Prudence…

…is the clear recognition of what is so and how to wisely navigate reality.  In the 30s, Stalin had counter-revolutionary weather forecasters shot for failing to predict weather that fit his Five Year Plans.  The Thing that Used to be Conservatism has, weirdly, taken over this Soviet mentality of thinking reality can be altered by dint of will instead of living by the first cardinal virtue–prudence–and dealing with reality as it actually is.  This results in epic stupidity.  The Thing that Used to be Conservatism needs to cease–immediately–engaging in epic stupid imprudence.  One thing it can do to begin that process is to detox from “news” sources that are, in fact, looms for weaving a veil of complete unreality.  Jon Stewart, as is his custom, illustrates how FOX weaves this veil and blows it off the airwaves in a much-needed public service that every conservative concerned with re-learning the virtue of prudence should thank him for:

Prudence is the very first virtue. Abandon that and you will lose all the other virtues as well. Leave the Bubble. Stop getting your thoughts handed you by the Thing That Used to be Conservatism and start treating with reality in light of the Church’s teaching.

  • Irenist

    The G.O.P., as currently constituted, is a laughingstock. If conservative Catholics are to avoid being a laughingstock, too, it’s best to either change how the G.O.P. is constituted, or avoid association with it.

  • ivan_the_mad

    That masterful delusion calls to mind Brecht’s Die Lösung.

  • Matt Talbot

    Righties: Please, please listen to Mark.

    I say this as a registered Democrat: we need a rational and credible opposition party. There are many areas where liberal catholics agree with you (e.g., abortion) – we need people to work with on those issues, but if you keep spouting militarism and Randian economic ruthlessness, you make it way harder to make progress.

    • J

      The door swings both ways.

  • John

    Mark,

    I couldn’t be happier today. Frankly, a lot of folks are. I was in the grocery store grabbing lunch a few minutes ago, and the young woman who was bagging said, “boy, people are sure in a good mood today.” So, it’s not just me. It’s not that we necessarily that we got what we wanted, but that the fog of election BS has been lifted. The partisan hackery blasted out to us through an enormous advertising effort has ended. Life is moving on.

    Now, I am a realist. And, it doesn’t always jibe with what people think of ‘conservatism’ today. Some ‘conservatives’ look at me as some kind of lefty for my positions. They are not aware, or do not know what conservatism truly is. More often than not, my position is truly conservative. The radical strain of ‘conservatism’ that has infected our country has been identified, and shown the light. It will now go back, not willingly, into the shadows where it belongs.

    Now there are many issues in this country, some, Mark, you are quite passionate about. I heard something yesterday that made me smile, from an unlikely place. It came from John Boehner, in relation to the financial cliff negotiations. Mr. President, “We want you to succeed.” Music to my ears. It’s a beginning, not an end.

    Let’s all move forward.

  • Jessica

    Okay Mark – you’ve gotten my attention; I did not vote for either of the ruling class candidates. How do you explain the Obama victory? Do you think “entitlement” has something to do with it? Do you think the “left” is more prudent than the “right”? Are conservatives the only ones concerned about the national debt? Thank you for your witness…

    • Andy

      I think that Obama won because Romney was not a good candidate – he was all over the place in terms of what he said he believed in, but more problematically when it came to the national debt – Ryan announced that the math was to complicated and Romney kept saying that he knew how to balance budgets. A good leader can take complicated ideas and explain them, especially if they are reasonably fact based. I think that many people didn’t trust Romney and by extension the republican party. I don’t think it was entitlements, I have no idea who is more prudent – prudent is a loaded word.
      In short I guess it was the messenger and the lack of a message that was consistent or explained. That is just me and my omnipotent view of the politics because I voted for neither candidate. .

    • Dan C

      I think the fight about what is called entitlements had something to do with this loss. The newly minted folks who are among the “entitled” are firemen, police, and teachers. This infects thinking in that I have heard folks in the 1% note, “please call the police for handling that matter, that is why I pay them.”

      In a larger role, most nurses (like those nurses carrying the fragile premature babies down the stairs at NYU last week) are funded through hospitals that receive Medicare and Medical assistance, and for which the government-subsidized portion of the hospital’s revenue is about 50%.

      I think the term “entitlements” is insulting when discussing police, firemen, and teachers. It is insulting when it embraces doctors and nurses.

      To be clear, the GOP and its conservative thinkers, and its Catholic apologists all support the insulting definition of “entitlement.”

      I think that to a degree the argument over government and what constitutes just support of an activity for the community (which you call “entitlements”) was a significant part of the problem for the GOP.

  • Tim Jones

    The best thing would be for the GOP to just dissolve, start fresh and re-form under a different name. By “start fresh”, I mean scrapping the platform, getting rid of dead wood (booting and withdrawing support from stoopid, low-brow demagogues with foot-in-mouth disease) and building up again from some decent core principles (Republicans, once upon a time, were non-interventionists. Weird, huh?). Empowering states, local governments and families… really empowering, rather than the customary empty, pandering rhetoric that insults our intelligence. They also ought to start giving serious thought to the idea that caring for the sick and needy REALLY IS is a moral obligation that The Magic Market is not going to make disappear.

  • Phil

    Yes there is a conervative media bubble, but what about the liberal bubble. Chris Matthews of MSNBC actually said he was glad about the hurricane because it helped Obama win. That’s worse than Karl Rove quibling with an early Ohio call. Also, those Bain Attacks were originally from Ted Kennedy’s 94 senate run against Romney. Did The daily show mention any of that? Or was too inconvenient for their narrative?

    • Mark Shea

      Who cares. Take care of your own house. Stop shifting blame. This ingrained habit has only reaped you the whirlwind.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    I might think that listening to FOX or Limbaugh has something to do with it if it wasn’t for the fact that there are plenty of folks on the Thing That Used to be Liberalism who get their news from such places as MSNBC and the Daily Show, and their candidate just won.

    • Mark Shea

      This doesn’t even make sense. All I’m getting from this is a vague “NO THEM!” Get your head out of the Bubble. Stop making kneejerk excuses about how MSNBC is ideologically left (duh) and face the fact that the reason *your* party is losing is because *your* party had chosen to blind itself to bleeding obvious fact about reality. That others also do this is irrelevant to the predicament *you* and *your* party find themselves in. One aspect of prudence the Party of Personal Responsibility needs to relearn is that you don’t solve your problems you created for yourself by saying, “That guy over there is doing it too.”

      • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

        All I’m going to say is that a lot of the above by Mark could just as easily be applied to Catholicism and why “it’s losing” the evangelizing “numbers game”.

        What you’re missing is that it’s an fundamentally about organizing principles. If you’re fundamentally about winning (and weren’t a lot of your posts before tues complaining about “party first”?) then yes, it might be prudent to try other strategies. However, if there’s something more important to you than winning, you must accept defeat should winning ever involve conflict with those other principles.

        Or would you really think it prudent if “the Right” tried winning more votes by say… becoming more pro-abortion?

        In which case, you should stop trying to make this about “reality vs delusion” and more about which principles you think need to be sold first. (though I guess that would make it easier for you to complain next election season about how all those prudent people are putting the party first)

        • Mark Shea

          One of the fundamental strategies of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism in resisting calls to treat with reality is to always peremptorily say, “So! You want us to abandon our principles and become liberals and support abortion and go all kumbayah?”

          It is, like the rest of the strategies for living in illusion, bullshit.

          My complaint, you may recall from MONTHS AND MONTHS OF POSTING ON THE FAILURE OF THE THING THAT USED TO BE CONSERVATISM TO BE SERIOUSLY PROLIFE is that what conservatives need to do is *CONSERVE*. That is, they need to return to their roots. And since I am speaking to conservative Catholics and believe that our roots are Catholic and not Republican, that means simply that Catholics need to actually listen to and embrace the fullness of our Tradition–a Tradition that is all about what makes for an authentic, happy, and fulfilled humanity. This means a vision rooted in actual Catholic social teaching, not vision rooted in Randian class warfare; sotto voce racism; neglect and blame of the poor as moochers, parasites, takers, and looters; militarism; enthusiasm for torture; and cynical consequentialism. If conservative Catholics did that while preserving a strong prolife ethic, concern for the family, and a real understanding of solidarity as well as subsidiarity, I think they would find that they had a message that is attractive instead of repellent and delusional, as it currently is since it is in the service of a delusion political movement that cannot face reality or practice self-examination without instantly trying to fix blame on everyone but itself.

          • Dan C

            But the redefinition of the moochocracy is that it is also police, public school teachers, and firefighters. The Medicare the elderly of the middle class counted on is to be part of the moochocracy.

            “Entitlement” has a broad definition. It includes public libraries. Township parks (keep in mind, undeveloped land is land that no one has turned a profit on…) and local government supported athletic leagues and swimming pools are part of the entitlement landscape that is attacked. The author of this strategy is Grover Norquist, with a lot of help.

            Disgracefully, the poor were only discussed on religious blogs (both conservative and liberal). The care of such folks were a rare and limited matter of the campaign. To the nation’s shame.

          • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

            My complaint, you may recall from MONTHS AND MONTHS OF POSTING ON THE FAILURE OF THE THING THAT USED TO BE CONSERVATISM TO BE SERIOUSLY PROLIFE is that what conservatives need to do is *CONSERVE*.

            Fair enough, but we haven’t seen much evidence that “serious prolife” gives advantages in elections. I mean, if you can find it in our national landscape I’ll be thrilled. But so far with the data I’ve seen, prolife stuff doesn’t show much of an impact or it might be a detriment. So, again, we’re hitting up against principles vs prudence.

            My complaint, you may recall from MONTHS AND MONTHS OF POSTING ON THE FAILURE OF THE THING THAT USED TO BE CONSERVATISM TO BE SERIOUSLY PROLIFE is that what conservatives need to do is *CONSERVE*. That is, they need to return to their roots. And since I am speaking to conservative Catholics and believe that our roots are Catholic and not Republican, that means simply that Catholics need to actually listen to and embrace the fullness of our Tradition–a Tradition that is all about what makes for an authentic, happy, and fulfilled humanity. This means a vision rooted in actual Catholic social teaching, not vision rooted in Randian class warfare; sotto voce racism; neglect and blame of the poor as moochers, parasites, takers, and looters; militarism; enthusiasm for torture; and cynical consequentialism. If conservative Catholics did that while preserving a strong prolife ethic, concern for the family, and a real understanding of solidarity as well as subsidiarity, I think they would find that they had a message that is attractive instead of repellent and delusional, as it currently is since it is in the service of a delusion political movement that cannot face reality or practice self-examination without instantly trying to fix blame on everyone but itself.

            Yes, we all like to believe that “if [fill in] agreed more with me they’d have success” but… none of us are a majority. However, while protestants are in decline, if Catholics aren’t making up the difference (and they don’t seem to be), I don’t see how “be more Catholic” will be a winning political strategy. If the pitch isn’t attracting people during the “off season” and their every day lives (you know, converts), I don’t see how prudent it would be to think it’s going to draw them in during election season.

            • Dan C

              On the matter of pro-lifism, you are correct. Pro-lifism is in need of a change.

              It needs to be a separate political movement with better focus. It needs to build a larger broader consensus and detach from the Republican party. Pro-lifism can’t win on the ballot anymore. On a referendum, few pro-life matters do well. That is a problem strategically.

              There needs to be better on the ground, face-to-face community activism on this matter. Getting Roe vs. Wade overturned instead has been a short cut that hasn’t worked.

              • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                Dan C, pity the Devil because his teeth are chattering, because on this we agree.

                Like John Wright pointed out: no politician will be able to stop this travesty, only a grass roots movement will.

                • Dan C

                  A political movement to achieve an anti-abortion nation would require an organization in which that is the absolute focus. Currently, many political fights burden the pro-life movement. I do not know what to do with that.

                  The techniques of advancing an anti-abortion agenda in modern America need to change.

      • William R.

        The obvious need to live in reality notwithstanding, if liberals are living in their own bubble, it calls into question the claim that the Right lost the election due to its inability to face reality. If most of the nation is submerged in unreality, then the problem, apparently, is that the Right isn’t selling the sort of Kool Aid most of the nation wants to drink.

        • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

          Thank you, William, I also missed that.

          After all, what’s the point of even bothering to live in reality if the majority just rejects it for another illusion.

          • Mark Shea

            This is why I say “think critically” and then “hold it up to the light of the Church’s teaching”. What sources like Jon Stewart and other lefties do supremely well is show conservatives where they are completely full of bullshit. They should be thanked for that service. It does not follow that, having analyzed the faults of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism brilliantly, the proposals they themsselves make are flawless. Similarly, righties can typically tell a leftie where he is full of crap pretty well. But that does not make rightie ideology sound.

            • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

              Then you should coach prudence in service of what is true, not what is “winning”. Because as William and I just pointed out, a lot of people seem to be voting against reality.

              But then we circle all the way back around to what I said earlier: there is a principle (truth) more valuable than winning. (and if there’s one thing history has shown, truth NEVER wins politically)

              • William R.

                And let’s not forget, politically speaking, Our Lord lost much more than an election.

              • Mark Shea

                Fair enough. I think what lies behind what I’m saying is the conviction that what is true is also what is beautiful and attractive and winning. At present, the Right’s descent into illusion is also ugly and repellent, and therefore loses. The mistake of our culture, of course, is that it tends to ask, “How can I win without going to all the trouble of having to deserve it by being truthful or good?”

                • http://natewinchester.wordpress.com/ Nate Winchester

                  And let’s not forget, politically speaking, Our Lord lost much more than an election.

                  Even though He is in charge of all political power. How’s that for irony? ;)

                  I think what lies behind what I’m saying is the conviction that what is true is also what is beautiful and attractive and winning.

                  3 parts to unpack:
                  1) what is true is beautiful – Well… yes and no. For instance, death is a part of our reality, it is “true” but it is not beautiful (our Lord wept at the sight of it). On the other hand, we can learn to find beauty in what is true. But then I think many wiser philosophers than I have struggled with this.

                  2) what is true is attractive – I don’t think so. As Isiah 53 said: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” That’s how they reacted to Truth Himself. Considering how many other facts people run from… I know I’m not as old as you, but so far in my life I haven’t seen anything showing truth attracts people.

                  3) what is true is winning – Technically I’d say, incorrect. What is true ultimately wins period. But human history is pretty much just one long rebellious effort against it. That it will somehow work politically… again, I’ve yet to see that ever apply.

            • Dan C

              Left wing proposals are very flawed. Sometimes proposals from “the left” look a lot like proposals from “the right.”

              In fact, Obama’s budget of summer 2011, looked a lot like Ryan’s budget, with some timelines extended and deeper cuts to defense. The sticking point was taxes for millionaires. The nation “was saved” from a Ryanesque future, not because Obama rejected it, but because he insisted on a tax for millionaires.

      • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

        Uh, you might want to consider reexamining how you respond to people who disagree with you. After all, I’ve made it clear before that I’m in no way a fan of FOX news, nor do I miss the problems with the GOP specifically, or Conservatism in America in general.

        As for my point, I was saying that while conservatives lost, or may be falling apart, getting that by appealing to Jon Stewart, who is nothing other than a liberal version of Rush Limbaugh, is like going to Rush Limbaugh or FOX News to hear that Liberals are suffering because they are going to MSNBC or Jon Stewart for their news. The Republicans or Conservatives didn’t lose because they chose to blind themselves by going to FOX, because those on the Left who choose to blind themselves by going to MSNBC or Jon Stewart won. Not that going to FOX or Jon Stewart is a good thing. It just didn’t really have anything to do with the political fortunes of the Right.

  • Irenist

    Main conservative response in this thread: But liberals have a media bubble, too!
    Yes, yes they do. And as long as every growing demographic group in the country prefers the worldview of that bubble, and as long as the conservative worldview is embraced by a majority of no group other than older white guys, then conservative candidates will lose.

    • Mark Shea

      Blame-shifting is a favorite strategy for those resisting prudence.

  • Phil

    The funny thing about the all this negative talk about entitlements is that many of these things(like the expansion of the earned income or child tax credits) happened under republican presidents or with the approval of republican congreses. But now people just forget where all this stuff came from. The low cost phone planned often dubbed “obama phone” was originally a program intiated by Ronald Reagan. Perhaps conservatives are right that some of these things should be rolled back or that we can’t afford them anymore, but they also ought to acknowledge that their movement once had a hand in getting creating these things.

    • Dan C

      Bob Dole (until the Contract with America) took pride in helping to forge the original food stamps through Congress. He was a significant author of that now-hated entitlement. Nixon was a great sponsor of domestic welfare, too.

      This was an era in which the rich and powerful demonstrated some oblesse noblige.

  • Mel

    Republicans, not just the ones on the news, need to take a look at what they are saying. Things like “takers”, “welfare queens”, ” entitlement society”. They need to assume need on the part of those who get assistance, and point out how much better charities can do do help people. You can’t say that no one needs help because that is not true. They need to point out the failing of government programs, and corruption, and figure out ways to promote charity work. You are right, Mark. It is ironic and sad that Republicans, who push self sufficiency, cannot look at themselves clearly, or even hear the words that come out of their mouth.

  • tz

    But, but, it’s all “prudential judgment” no matter how imprudent or unjust the issue is! Iraq was a “prudential judgment” so had to be prudent! Executing obviously innocent people because the courts and cops are corrupt is a “prudential judgment”, so it has to be dignum et justum est.

    Catholics, at least some of them, are such prudes!

  • R.C.

    Bad argument, folks, about this “Republicans used to favor food stamps, but now…” stuff.

    1. A party can be mistaken, and repent of it.

    2. You wouldn’t want the G.O.P. to say “well, we used to be more pro-choice or neutral, so…let’s not be pro-life, or folks will say that we’re reversing our position.”

    3. There are Republicans, and then there are Conservatives. Most of the latter set votes for the former ticket. But only recently have a majority of the elected officials on the former ticket been within the latter set, themselves.

    4. And then, there are compromises. Let’s say Mitt Romney had gotten elected. And, let’s say he put some new Justices in place. And let’s say that, as a result, fifteen years down the road, we got a reversal of Roe v. Wade. And let’s say that, by that time, a Catholic groundswell had filled the G.O.P. full of pro-life fervor. Would THAT be the time for folks to say: “Lookie here! The G.O.P. used to oppose outlawing abortions in case of rape and incest, including more than one sitting President…but NOW they’re reversing position and wish to outlaw abortion in cases of rape and incest! What inconsistent idiots!” Would not the correct reply to this criticism, then, be: “Well, Mitt Romney was the best we could get nominated and elected at the time, and we preferred him over Obama. But now that we have a chance of being more true to our own principles, we’d very much like to, y’know, be true to our own principles.”

    5. Keep in mind, in all this discussion of Conservatives wanting to “Downsize Big Government” that:

    - Some of the “Big Government” programs want to downsize are entitlements and assistance for the needy;

    - Others are corporate welfare, regulatory agencies, and boondoggle programs;

    - Of the entitlements/welfare category, some, conservatives want eliminated, and others they want confined to state and local governments, for Subsidiarity reasons…which naturally implies eliminating them at the Federal level;

    - Those that they want eliminated entirely, do not imply that conservatives do not want the needy helped, but only imply that conservatives want the needy helped voluntarily rather than through compulsory state income redistribution;

    - Conservatives put their own money, voluntarily, where their mouths are, donating roughly twice as much money annually to charity as left-progressives do, even though Democrats on the whole have a bit more wealth;

    - Conservatives donate twice as much to charity at ALL income levels, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of their annual pre-tax incomes;

    - Conservatives also volunteer more in the community and give blood more, and more frequently serve in unpaid charity-work positions, than left-liberals.

    In short: Ebeneezer Scrooge was a Left-Liberal: He undoubtedly held that he had no responsibility for helping his fellow man: let governments dirty their hands messing about with the poor…and the farther away from him, the better. Good King Wenceslas was more like a Conservative: He went stomping out in the cold to do it himself. (Granted, as a King — or a Duke, really — “his” money and food probably came from taxes originally. But the story was not that he emptied the public purse for the guy gathering firewood, but had his page get meat and drink from his own table and firewood from his own fireplace. How very Romneyesque of him. I bet if the peasant had had a daughter missing, Wenceslas would have turned out the army.)


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