Meet the New Boss, Worse than the Old Boss

Time and again, I hear from tribalists on the Right who are baffled about why I spend more time trying to persuade my readers (who overwhelmingly recognize that abortion, cloning, ESCR, IVF and euthanasia are grave evils but who, in large percentages, support the grave evil of torture and unjust war) that torture and unjust war is bad. In response to my mysterious behavior, some of them explain the riddle of my misplace priorities by going so far as to persuade themselves that I am secretly a damn librul Obama supporter.

Yes, you read that right. A writer who believes all that the Holy Catholic Church believes, teaches and proclaims is revealed by God, who adamantly opposes abortion, gay “marriage”, and euthanasia, who believes in just war, supports the free market, who thinks the world of Pope Benedict, honors the Magisterium, and voted for Reagan is “really” a secret liberal.

This sort of dumb conspiracy theorizing was lazily invoked to explain all criticism of Conservative Folk Heroes from Maciel to Corapi. It was invoked by Michael Voris to suggest that Corapi’s bishop was part of a shadowy cabal of liberal gay conspirators. It was invoked to account for criticism of Michael Voris by such well-known liberal pro-abortion organs as Catholic News Agency, the Register, and EWTN. It was invoked to explain why Fr. Pavone’s very prolife bishop wanted Fr. Pavone to account for his finances and do his priestly duties. Somebody critical of a Conservative Folk Hero? Here’s the standard one-size-fits-all explanation for a disturbing number of combox commandos: They are damn libruls and secret enemies of God, America, babies and the Church. Easy peasy.

Nonetheless, back in the reality-based community, life is more complicated. Some of us criticize conservative Catholics and their folk heros, not because of our membership in a secret cabal bent on the destruction of America, babies and the Church, but because we love the Church, love our country, and don’t want them to fall prey to dumb ideas and immoral acts, even when those dumb ideas and immoral acts do no involve abortion.

The reason I make clear that I am adamantly opposed to abortion, but don’t spend a *ton* of time articulating this obvious fact of my views is because I don’t need to: my readers agree with me about abortion, euthanasia, cloning, IVF and ESCR and I don’t need to preach to the choir.

However, a lot of my readers *don’t* agree with me about the consequentialist reasoning behind support for torture, pre-emptive war and allied conservative shibboleths that happen to be directly contrary to Church teaching. So I feel a responsibility to spend more time on them because I believe it is my duty to do so since I must persuade my readers, not merely affirm them in their settled beliefs.

The worst feature of our tribal politics is that brand loyalty tends to make its adherents shut up about grave evil when Our Guys do it. The wisdom of the Catholic tradition is that it starts every single Mass, not with a recitation of the sins of Those People Over There, but with a confession or our own sins and failings. American politics could do worse than internalize that habit. I have great respect for anybody who refuses to prize Group Cohesion above the bleedin’ obvious.

Speaking of which, I mentioned it in passing last week, but I really would like to push to the fore the gutsy rebuke Glenn Greenwald wrote to his own tribe of lefties, in which he details the egregious things Obama has done (and the Group Cohesion shills on the Left have remained silent about or even excused) with respect to the establishment of a Police State.

The thing I loathe most about election season is reflected in the central fallacy that drives progressive discussion the minute “Ron Paul” is mentioned. As soon as his candidacy is discussed, progressives will reflexively point to a slew of positions he holds that are anathema to liberalism and odious in their own right and then say: how can you support someone who holds this awful, destructive position? The premise here — the game that’s being played — is that if you can identify some heinous views that a certain candidate holds, then it means they are beyond the pale, that no Decent Person should even consider praising any part of their candidacy.

The fallacy in this reasoning is glaring. The candidate supported by progressives — President Obama — himself holds heinous views on a slew of critical issues and himself has done heinous things with the power he has been vested. He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations with drones, cluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has waged an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs,including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

Most of all, America’s National Security State, its Surveillance State, and its posture of endless war is more robust than ever before. The nation suffers from what National Journal‘s Michael Hirsh just christened “Obama’s Romance with the CIA.” He has created what The Washington Postjust dubbed “a vast drone/killing operation,” all behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy and without a shred of oversight. Obama’s steadfast devotion to what Dana Priest and William Arkin called “Top Secret America” has severe domestic repercussions as well, building up vast debt and deficits in the name of militarism that create the pretext for the “austerity” measures which the Washington class (including Obama) is plotting to impose on America’s middle and lower classes.

The simple fact is that progressives are supporting a candidate for President who has done all of that — things liberalism has long held to be pernicious. I know it’s annoying and miserable to hear. Progressives like to think of themselves as the faction that stands for peace, opposes wars, believes in due process and civil liberties, distrusts the military-industrial complex, supports candidates who are devoted to individual rights, transparency and economic equality.

The Left, you see, has its own people who tell them, “You must hold your nose and support what you know to be evil for the Greater Good.” Indeed, in leading the charge for abortion, the Left pioneered the consequentialist path that the Thing that Used to be Conservatism is now paving and making into a superhighway for believers to walk to hell. So I applaud a Lefty who stands up to his consequentialist tribe. More than this, I still think a respectable task for conservatives is to stand athwart all that consequentialism from both sides of the aisle and yell, “Stop!” And if a Lefty like Greenwald wants to pitch in and help, I gotta respect that.  I don’t believe you contract ritual impurity when somebody outside the Tribe makes common cause with you on a matter of common sense and basic decency. Both tribes need to stop putting Group Cohesion over the common good. The issue is no longer Left v. Right but our Ruling elites vs. the rest of us.

And so we come to this, a Democratic President betrays all the suckers on the Left who got themselves high on all the Obamamessiah rubbish they told themselves.

But the Group Cohesion cheerleaders among my tribe of “conservatives” shouldn’t dislocate their shoulder patting themselves on the back for their brand loyalty. After all, it was the Republicans who just led the charge in a bipartisan coalition to give Obama the power to strip you and those you love of habeas corpus, deprive you of counsel, and jail you forever if you step out of line. Indeed, if you are prolife, you could be Enemy of the State material. So ever don’t say the GOP doesn’t do anything about prolife issues! They’ve just labored with might and main to make it possible to end the prolife conflict in this country decisively–by jailing prolifers forever as terrorists!

I will take an honest man from either side of the aisle over a party shill any day of the week.

  • Babs

    None of like to see the reality of terrible our choices really are. Thats what it comes down to now. I know who my primary pick is, I know he won’t win the primary unless God performs a miracle, which I doubt only because He’s such a stickler for free will. So my choices are to write in my choice and lose, settle for a guy who *almost* gets it right and pray he doesn’t do too much damage, or sit out. It’s pretty sucky to feel the impact of losing before you even begin.

    But if it helps at all, your postings on the subject have clarified my swirling opinions and made voting my conscience easier.

  • Sean O

    Ah ha. So really are a liberal.

  • Michael Sharkey

    Mark, I have been meaning to thank you for your challenging posts on politics. I admit that I had been ignoring or trying to ignore my conscience about torture, unjust war, and the general callousness of the libertarian right toward the poor, for quite a long time. Your arguments have been persuasive and have reminded me to take a catholic view of the issues which is an excellent policy for a Catholic. Part of the difficulty for me has been how overtly dangerous the policies and worldview of the left appear. They oppose themselves loudly and obviously to so much that is good and the policies they advocate are a poison. They are so obviously the enemy that I for one have been willing to ignore troubling policies of the right that also treat person’s as things whether it is war policy, torture, or capital punishment. I still do not know how I will vote, but you have given me a lot to think about. I have gotten old enough to realize that the bible really does show us the way. I am thinking of the psalmist’s warning. “do not put your trust in princes.”

  • Deacon Nathan Allen

    I too thought Greenwald’s piece a brilliant piece of work (and a brave one, given the strength of what you call tribal loyalties). That three-paragraph run in the middle there reminded me of nothing so much as the string of tyranny charges leveled against George III in the Declaration of Independence.

  • Brian

    Nothing to add on all that politics stuff. But I showed my wife the image and agree wholeheartedly with her. “Someone needs to do one of those Obama posters with the line ‘Don’t let me detain you.’”

    Vetinari ftw!

  • SKay

    At the end of the day- we will either have Obama still in the White House– or we won’t. If re-elected he will double down on what he has done the first four years – make sure that Obamacare never gets overturned, abortion continues unchanged due to a leftist leaning majority in the Supreme Court (he may get at least 2 more appointments) for a long time — and more Catholic adoption agencies will be closed. In spite of his supposed stand on ss marriage-it is clear he will be working for it behind the scenes. In a speech he proudly said that America is not a Christian country. I think it is rather clear where he is trying to take this country and it’s people.
    Fifty-one percent(maybe more) of Catholics helped put him in the last time. If that is true again–not one of them can say this time- they did not know what his intentions are.

  • Edwin J. Kubena, Jr.

    Mark, I appreciate your response. No conspiracy theory just a story about a great priest that will be missed. I know liberals such as yourself dislike priests who speak the truth about right and wrong and now you have one less voice to worry about. Lets pray for Fr. Corapi and leave it at that.

    • Mark Shea

      In what sense is somebody who is opposed to abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, ESCR, and IVF, as well as fully supportive of the Magisterium, free enterprise, and Pope Benedict a “liberal”?