Tuesday, June 08, 2021

First Things, Sohrab Ahmari, and Dreher on the End of Democracy in America

Dreher, finally, recognizes the imminent danger, joining Ahmari and an old First Things symposium.  Against them?  Damn near everybody in the Deep State and corporate America.  

Can right actually make might in time to pull the US away from the cliff?  Or will Mammon and its Deep State/Educrat/PC enablers drink their chablis and eat their canapes as the Red Death overcomes all?

To Dreher, democracy itself is at stake.  (We assume Dreher means the republican-democracy of America's founding.)

First up?  Ahmari.

“Against David Frenchism” urges the right to adopt a more expansive vision for the use of state power. French wants state power used only to assert our individual rights; Ahmari wants to replace this with a politics of the common good. He writes:

“French is a political liberal, which means that individual autonomy is his lodestar: He sees ‘protecting individual liberty’ as the main, if not the sole, purpose of government. Here is the problem: The movement we are up against prizes autonomy above all, too; indeed, its ultimate aim is to secure for the individual will the widest possible berth to define what is true and good and beautiful, against the authority of tradition.

Ahmari argues that adhering to French’s restraint cost the right the culture war—the battle over which moral vision guides our society. If we only assert our “religious liberty,” that is, our right to disagree with the dominant liberal ethos, we cannot impede the fate of religious claims under liberal regimes: their relegation, first to opinion, and from there, to a species of bias.

“If the moral law is merely a matter of ancient, if sincere, conviction, then of course it must give way to the demands for autonomy of people in the here and now. … If traditional moral precepts are ‘purely religious beliefs,’ … they’re rationally indefensible, [and] should be treated as a form of prejudice. Thus two thousand years of moral truth and religious principle become, by sleight of hand, a species of bias.

 Further on, we have this from Ahmari:

...“We come now to perhaps the biggest question that diverts modernity from the great stream of traditional thought. Moderns … are certain that religion and politics don’t, and shouldn’t, mix. Since we can’t agree on the highest end or the ultimate meaning of human life, their thinking runs, politics must be ‘neutral’ ground. … This position would have been unintelligible to the premodern West.”

Along with the rest of the Roman world, Ahmari describes how Augustine adopts Aristotle’s view that “religion had to be fully integrated into politics.” For them, “The aim of political life wasn’t to protect maximal individual autonomy but to discern and promote the common good.” According to Ahmari, Augustine thus yearns for a ruler “who views sound governance and the welfare of souls as different aspects of the same holistic business.”...

Once again that line from the Declaration raises its head:  "...laws of Nature and Nature's God."  It was certainly the view of the Founders that the moral law as commonly understood at that time SHOULD be honored in the laws of the State(s).

As to the First Things symposium?  They came to the same conclusion 25 years ago.

...The proposition examined in the following articles is this: The government of the United States of America no longer governs by the consent of the governed. With respect to the American people, the judiciary has in effect declared that the most important questions about how we ought to order our life together are outside the purview of “things of their knowledge.” Not that judges necessarily claim greater knowledge; they simply claim, and exercise, the power to decide. The citizens of this democratic republic are deemed to lack the competence for self-government. The Supreme Court itself—notably in the Casey decision of 1992-has raised the alarm about the legitimacy of law in the present regime. Its proposed solution is that citizens should defer to the decisions of the Court. Our authors do not consent to that solution....

... As important as democracy is, the symposium addresses another question still more sobering. Law, as it is presently made by the judiciary, has declared its independence from morality....

...In this connection, Professor Robert George of Princeton explores the significance of the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life). Addressing laws made also by our courts, the Pope declares, “Laws and decrees enacted in contravention of the moral order, and hence of the divine will, can have no binding force in conscience. . . . Indeed such laws undermine the very nature of authority and result in shameful abuse.” We would only add to Professor George’s brilliant analysis that the footnotes to that section of Evangelium Vitae refer to the 1937 encyclical of Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Concern) and other papal statements condemning the crimes of Nazi Germany. America is not and, please God, will never become Nazi Germany, but it is only blind hubris that denies it can happen here and, in peculiarly American ways, may be happening here....

That was prophetic.  Dreher picks it up with a discussion of the President of the Human Rights Campaign's call to willful disobedience of any laws which prohibit boys from playing on girls' teams.

...If our side doesn’t start fighting this stuff hard, we will get soft totalitarianism. We will get these pink police staters like Alphonso David demanding that their minions throughout administrative bureaucracies defy the law to enforce their priorities. These people do not give a rat’s rear end about respecting law or the rights of anybody who gets in their way. They are who they are. But what about us conservatives? Why do we sit back willing to accept performative (but essentially toothless) anti-wokeness from Trump, and nothing at all from other conservative lawmakers? Meanwhile, those who hate us, and who are well-funded by woke capitalist corporations (take a look at the Who’s Who of HRC’s corporate donors), and can take to the op-ed page of The New York Times and call for mass defiance of the law, out of contempt for us, their fellow Americans, who do not share their views....

Dreher discusses the difference between civil rights as understood by MLK (and most Americans) and the 'rights' claimed by HRC.

....The truth is, the center cannot hold....

By "center," Dreher means the Fusionism Conservatism of Buckley which was invented by Frank Meyer.  It cannot hold any longer, as the Left has, essentially, declared war on the Right.

So what does Dreher (and Ahmari, and the First Things group) propose?

...Law has to be anchored in shared belief of a transcendent order, whether authored by divinity or existing in some ideal realm.

Citing Christopher Caldwell:

...The goal of the civil rights laws, at least as they were understood by a sentimental public, was to short-circuit the sham democracies of the American South, to bring them into conformity with the Constitution. But it turned out to be harder than anticipated to distinguish between the South’s democracy and everybody else’s. If the spirit of the law was to humiliate Southern bigots, the letter of the law put the entire country—all its institutions— under the threat of lawsuits and prosecutions for discrimination....

Bearing in mind the axiom that one does NOT have a right to do wrong, it's clear that "rights-talk" has run amok.  Even Donald Trump--not really a Doctor of Morals--figured out that there is a problem here.

 ...This language of “-bashing” and “-phobia” and “bigotry” and “lies” was new. No longer was the irreconcilability of individuals’ and society’s sexual priorities a tragedy or a disagreement. Recast in the categories of civil rights law, it was a crime, a crime that was being committed against a whole class of people. The customs and traditions in the name of which it was being committed were mere alibis....

You will not be surprised to learn that Dreher ends his essay with a quote from MacIntyre endorsing something akin to Dreher's "Benedict Option" communities.

Be that as it may, it is ever more clear that the fight for America must rest on law 'anchored in shared belief of a transcendent order, whether authored by divinity or existing in some ideal realm'.

That is the only law which will assure the Common Good and--by the way--the Founders' "pursuit of happiness."

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