About two weeks ago, I realized that Barack Obama was going to be elected as our next president— and, indeed, that we’re soon going to see the advent of the most liberal government that the United States has ever had. It was a bitter thought for a few hours. I reserve the right to get bitter about it again sometime before election day, but mostly I think I’m over it. I mean, yes, this probably does mean that the laws protecting the legal slaughter of innocent children will be extended for a considerable period in the future. It’s also likely to mean a slate of policies of a sort that will further the dissolution of community and family life, particularly among the poor where the effects of this are most grim. These are great tragedies. And I haven’t so entirely given up that I’m not planning to cast my … vote on election day, but frankly, at this point, I don’t want to dwell on this more than I have to. The world is full of pain and sin, and we’d drive ourselves crazy if we took it all personally.
Actually, we moderns are pretty good at blocking out pain and sin, which is necessary because our newspapers are filled with reports of them day in and day out. [And if that power ever deserts you for a time, it’s not fun…] Most of the time we don’t even bother to read the details, knowing how powerless we are to do anything anyway. Elections feel more like our business if only because we’re supposed to vote in them, but honestly, we’re mostly impotent there too. I sometimes like to use them as an “apologetic moment” because of the heightened interest in politics at that time, and also because, in my mind at least, this is the closest a Catholic moral philosopher can come to fulfilling her civic duty. … But the truth is, I just don’t feel at all connected to American politics. To be frank, it mostly feels like somebody else’s problem to me, so when liberals want to do fool things (like putting a young random with no executive experience, a raging Messiah complex, and a standard slate of naive liberal views into the White House) I’m somewhat inclined to shrug and say, “Well, it’s your funeral.”
Actually, it might really be my funeral too, but I think funerals are less scary for orthodox Catholics than they are for liberals.
And this is first of the “silver linings” that make me more stoical about the coming liberal heyday. When you’re a liberal, political defeat is agonizing because politics is really the primary sphere of goodness for you. If you think that our highest aspiration in life should be the building of a just political society, it’s hard to think what could compensate for failure in this realm. Those of us who realize that a fully just society will never be achieved on earth anyway, that every age will have a considerable share of suffering and sin, and that, for reasons somewhat mysterious to us, God sometimes deems it best to let the wicked prosper for a period, will find it easier to relax a bit about some little thing like an election. Bad times have often been a catalyst for some very good things — the raising up of martyrs, for instance, or the opportunity to win more converts to the faith. Anyway, the Book of Revelation assures us that the world will be steeped in sin and chaos just before the end of days. Perhaps it’s a sign of how much the human race has endured that quite a lot of people over the course of history have looked at the depravity of their societies and thought, “hey, we must be nearly there!” I won’t be so naive as to make any confident predictions, but it’s always a cheering thought when things start looking bad. “End of days coming, just perhaps?”
Even if we’re not at the end of days, though, the further dissolution of Western society can always open up other opportunities. Here’s the way to think about it: in the immediate future, our government is likely to sink further into liberal depravity, just as things are getting better within the Church. Our politicians have been looking pretty bad, but our much-maligned American bishops [Perhaps overly maligned, especially Cardinal Egan.] (not all of them, but definitely some) have been positively inspiring lately! Looks to me like the culture wars are just going to keep raging, but perhaps we’ve reached the point where our Catholic leaders will be willing to assume some prominent role in them. The worsening of American society could actually help to restore integrity to the American Church. That’s certainly a happy thought.
Let me be clear at the end here that this is not just a sour-grapes post. I don’t want Obama to be elected, and if something wonky happened and McCain pulled it out instead, I’d definitely be in a celebratory mood. (I was also very cheered to see that Proposition 8 in California has been making a comeback — to be honest, I’d given up on that one too, but I won’t deny that I would be quite delighted if the Protect Marriage people managed to win an improbable victory there.) On the other hand, it’s nice to realize that, for us Catholics (unlike for the liberals), unwelcome political developments can never be cause for despair. [See what she did there, contrasting Catholic and liberal.] Not to be all cliche, but when you’ve got God on your side, you really can’t be beaten in the long run. And when you compare our country to Canada our Western Europe (places, that is, where the conservatives have pretty much just lost), you realize how many reasons we have to be grateful. Even if we can’t save all the unborn children, or restore the institution of marriage to its natural dignity, our continued efforts might nonetheless help us to save the souls of some others. So get excited! Laborers are needed, and the fields are ripe for the harvest.
Deal Hudson also had a little to say about a potential silver lining of an Obama victory.