None of the Above

None of the Above October 11, 2007

Dr. Patrick Deneen of Georgetown offers what I can best describe as my own intuition on the Presidential contest in a post called “None of the Above“.  Excerpting briefly:

[R]eligious voters in general, and Catholics in particular, will have a difficult time settling in with either of the current frontrunners. After thirty years of throwing in their hat with the Republicans – and seeing a continual disintegration of the moral fabric and the economic soundness of our nation, in sum, the wholesale loss of self-governance – a Hillary-Guiliani ticket (oops, I forget, they would be in opposite parties) will be the nail in the corpse of the Frankenstein-like Christian-libertarian Republican coalition. A Guiliani candidacy, in particular, will bear out the accuracy of Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? thesis, that religious conservatives have been taken for a ride by the Republican party in order to ensure electoral victory and favorable policy for business elites but never any actual policy that will shore up forms of actual self-governance. And, with all due apologies to my judicially-minded conservative friends, a few Supreme Court nominations won’t cut it: there is room for disagreement on this front, but the Court seems quite often to trail the culture rather than to lead it. Sound constitutional interpretation is desirable, but the overturning of Roe won’t alter the easy-going non-judgmental libertarianism that defines much of modern America. I’m all for overturning Roe, but the outcome will be a lot of states that continue the business as usual. The day after Roe is overturned, not much will change. Except that decades of intricately crafted judicial arguments and the efforts of the Federalist society will have to give way to the hard reality of changing culture. A libertarian President – Republican or Democrat – won’t make that task any easier.

Gerson speculates that a Guiliani candidacy will be sufficient to alienate religious voters from the Republican party. I think that’s right, but I don’t think that a Democratic emphasis on poverty will be sufficient to persuade these voters that their religious views are being adequately reflected by Hillary. Catholics, in particular, if at times only residually hold a belief in subsidiarity, and will not accept the default argument of contemporary Democrats that all solutions to all problems lie with the Federal government. The grounds for the phenomenon of Reagan Democrats hasn’t fundamentally gone away – the absence of a Republican who can appeal to religious believers does not translate into a default support for a liberal of Hillary’s stripes. This does not mean that Catholics or even Christians are anti-government. It’s high time that a candidate appear who understands that Federal government can be a partner in helping localities to better face problems that often arise from far outside local borders, recognizing that such localities – if subject to non-local forces – nevertheless remain best positioned to treat the particularities of those local problems. Unfunded mandates and Federal uniformity (“No Child Left Behind”) are not the way to go; the willingness to support State efforts to strengthen conservation, fashion education appropriate to those localities, and to shore up local business in the face of “globalizing” and often rapacious business entities, is far better.

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  • This argument is flawed on numerous fronts. First, he seems to be lumping Catholics and fundies in the same boat. The alignment of the evangelical movement with the GOP for 30 years is indeed true, but Catholics (despite the best efforts fo Neuhaus and his friends) were not part of the movement. Second, it’s a bit much to assume that contemporary Democrats believe that all solutions lie with the federal government, when the Democrats are now squarelt the party of fiscal responsibility. Also, how does selling your soul to the free market square with subsidiarity. This is using cliches from the 1970 and 1980s.

  • M.Z. Forrest

    I think it is self-evident that he isn’t a slave to the free market. Geesh. The Reagan Democrats were for the most part Catholic. And 1980 was near 30 years ago. Most of them are probably not huge fans of Fr. Neuhaus. While there is indeed a Catholic/Fundamentalists alignment of sorts, it isn’t really the Reagan Democrats.

  • Paul

    The only politician that republicans (as well as anyone else, Imho) can vote for in good conscience, with a strong possibility for success, is Ron Paul.

    Staunchly pro-life, anti-war, and though against illegal immigration as it stands, is strongly against police sweeps and wholesale deportations.