McGrew said...

"I think I get it. The Supreme Court disposes and the populace who embrace the imposition are freed from their obligation to think for themselves, to actually oppose the imposition by impeaching and throwing out of office men who try to legalize murdering babies."

The populace can't impeach anybody. No, it's not my position that people are freed of their obligation to think for themselves. However, I think you downplay the importance of top-down impositions and the role of opinion makers in an elite position given too much power. Roe put _major_ barriers in place to _legal_ opposition to the regime it imposed. I think you underestimate those, especially if we are opposed to outright revolution, which I take it we all are.

The point I am making is that democracy is not *responsible for what SCOTUS did* and, rather, that SCOTUS then directed and severely limited the further course that democracy took, as well as teaching the people by their authority. That should serve as a serious qualification to a general analysis that puts the causal onus squarely on "liberal democracy" and treats SCOTUS decisions as a "symptom" rather than as a major cause in their own right, a cause coming from a non-democratic source.

" In fact, let's allow this resentful, imposed-upon populace to vote their offended collective conscience by returning to office the most monstrously pro-abortion president in history."

I don't know what you mean by "allow." I have no alternatives that I can think of to "allowing" them to do it. I can hardly change the results of the election! Naturally I do blame people who voted for Obama. How could I not? You know what I think of Obama. I would point out, however, that you have just fast-forwarded in time all the years from Roe to last night, and that (as I've said again and again) in the meanwhile, Roe and its legal progeny themselves have been *acting as teachers* and corrupting the populace, from their childhood upward.

St. James said that not many should be teachers, knowing that they shall receive the greater judgement. There are plenty of millstones reserved for the architects of Roe and for Kennedy, the swing vote who left it in place at the crucial moment.

Lydia McGrew said...

Let me point out, too, that the great difficulty of getting rid of Supreme Court justices is a direct result of the fact that SCOTUS is a deliberately non-democratic institution. Justices are appointed for life, and impeachment is quite difficult. Most lawmakers would think it legally dubious to impeach for a terrible decision. I wouldn't, but I know where the hesitation of most lawmakers comes from. Moreover, the principle of judicial review had already been in place for more than a century by the time of Roe. I, also, have problems with judicial review, but I'm a radical as regards the nature of our legal and constitutional system. And one would have to have a lot of lawmakers on one's side to actually impeach and remove from office. Over and over again, for several justices.

If SCOTUS were a *more* democratic set-up, if the justices were elected and could be voted out of office by the people, overturning Roe would have been easier. I'm not saying that that *should* be the set-up. I'm saying, however, that it is utterly wrong-headed and backwards, and ironically so, to blame democracy for Roe on the grounds that the justices who wrote it weren't impeached!! The very difficulty of getting rid of justices is a result not of democracy but of the deliberate checks on democracy built into our country's constitutional system.

Paul Cella said...

In early 70s, the Southern Baptist Convention embraced the abortion doctrine of Roe.

Thirty years later, the SBC proclaimed,

"WHEREAS, Resolutions passed by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1971 and 1974 accepted unbiblical premises of the abortion rights movement, forfeiting the opportunity to advocate the protection of defenseless women and children ... RESOLVED, That we lament and renounce statements and actions by previous Conventions and previous denominational leadership that offered support to the abortion culture; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we humbly confess that the initial blindness of many in our Convention to the enormity of Roe v. Wade should serve as a warning to contemporary Southern Baptists of the subtlety of the spirit of the age in obscuring a biblical worldview."

Baptists are the most democratic of all Christians, in church government at least.

Something that was afoot then is now exalted.

I agree with that, but my view is that democratic forms are largely incidental to it.

William Luse said...

The populace can't impeach anybody.

What an absurdly trivial objection. It is this sort of phony reductio - as though these judges don't rise to their positions, however indirectly, through democratic means, as though Sotomayor and Kagan aren't literally the political tools of a democratically elected monster, as though an outraged public could not fire a response in their elected representatives - that makes me suspect you have difficulty believing that people who disagree with you can do so in good faith. I'm also "utterly wrong-headed." You may think I'm ignorant, and you're welcome to it, but your disinclination to give any weight to your opponent's arguments inclines me to return the favor. It may be a long four years, but try to endure them in good cheer. Another election is coming soon.


So a Christian organization rediscovers Christian teaching. Must have been the grace of God. Are you sure it wasn't imposed from the top down? Okay, we'll assume millions of Baptists cast their vote. Sure would be nice if the whole country were like one big old Baptist church.

Unfortunately, God's grace does not seem to stir his finger in the soup of our electoral shenanigans. He leaves us to our own devices, and look what we've come up with.

my view is that democratic forms are largely incidental to it.

Not anymore. The one we have now facilitates the evil. I am not, btw, against democratic forms. They are no doubt useful at some level. I am against a very particular form which I have been at pains to describe in some, though not exhaustive, detail, and that is the large-scale election I have called pure, participatory democracy (certainly parallel to Zippy's "mass market universal suffrage etc."). The form we use now is rather different from what it once was. And some of the modifications of that former thing I can live with. But what you're seeing now is the carcass of what was once a very vibrant and quite possibly a very good thing. You also happen to be living in a time when you get to watch it rot.

I have said that democracy cannot survive without Christianity (God bless the Baptists). But long before, a founder said that "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." I have also said that no voting regime was any more evil than those casting the ballots. I've been clear that my problem is with the people, and that when the people abandon virtue, what Zippy calls the voting "liturgy" facilitates their lack of it, and the imposition of that lack on the rest of us. Regarding our most urgent issue, the plight of the unborn, Burke's caution frequently comes to mind: "In a democracy, the majority of the citizens is capable of exercising the most cruel oppressions upon the minority." Such a majority doesn't deserve the franchise. I don't know what the solution is, but that doesn't mean I can't render judgement on things as they are.

Paul Cella said...

Are you sure it wasn't imposed from the top down? Okay, we'll assume millions of Baptists cast their vote.

What they did is send representatives, drawn from their local church bodies, to the national convention. Representative democracy. But at the individual church level, Baptists are democratic in the extreme. Darn near every decision must go before the whole congregation, for discussion and votes. It can be a mess at times. I much prefer my own Presbyterian (that is to say republican) church order.

But lookie here: it turns out that the late election the "pure, participatory" aspect was much closer than the less democratic and participatory device called the Electoral College. Based on the form, the race really was a toss-up; based on the latter it approaches a landslide for the incumbent.

I share you views about Christianity and virtue in the people. Bereft of them, we will surely continue the slide into ruin. But, to adduce another Burke quote, "there is a lot of ruin in the country," meaning I expect it to take a long time indeed. By no means to I refrain from criticism of the common or mass man in America; the evidence of his depravity is abundant.

It seems to me that your argument is different than Zippy's. What I object to in his argument (if I understand it right) is the notion that the embryo (so to speak) of the abortion holocaust was at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, or perhaps even in the colonial town halls of early America.

My favorite democratic document of all time is the Mayflower Compact. Its marvelous concision, its humility and moral seriousness: how blessed we are that our democracy derives from it, and not from, say the Jacobins of France.


In the end, I still cling to the view that the remedy for the agonies of our country involves a calling back: a restoration of old and good things foolishly thrown away.

Lydia McGrew said...

"What an absurdly trivial objection. It is this sort of phony reductio - as though these judges don't rise to their positions, however indirectly, through democratic means, as though Sotomayor and Kagan aren't literally the political tools of a democratically elected monster, as though an outraged public could not fire a response in their elected representatives - that makes me suspect you have difficulty believing that people who disagree with you can do so in good faith."

Bill, it's not at all a trivial objection. NOr is my objection that you severely underestimate the difficulties of overcoming Roe and a number of other objectionable (and at-the-time unpopular SCOTUS decisions) by legal means.

You yourself have said that what you most object to is "pure, participatory democracy." But the very blocks in place that have made overturning these decisions so devilishly hard were put there as a deliberate _block_ to "pure, participatory democracy." The relationship of the SCOTUS judges to anything remotely like "pure, participatory democracy" is exceedingly indirect, and deliberately so. I do not say that our founders were _wrong_ to set things up that way. They did so precisely because of the sorts of concerns you raise about "pure, participatory democracy." I do say that it is quite incorrect, as a matter of fair historical analysis, to blame "pure, participatory democracy" for the actions of the entity thus created, whose actions are _of intent_ extremely difficult for "pure, participatory democracy" to address or reverse.

The people have, again and again, sent a response via elections. More than one state law has been written in an attempt to regulate around Roe, and all have either been struck down by the lower courts or eviscerated by the meaning of Roe and Doe. More than one President has been elected by a great many people who hoped that he would appoint justices who would overturn Roe. Bork was appointed by Reagan, and many of us had that very hope. He was "Borked" by the Senate (I know you know this history but am making a point by it), which is the _less_ democratic of the two houses, and Reagan, being less of a bar fighter than he probably should have been, appointed Kennedy instead, with, of course,no idea of what a bad justice he would be. One reason why he had no idea is because of the _undemocratic_ nature of SCOTUS, because justices do not "run" on a campaign platform nor make campaign promises, because they do not have to pander to anybody, because they are being elected to an independent and allegedly neutral judiciary. It is precisely these _undemocratic_ aspects of the federal judiciary that have again and again landed us with dark horses appointed by gentlemanly Presidents (which Presidents were elected in part as a "signal" of the people's dissatisfaction with the judiciary) who have then responded to no one but the mores of their own elite peers.

Just the opposite, in fact, of being the "tools" of anyone. The haughty tone and words of the Casey decision told us a great deal about this. The author of Casey positively gloried in the independence of the judiciary from political pressure. One got the distinct impression that Casey upheld Roe in no small part as a deliberate anti-democratic expression, as a "mother and father knows best, children" injunction to the masses, and as a boast of the court's sheer, raw power and sense of its own dignity.

You probably know all these facts qua facts, but it is part of making an argument, which I am doing, to point out their relevance to the issue at hand.

Lydia McGrew said...

No, my objections are not trivial, not in the slightest. Democracy is not to blame for what SCOTUS has done over and over again in the past. My objection to saying so is by no means trivial, and to say that in some hypothetical situation the justices might have been impeached for such bad decisions--an _incredibly_ difficult and improvable event--is an argumentatively poor rejoinder to the deliberate undemocratic nature of the court which I am relevantly raising.

The takeover of our chattering classes by evil, and their subsequent takeover of a court from which it is difficult if not impossible legally to dislodge them, and their handing down of lying diktats purporting to be interpretations of the Constitution, which diktats are incredibly difficult for the people, including the people acting in "pure, participatory democracy" to dislodge, are all perfect examples of the virus principle. People with good ideas (in this case, our founders) set up an institution (in this case, the court) that is meant to preserve something, to have dignity and independence from the hurly-burly of the populace and the world. To that end the institution is made deliberately *difficult to change*. Then, if evil people get hold of it, they have a vehicle for their own evil which is *difficult to change*. It's diabolically clever, and it's an important part of the history of our country. (Something of the same dynamic has been at work in the takeover of many Christian institutions of higher learning.)

This is a terrible thing, and I wish down imprecations on the heads of all who have participated deliberately in it (and I do believe that it has been deliberate). But it is not, whatever else it is, about the evils of "pure, participatory democracy."

You certainly disagree with me about that in good faith, Bill, as I do with you. I just consider you to be incorrect in your evaluation of the evidence on the subject, and I'm sorry about that.

Lydia McGrew said...

Of all the many typos and grammatical errors in the above, for which I apologize, I will only correct these: Those who have been responsible only to the mores of their own elite peers are the justices, not the Presidents. And "improvable" in the second comment should have been "improbable. (I had to break the above into two because of blogger and the character limit.)

William Luse said...

I know, Lydia, I haven't said a single thing worth paying attention to.

Paul, re "the late election," we lose either way. Remember, I don't consider a vote for Romney a good thing, just less bad than for the other guy. That these two were our choices leads me to my thesis.

It seems to me that your argument is different than Zippy's.

I believe that is probably correct. I won't do an injustice to his theory about liberalism by pretending to describe its parameters. I hope he writes about it in detail at some point.

This is interesting: My favorite democratic document of all time is the Mayflower Compact. Its marvelous concision, its humility and moral seriousness: how blessed we are that our democracy derives from it, and not from, say the Jacobins of France.

By coincidence, I have been lately dipping into the writings of Fisher Ames, a Federalist and fierce opponent of Jeffersonian Democracy. It was that French influence he so despised and feared, and with which Jefferson was enamored. After writing in comments above that "Pure, participatory democracy is a system that over time allows the collective libido to run wild," I came across this from Ames: "The known propensity of a democracy is to licentiousness, which the ambitious call, and the ignorant believe to be, liberty." Too bad he was a Calvinist. :~)

I will re-read the Mayflower Compact. It's been a long time.

Lydia McGrew said...

"I know, Lydia, I haven't said a single thing worth paying attention to."

Not quite sure why you're saying that, Bill. Given the amount of time and effort I've put into this discussion, one might conclude otherwise. Given the fact that you have not acknowledged the justice of a single point I've made, despite the fact that I've made some pretty careful, cogent, and cautiously circumscribed arguments (remember, I'm not at all saying that democracy is an unmitigated good nor that our American masses are now simply wonderful, nor that elections are a thing to look forward to), one might think that I could with more justice make that complaint--namely, that my arguments do not seem to you worth paying attention to.

But in any event, be it known publically that I very much value your friendship. Long may it continue and may it flourish. I mean that in all sincerity.

William Luse said...

Given the fact that you have not acknowledged the justice of a single point I've made

Your points are all just. You and I are emphasizing different things. We know that a non-democratic imposition like Roe v Wade is a terrible evil, that the schools and academia in general are corrupt and so forth. But there comes a point when you hold the people in a democracy accountable. They don't have to let the savage elite educate their children, but they do. They have the means to "dislodge" depraved justices, but they won't. They have the means to protect innocent life via a federal amendment, but they won't. They could demand the outlawing of pornography, but they won't. Judges have also imposed gay marriage in certain places. The democratic response to such impositions ought to be to eject wicked men from their high office. As I heard a Catholic priest ask back in the late 70's: in the wake of Roe v. Wade, where were the outraged masses? Where were the mass (democratic) demonstrations in the street? There weren't any.

I'm just looking at the overall trajectory of things and concluding that it doesn't work to exclude depravity and protect the good, even though there are many good people in this democracy. It is destined for decay. I don't know what will work, but I know what doesn't. And I would like very much to be wrong about the prognosis.

Lydia McGrew said...

Where I think we disagree is in evaluating the difficulty of "ejecting" the justices and resisting their evil dictates and also in the amount of credit we give for the democratic efforts that have been, in fact, made.

But I do think that, in fact, the prognosis is absolutely terrible. We may disagree on how exactly to apportion weight for the various causes, but we are at one in pessimism. Which is a sad thought.

All the more reason for us all to stick together in the darkness coming upon our land.