Disclaimer: this post departs from the blog's usual material: American spirituality, Roman Catholic studies, sports, popular culture. At least at first. Rest assured, the blog is not morphing into some political hatchet site. At least not intentionally so...
So first there is Obamacare and its inauspicious debut. There's probably a semester's worth of lectures about hubris and nemesis in this part of American life, and that extends to Republicans as well as Democrats. Just check the headlines at Real Clear Politics for the latest in ideological salvos. The problem, though, becomes when confronting one ugly problem (and Obamacare's problems are ugly) the usual response has become:
LET'S HAMMER THE BASTARDS ON ANOTHER ISSUE.
Of course, the "bastards" could be anybody your side doesn't like: the Common Core, Oprah, FOX News, Ted Cruz, Bill Belichick, the designated hitter, whatever. Insert here the scripted comments about today's supercharged, intellectually-dimmed, mutually-exclusive ideological atmosphere. We don't like "others" -- and we're quite happy to blog/tweet/Facebook/talk about it.
Thus an introduction to Scott Lemieux's conventional left-wing counterattack. Obamacare has become a polyvalent nightmare...so let's bash the right on Harry Reid's successful "reform" of the filibuster. Any short piece that links the word "zombie" to a SCOTUS justice seems, well, imprudent. Lemieux surely doesn't care about that, and 5 minutes and Google will give you several bloggers agreeing with him as well as an equal number of critics. OK, so what? We all revert back to the standard undergraduate answer: "It's all up to each one of us to make up our minds and do what's best for each of us as we each see fit." No, no, no--we're trying to be adults here. Lemieux will agree me there, at least. However, his conclusion contains the real issue:
Yes, it will allow Republican presidents to get a larger number of
terrible judges confirmed too. But that's democracy—people who win
elections should be able to govern. Democrats should be confident about
their ability, over time, to triumph at the ballot box.
Two filing options here: 1) under "be careful what you wish for--you just might get it" Lemieux et al. will probably sing a very different tune about this very same issue--and probably using the same snide critical tone--once his side's no longer in power. So what looks great in November 2013 might not in 12, 18, or 24 months. And then what's the point? Must we live in such a presentist world view that only our power now matters? 2) under "Thucydides option: the strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must." Here's the link to spiritual diabetes: we all know America loves a winner, but the Christian faith--especially Roman Catholicism--insists that we attend to the weak and vulnerable in our midst...and everywhere else. Hence the emphasis on solidarity and preferential option for the poor in Catholic social justice/thought. The Left's glee over passing Obamacare and its legality--here I'm thinking of George Clooney's often-circulated comments that if the GOP wants to stop Obamacare it should win an election--as well as Lemieux's only slightly less annoying cackling over Reid's filibuster success has its parallels on the Right, such as the Iraq War. No, I'm not equating civilian deaths with whining Republicans, so please don't even bother with comments.
Same theme, different take: Daniel McCarthy at The American Conservative, wherein he writes:
The hard left, which knows that Democrats are about as neoliberal as the
GOP, lives in a nonsense world in which puppet-wielding protesters
shape policy, or would if only they built more and bigger puppets. I
know some very well meaning, otherwise intelligent antiwar leftists who
are nonetheless the most politically infantile people you will ever
meet. Politics is just magic to them.
McCarthy then comments on Democratic successes related to their opponents' ineptitude. Good stuff.
The point: the willful disregard for others, especially the weak and those not as empowered as ourselves. Democrats certainly fail here (ummm, abortion, anyone?) just as much as Republicans. The Church's social vision doesn't begin with power but rather dignity. Spiritual diabetes angle: the first principle of human dignity represents that necessary exercise/diet path to health that we all recognize as beneficial but often can't bring ourselves to embrace. Our hesitancy doesn't diminish our responsibility to work within dignity's parameters. Does that rule out legislative reforms, even ones won by nitty-gritty political dealing? Absolutely not--it's a human world and sometimes things pass without unanimous votes. Will there be wars? Yes, unfortunately, but sometimes they're unavoidable and perhaps even necessary and justified. That doesn't mean we start those very human endeavors--politics and warfare--by dismissing the first principle of intrinsic human dignity. This require more work, thought, and reflection than we customarily see, including even this blog.