The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Elections and Choices

I would never presume to tell others for whom they should vote. I won't even tell Dear Diane, although whenever we head off to the local polling place, I make sure she knows who will get my vote. After all I have an obligation to share my wisdom with my wife of almost 48 years, even if she chooses in her deeper wisdom to ignore it. Actually, we are almost always of one mind when it comes to things political, largely because we share a common worldview which appropriately drives our voting decisions. 

Today we voted in our state's (Florida) primary election by taking advantage of so-called "early voting". The meteorologists are predicting the arrival of a tropical storm on election day (Tuesday) so we thought it best to vote today. I realize I'm being grossly hypocritical because I'm actually against this now almost universal practice of allowing people to vote for a week or more prior to the official election day. Indeed, this really makes the election day almost meaningless. 

By designating only one day on which elections are held we emphasize the importance of voting for those who will represent us in our republic, and encourage citizens to make a sacrifice or two so they can cast their ballot. Sacrifice is never an option today, so I'm certain this early voting has become a permanent feature. The easier we make things, the less important they become.

This year, at least when it comes to the upcoming presidential election, many think we have been handed an odd choice. I believe I can say without fear of reasonable contradiction that there is real concern across much of the political spectrum. I also believe we can readily assume that no minor party candidate -- e.g., the Libertarian or Green candidates -- will be elected. Admittedly one or more of them could possibly act as a spoiler that siphons off enough votes to influence the outcome. This has certainly occurred in the recent past with George Wallace and Ross Perot the most obvious examples. But it takes no genius to predict that our next president will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. As I said above, to many it seems an odd choice.

On the one hand we have a woman whose relationship with the truth has been somewhat distant. Ideologically she is a leftist, although I suspect it's more by choice than belief. Hillary Clinton clings to the left because it offers her power. This seems to be her prime motivator. The left, of course, must lie because the left in all its Marxist forms is a failed ideology. It simply doesn't work. In reality it has little do to with helping the working class or proletariat; it's all about power. This, of course, makes it very attractive to the elites, who above all else crave power. They already have wealth and fame, so what on earth is left? Politically, however, one can't openly crave power; hence the lies.

And then there's Donald Trump, the New York businessman and reality TV star who has publicly rejected the political establishment, including that of his own party. During the primaries he embarrassed many of his far more politically connected opponents by beating them soundly, and he did so by changing the rules of political campaigning. Ignoring the grammar of political correctness, he speaks his mind to the delight of his followers, who view his off-the-cuff style as a refreshing change from the usual canned stump speeches of most candidates. But far too many of his comments have also been excruciatingly embarrassing. He has effectively communicated many populist goals, but has been less effective describing how he will achieve them. Faced with such a candidate, the mainstream media, always the useful pawns of the political left, smell blood in the water and are engaged in a savage anti-Trump feeding frenzy.

But with the election just weeks away, Donald Trump seems to have altered his brash, unpredictable style to good effect. And Hillary Clinton, plagued by an expanding battery of scandals, doesn't appear very presidential. Who will actually become our next president is anyone's guess, for the pollsters certainly don't know.

It's easy to place labels on candidates, as I have already done, calling them liberals or populists or conservatives or libertarians, but such labels have little meaning these days. Sadly, the lines of belief between political parties have also become increasingly blurred. 

What separates us one from another today is something far deeper than party or mere politics. As Eric Voegelin made clear, on one side we have those who accept the existence of a transcendent moral order, who believe in the "permanent things" of T. S. Eliot, "the inherited principles, mores, customs, and traditions that sustain humane thinking and preserve civilized existence for future generations" [See Allen Mendenhall, "To Educate in the Permanent Things"].

"But the Church cannot be, in any political sense, either conservative, or liberal, or revolutionary. Conservatism is too often conservation of the wrong things; liberalism a relaxation of discipline; revolution a denial of the permanent things." [T. S. Eliot]

Opposed to these are those who reject these permanent things, who believe that this earthly existence is all there is. These are the ideologues: the utilitarians who admit no authority except that which achieves a desired end; the Marxists whose materialist view of the world excludes all transcendence; and even the true libertarians who accept no limits on human freedom. 

As we go to the polls in November we must decide, then, where each candidate falls. Does he or she believe and act based on the reality of a transcendent moral order, or is the candidate just another ideologue.

Personally, I take a rather gloomy short-term view. I believe our nation has just about run its course. We have come to the point where a near majority of our citizens realize they can demand whatever they like from government, and that the working minority will pay for it. This, of course, cannot continue for long and will necessarily lead to the dissolution of our constitutional republic. We have already seen the start of this as long-cherished constitutional limitations and freedoms have been cast aside by both our courts and our executive branch. Eventually the limited government designed by our nation's founders will either be threatened by a second civil war or evolve into some form of authoritarian or totalitarian state. Civil wars rarely end well and totalitarian states always collapse due to moral decay, corruption, and financial failure.

But over the long term we have nothing to fear because God is in charge. He is the Lord of History and he has raised up men and women to do His work in the world whenever the world turns against His eternal plan. Evil will never triumph.

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