Democrats must return to that foundation which tempered all of their earlier radicalism and channeled it to relatively productive political conduct: Christianity.
All revolutions are amoral and sadistic—the French, the Bolshevik, the Nazi revolution… Social movements are born from Christ’s teaching to love thy neighbor, but all revolutions renounce Christ. —Stanisław Cat Mackiewicz, Years of Hope, (“On Germany”)
I find myself in an unusual situation; namely I am a registered Democrat who has yet to vote for a Democratic candidate for any federal office. I imagine most Democrats would find this odd, but I find most Democrats odd. Yet I have no intention of registering as a Republican only because I happen to keep feeling compelled to vote Republican. This is because I am stubborn. I insist that the Democratic Party change. I see the growth of uncivil partisanship and extreme factionalism as unhealthy, and I am not content with the idea that Americans should simply accept that the Democratic Party now represents the insane half of the population. If I happen to be the last Democrat who thinks this way, so be it. I have no desire to change my party affiliation; rather I have delusions of grandeur that through some of my writing I will change my entire party.
In 1909, Woodrow Wilson – that icon of Democratic politics — gave a very interesting talk on the subject of a liberal arts education to a group of teachers. He opened his talk with a statement of political convictions that should be illuminating for us all:
“I never know whether to describe myself as a liberal or as a conservative. I believe that many of the alumni of Princeton would now describe me as a radical, yet I deem myself a conservative, for I believe that life is the only thing that conserves, and life is the only thing that does not stand still or retrogress. Progress, therefore, is part of the essential process of conservation. The constant renewal which is life is a part of the constant process of change. At the same time the processes of change, being processes of life, are not susceptible to very specific intellectual analysis. This is one sentence with which I always open my classes; a sentence quoted from Burke, in my opinion the only entirely wise writer upon public affairs in the English language. Burke says, ‘institutions must be adjusted to human nature; of which reason constitutes a part, but by no means the principle part.’ You cannot develop human nature by devoting yourselves entirely to the intellectual sides of it. Intellectual life is the flower of a thing much wider and richer than itself. The man whom we deem the mere man of books we reject as a counselor, because he is separated in his thinking from the rich flow of life. It is the rich flow of life, compact of emotion, compact of all those motives which are unsusceptible of analysis, which produces the fine flower of literature and the solid products of thinking.”
It is today uncommon to think of Woodrow Wilson as a conservative. It is even less common to find any Democrat who would, following Wilson, consider Edmund Burke the greatest of political thinkers. As with most of the Democratic political heritage in modern America, the Wilsonian legacy has been purged from the Democratic Party and resides firmly within the Republican Party. There, President Wilson is either seen as the menace which brought us the administrative state on the domestic front and perpetual foreign war and globalism on the international front or as a noble crusader for the universalism of American democratic principles. Few see Wilson for what he was: a conservative in the tradition of Burke who attempted on the domestic front to apply radical reform to thwart radical revolution and who, in his conduct of the First World War, made the correct decision in supporting the rebirth of an Independent Poland as a remedy to the injustices festering in Europe for the previous 123 years since the partitions of Poland — partitions which had ultimately led to the catastrophe of the war and nearly ended Western Civilization.
Few views of Wilson consider him as a conservative. There is a sense of agreement with regard to Wilsonian radicalism, and disagreement about the virtues or vices of that radicalism. Wilson himself recognized that he could be perceived as a radical. Yet it is not without reason that he cites Burke as “the only entirely wise writer on public affairs in the English language.” Inasmuch as Woodrow Wilson admired the Prussian administrative state, we must also recall that politically he was an enthusiast of traditional British modes and orders, and clearly of conservative British thought. These two aspects of European political life would, in the end, demonstrate themselves to be highly incompatible, but Wilson was determined to forge an American state which incorporated elements of Prussian administration and British parliamentary government. All of Wilson’s intellectual struggles with the Constitution as the Founders wrote it were—to him—a struggle in favor of Burkean conservatism as opposed to doctrinaire Lockean liberalism. It is convenient to overlook or ignore Wilson’s Burkean convictions because we find it very difficult to imagine the context within which political views emerge in time.
The dawn of the twentieth century was a time of great tumult. Tumult always breeds calls for change. Calls for change are either heeded in an orderly and calm fashion or they are suppressed and soon converted into calls for revolution. Revolutions, as Cat Mackiewicz teaches, are always amoral and sadistic. This does not, however, mean that change is immoral and sadistic. Wilson recognized, with Burke, that the modes by which change comes about are almost as important (if not more important) than the content of said change. The Progressives of Wilson’s times generally recognized that there had been a concentration of first financial and then ultimately political power in the newly emergent industrial classes in America, and that this concentration of power was a threat to free government precisely because it fell far outside of the bounds of constitutional restraints on power, those having been crafted in an agrarian republic wherein it seemed that nothing more wealthy or powerful could emerge beyond the government of the United States of America.
It is easy for us to forget this context because we tend to look at Wilsonian and progressive liberalism from the vantage of point of post-New Deal America, and particularly from the times of the Vietnam War era Great Society when it was becoming patently clear to the vast majority of sensible Americans that the social programs meant to provide a safety net, full employment and civilizational advance, had actually created a culture of dependency, unemployment and civilizational decline. Many of us, having matured intellectually in the age of Reagan, and rejecting the radicalism of the New Left, have a natural penchant to view the old Democratic party through the same lenses with which we see its’ modern version. As even Milton Friedman would argue in Free to Choose, the goals of the progressives were not in doubt — only their methodology. Democrats of that time were not immune to these kinds of arguments because they recognized that, as John Dewey taught in his Liberalism and Social Action, the discrepancies in the definition of liberalism throughout modern political history were not a testimony to a complex philosophical debate about the nature of liberalism, but rather the definition of liberalism was indeed ambiguity itself.
That the content of liberal thought had changed over time was not symptomatic of a lack of a proper definition, but rather was indicative of the fact that the definition of liberalism is strictly tied to the notion that one is to apply creative and bold thought to address the problems of any particular historical era. To be liberal in politics in the Deweyian sense is more akin to the sense with which it was once said a man was liberal with his money — it is a kind of risky boldness, a modern almost Machiavellian boldness that nevertheless does not become self-destructive as revolutionary doctrines tend to. Dogmatists who would cling to New Deal era policies in the 1970s and 1980s were acting contrary to Dewey’s political philosophy. Dewey, as a theorist, was of course extremely far left and in point of fact in the company of men like Trotsky. Still, by refusing experimentation, New Deal dogmatists in the 1970s were refusing the essential call of liberalism: to craft political solutions tailored to the times. Woodrow Wilson, a man of theory and practice, was guided by far sounder conservative principles — by Burke’s admonitions and understandings of the organic nature of political life and the limitations of human reason in political affairs. Of particular importance to understanding the modern malaise of the Democratic Party is keeping in mind the key component of Wilsonian progressivism which maintained the entire thing firmly within the boundaries of reasonable political activity: Christianity.
The role of Christianity in the traditions of American Democratic politics cannot be understated. One need not go to the extremes of candidates like populist William Jennings Bryan with his melodramatic “Cross of Gold speech” to find ample evidence of this. Adlai Stevenson, considered the pinnacle of an anti-populist intellectual upon accepting his party’s nomination for President of the United States told the assembled Democrats that he had “asked the Merciful Father — the Father of us all — to let this cup pass from me, but from such dreaded responsibility one does not shrink in fear, in self-interest, or in false humility. So, if this cup may not pass from me, I accept and drink it. Thy will be done.” We might attribute such statements as mere flights of rhetorical fancy or hyperbole. Yet political speech is important insofar as it tells us something about the ideals which animate a society, a party, a platform and a candidate. In the twentieth century when revolution was the preferred methodology for attaining social change in many parts of the world, it is very important that the Democratic Party was a vehicle for conservative methodology in pursuit of progressive aims. The fundamental core that made this possible was the adherence of a majority of Democrats to a Christian political philosophy. A progressivism which does not acknowledge any earthly boundaries to the scope of possible political change, but still acknowledges Divine boundaries, is a progressivism which works in directions absolutely opposite to the sadism of revolution. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt made clear in his address to the Democratic State Convention in 1936, it was the explicit goal of Democratic politics to preserve the United States against violent revolution by tackling the underlying causes of revolution using progressive means.
Of all of the American progressives of the twentieth century, few were so vocal in the expression of this Christian sensibility than populist Vice President Henry Wallace. In one of the best speeches in American political history, now long forgotten by Democrats who would do well to remember it, Wallace told Americans in the midst of the Second World War that “as we begin the final stages of this fight to the death between the free world and the slave world, it is worthwhile to refresh our minds about the march of freedom for the common man. The idea of freedom — that freedom that we in the United States know and love so well — is derived from the Bible with its extraordinary emphasis on the dignity of the individual. Democracy is the only true political expression of Christianity.” One need not agree with the entirety of Wallace’s exposition of American Democracy as the practical embodiment of Old and New Testament teachings in order to recognize the importance of an American politics within which the virtues and vices of various political ideals are judged with reference to Christian and classical standards.
This brings us to the real problem with the modern Democratic Party. It should be obvious that Democrats have completely abandoned the Christian idealism which animated the party for most of American history. This naturally has led the Democratic Party to likewise abandon the common man. This explains why, as a Democrat, most of the emails I receive from my party are enthusiastic calls to wear female genitals on my head and take part in protests rather than calls to defend the rights of law abiding peoples against criminal aliens who now often pose a terrorist threat, or calls to defend the rights of men to a decent wage that would allow them to support their families. It is likely why Democrats send me emails proposing marches for women’s rights, but do not see that women had more rights when men had high paying jobs and women could remain at home, educating and bringing up good children and nurturing a god family life. It is likely why Democrats are nowadays compelled to uphold the right of homosexuals to get married and the right of everybody else to get divorced rather than the duty of all of us to be faithful to our spouse, our community and our country.
Oddly enough, Christian prejudice — once at the very heart of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Henry Wallace and Adlai Stevenson’s political philosophy — is now called “socially conservative” and relegated to one branch of Republican political activity. That it is called “socially conservative” as opposed to economic conservatism likewise suggests a very strange new idea: namely, that social mores have nothing to do with economic development. Democrats nowadays apparently think that a society where large pluralities lie and cheat, betray their marriage vows, fail to take responsibility for their families and indulge their whims is a society that will develop a strong economy in the long run. Democrats, who once put vast numbers of ethnic Japanese American citizens into internment camps during a time of war, now welcome vast numbers of Muslim migrants into America despite hundreds of dead in terrorist attacks in Western countries where such Muslim enclaves have been allowed to grow. One could go on and on — but the point is a rather simple one: the Democratic Party’s rejection of the principle teachings of Jesus Christ is at the core of all of its woes in contemporary times.
Unlike many Republicans who enjoy the fact that Democrats are an easy target in political life, I do not think that this situation is either healthy or desirable. It may guarantee Republican victories in future elections, but it will also guarantee national paralysis and hinder the ability of the American government to function. It will also mean that, as the Democratic Party tumbles further and further down the path of moral nihilism, the party will begin to embrace revolutionary theory and practice on a wider scale. None of this is good for America or for the world which has become somewhat accustomed to looking to America as an example of good democratic practices. Some Democrats are remotely aware of this problem, but they understand it not so much as an abandonment of Americans, workers and families in favor of illegal aliens and cultures wholly foreign to the American way of life, but rather as a lack of outreach to one of several important interest groups or factions: “white people.”
Democrats have become so utterly trapped within the confines of the postmodern feminist and gender agenda that they are no longer able to perceive citizens, to perceive those classes in society which are the bedrock of its strength (families and workers, the middle class), but instead look primarily to either race or sexual orientation and make fetishes of those categories. This undermines their campaigns, because no matter how many times a Democrat speaks to the needs of American working families, the fact that Democrats give those needs equal standing to the needs of illegal aliens, potential terrorists and politically radicalized homosexuals blunts any appeal Democratic candidates might have. In a time when working families are threatened by terrorism, crime, economic uncertainty and political intimidation from radicals of all stripes, the Democratic Party serves as the engine of radical politics rather than the bulwark of the great majority of Americans. As if to prove just how radical it is, Democrats reject the heritage of their own great statesmen, from Andrew Jackson through Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
At present, there is little to no hope that Democrats will come to their senses. They are determined to humiliate President Trump; convinced that the majority of the country is with them, they aim to prove that the 2016 election was nothing but an accident. Yet if President Trump succeeds in securing a second term, this may force the Democratic Party to reconsider its course and eject those elements within its ranks which have poisoned its’ Christian heritage with the lunacy of feminism, gender and multiculturalism. The kind of Democratic Party that would emerge following such catharsis remains unclear and open to deliberation — but there is one thing that is sure: modern feminism, gender and multiculturalism should have no place in the modern Democratic Party. The party should again become the Party of American working families, of a tension between liberal intellectuals and populists and of true justice both in America and abroad. To do so, Democrats must return to that foundation which tempered all of their earlier radicalism and channeled it to relatively productive political conduct: Christianity.
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