Sunday, September 16, 2012

Convention Wars, Episode III: Return of the Juliae

This is what President Obama thinks is a good life for women.
With all that has transpired in the so-called "Muslim world" since September 11th, it is hard to believe that the Democratic National Convention ended not too long ago. Obviously, the latter has more or less faded from the news cycle already. But before this blog begins to focus on the recent spate of embassy and consulate protests for which the United States government believes a single YouTube video is entirely responsible, this post will present our final thoughts on the DNC.

What fascinated me most about the Democratic National Convention is that its hosts undertook no efforts to hide the extent of their party's leftward tilt in recent years. Unlike the speakers at the Republican National Convention, whose tasks consisted almost entirely of "humanizing" Mitt Romney and convincing disaffected Obama voters that they are not obligated to vote for the president again, most of the speakers at the DNC tore straight into Romney from an undeniably leftist perspective. We have already assessed prominent speakers Elizabeth Warren and Bill Clinton. And though there were many other speech-givers at this convention who did not bother to dial back the partisanship--such as leaders of NARAL and Planned Parenthood, organizations that believe in unlimited, unrestricted access to abortion, an issue on which Americans are still at best divided--two of these have earned themselves a critique in the following paragraphs.

Let us begin with Julian Castro. Castro is the young Hispanic mayor of San Antonio. As such, he is, quite plainly, the Democratic answer to conservative superstar Marco Rubio, Florida's junior senator. But he is a bit more than that, in our reckoning. Near the end of The Truman Show, after Jim Carrey's simulated reality-trapped protagonist has broken up with the wife the producers of his life-cum-television-show have foisted upon him, he meets a new, attractive woman whom the same producers expect him simply to accept as his new spouse. This is Julian Castro, more or less--no matter what happens to Obama this November, Mr. Castro is likely the next great progressive hope. He has a lot of similarities with Obama circa 2004: young, non-white, "articulate" (as Joe Biden might say), Ivy League-educated, and with little but enough political experience. Castro's speech at the DNC was, therefore, probably intended to do for his political prospects what Obama's speech at the DNC in 2004 did for his own: that is, launch them sky-high. But there is one problem with this comparison: though it is hard to believe now, as Obama has revealed himself to be nothing more than a partisan Democrat, his 2004 convention speech was full of bipartisan overtures ("there is no Red America, there is no Blue America, there is only the United States of America!"), barely mentioning then-President Bush. Castro's speech, wrapped though it was in an only-in-America immigrant backstory, was anything but bipartisan. Still, Republicans ought to be on the lookout for Castro in the future, though Marco Rubio does set him off quite nicely...

And now, let us turn our gaze to Sandra Fluke, a 31-year-old graduate of Georgetown Law School, class of 2012. As of a few months ago, Ms Fluke was not even a blip on the national radar. And she would have remained that way, had Democrats not turned her into a national figure to promote the HHS's First Amendment-defying contraception mandate, a national figure, in turn, publicly attacked by Rush Limbaugh. Rush survived the resulting controversy, as is his wont, but apparently being insulted by Rush is now all one requires to become a star in today's Democratic Party. At least, that's what Sandra Fluke has been in the months since, having campaigned with the President before speaking the DNC. What is the message Ms Fluke promotes with her newfound fame, you ask? It is this: she wants Georgetown--once a proudly Catholic institution that now barely qualifies as such--to abandon whatever remains of its moral principles so as to pay for her birth control medication. This message is a completely logical outgrowth of a group called "Students for Reproductive Justice" of which Fluke was a member at Georgetown. It is also an affront to Catholicism, the First Amendment, sexual morality, personal responsibility, and limited government, and the idea of adulthood as the West has understood it for centuries--Mozart died at the age of 35, for example--among many other things. And yet there she was, speaking at the DNC, her fame derived almost entirely from siding with the Obama administration in deliberately discriminating against Catholic institutions and organizations. She is today's Democratic Party.

And yet there is even better representative of modern Democrats: Julia. You may have heard of her. A few months ago, when metaphorical armies were fighting the metaphorical "War on Women" with lots of metaphors, the Obama administration campaign published a slideshow on its website called "Life of Julia." It purported to show how the policies of President Obama shaped the life of a faceless, anonymous woman ("Julia") from birth, through childhood, through parenting a child conceived without a father, all the way to a peaceful retirement enabled by Social Security and Medicare. Conservatives immediately mocked the slideshow as ideologically inane propaganda--which it is--but, despite the mockery, the Obama campaign never removed the slideshow from its website. And recent statements by Obama ("you didn't build that!") and affiliated Democrats ("government is the only thing we all belong to") have shown why: Democrats believe firmly in the primacy of the state--above the individual, above the family, above the community. Allow National Review's Yuval Levin to explain:
This difference of opinion about mediating institutions is no trifling matter. It gets at a profound and fundamental difference between the Left and the Right. The Left tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it enables the application of technical knowledge that can make our lives better, and that this knowledge can overcome our biggest problems. This is the technocratic promise of progressivism. The Right tends to believe that the great advantage of our liberal society is that it has evolved to channel deep social knowledge through free institutions — knowledge that often cannot be articulated in technical terms but is the most important knowledge we have. For the Left, therefore, the mediating institutions (and at times even our constitutional forms) are obstacles to the application of liberal knowledge. For the Right, the mediating institutions (and our constitutional forms) are the embodiment of liberal knowledge.
The Left’s disdain for civil society is thus driven above all not by a desire to empower the state without limit, but by a deeply held concern that the mediating institutions in society — emphatically including the family, the church, and private enterprise — are instruments of prejudice, selfishness, backwardness, and resistance to change, and that in order to establish our national life on more rational grounds, the government needs to weaken and counteract them. The Right’s high regard for civil society, meanwhile, is driven above all not by a disdain for government but by a deeply held belief in the importance of our diverse and evolved societal forms, without which we could not hope to secure our liberty. Conservatives seek mechanisms and institutions to bring implicit social knowledge to bear on our troubles, while progressives seek the authority and power to bring explicit technical knowledge to bear on them.
Today's Democratic Party, in short, wants to "hollow out" the space between the individual and the state, or at least to co-opt the things--family, community, religion--that stand in between. It is the Party of Julia.

Let us close with a quick look at this article from the satirical newspaper "The Onion":
My fellow Americans and godless infidels, I command you to join me as we cast an endless pall of far-left evil across the hills and valleys of our nation!” Obama bellowed from the stage, as thousands in attendance moaned in compliance and gyrated their hips and groins in a lascivious dance. “Together, as a barbarian people forged by the wicked flames of irreligiosity and united by visions of a liberal dystopia, we will rise up as one to scorch the earth with boundless amorality.”
"The Onion" can be pretty funny sometimes, but it can also lean liberal in its political perspective. I don't have problem with that choice, but the publication, having made it, opens itself up to ideological criticism. The point of the article was, if I understand it correctly, to satirize the prudishness that caused Democrats to reinsert the references to God and to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel that they had removed since 2008. "The Onion" likes to engage in hyperbole to make political criticism seem inane; a past article implicitly mocked Republicans' distrust of Mitt Romney for implementing a universal health insurance scheme in Massachusetts because it seemed on the surface to be such an undeniably benevolent act. This article goes on to have Obama sacrifice infants on the DNC's stage, force all heterosexual Americans to engage in homosexual acts, and other agenda items from the scariest nightmares of conservative evangelical Christians.

But if one looks past the rank hyperbole and obvious satire, how much of the article is truly an exaggeration? The Democratic Party may not have slaughtered infants at its convention, but it did invite the leaders of NARAL and Planned Parenthood (the latter with racist roots), both organizations that support an abortion status quo that has prevented the existence of over 40 million people since 1973. Democrats may not want to kill Christians, but Obama's Department of Health and Services continues to discriminate actively against the Catholic Church by forcing many of its affiliated institutions and organizations to provide "free" birth control against the Church's own moral teachings. Democrats may not want to force every American to engage in homosexual acts, but they do support nationwide legalization of gay marriage while the issue still divides the country in polls, and while only a handful of states have legalized it of their own accord (not through the imprimatur of a judge). Democrats may not worship Satan, but "government is the only thing" they all belong to, and Obama's 2008 campaign was full of pseudo-religious iconography. Obama, of course, is not Satan, or the anti-Christ, or the 12th Imam, or anything like that, but contemporary liberalism does have a history of "immanentizing the eschaton." I may have missed the point of the article (unless it was actually meant to highlight these interesting truths); it seems to hold a lot more truth than some of its liberal readers would like to think. And that is an even scarier possibility.

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