At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Why Romney Will Win

posted by Jack Kerwick

The contest between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for the presidency will end with a decisive, and possibly even a landslide, victory for Romney in November.

Polling data that hasn’t even come close to supporting this contention of mine is of no relevance.

Outside of political junkies, the rest of the electorate doesn’t begin paying attention to election races until after Labor Day.

Furthermore, Obama has heretofore outspent Romney vis-à-vis (intensely negative) campaign ads—in spite of the fact that Romney has by far and away outraised Obama in campaign donations.  Campaign finance laws preventing Romney from spending any of the monies that he has raised for the general election until after he formally becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee conspire to conceal this fact.  However, after the GOP convention in Tampa at the end of this month, Romney’s funds will be unleashed. 

In other words, Obama hasn’t really even gotten hit—yet.

These considerations aside, polling phenomenon depicting a razor sharp race or, more incredibly, an Obama lead, is irrelevant simply and solely because it contradicts a few basic facts that partisans of all stripes must concede.

The first of such facts is that Obama is no longer an unknown candidate.  He now has a record—a record of which everyone is painfully aware. So, even the most naïve, even the most ignorant of voters, will not fall for the same rhetoric of “hope and change” that Obama endlessly sprouted four years ago and that succeeded in mesmerizing legions of unsuspecting Americans who ecstatically consumed the notion that he was a “new” type of politician. 

That Obama himself knows this accounts for why he no longer even attempts to speak along these lines.

Secondly, the President’s approval rating has plummeted since the fall of 2008.  But it isn’t just that Obama’s numbers have fallen further and more rapidly than that of any other president.   

A much touted Pew Research Center poll from earlier in the month supports what every poll reader now knows: Obama’s favorability rating is actually below average for a presidential candidate at this time in an election season.  It states that Obama’s “current favorability ratings compare poorly with the final pre-election ratings for previous Democratic candidates.”  The poll adds: “Not since Michael Dukakis in 1988 has a Democratic candidate gone into the election with favorability ratings as low as Obama’s are today.”  

In short, Obama is not well liked.

Thirdly, it stretches credibility to the snapping point to think that everyone who voted for Obama in 2008 will vote for him this time around.

Not even close.

Blacks will vote for him, certainly, but even within this demographic, his support is not likely to be quite as high as it was four years ago.

For one, the hope shared by far too many blacks that the election of the first black president would usher in a golden age of a sort for black Americans is now exposed for the patent absurdity that it has always been.  Unemployment rates are high overall, but they have skyrocketed among blacks, and black youth in particular. 

More importantly, though, Obama’s endorsement of homosexual “marriage” promises to cost him some support among blacks—a likelihood that no less a figure than Louis Farrakhan foreshadows. 

At the end of May, at the California Convention Center in San Diego, the Nation of Islam head—a close friend of Obama’s former pastor of twenty plus years, Jeremiah Wright, and one time Obama backer—addressed an audience and noted in disgust that our 44th president is the first occupant of the White House to sanction this practice.  Obama, Farrakhan said, is the first American president who has “sanctioned what the Scriptures forbid.”

In addition to Farrakhan, there is also the Coalition of African-American Pastors. Its members once endorsed Obama.  Now, they have publically repudiated him for taking this position.

Bill Owens asserted: “We were once proud of you, but our pride has turned to shame that you, the man holding the most powerful position in the world, would stoop to leading the country down an immoral path.”  Quinn Chapel AME’s Luke Robinson added: “His support for this un-biblical behavior will destroy even more folks in our already decaying and broken society.” Robinson declared: “His pronouncement is in fact a direct attack on the God of the bible and the Christian faith.”

But even if, from some sense of blind racial loyalty, blacks do vote for him in the same numbers as they voted for Obama in 2008, there are other groups that most certainly will not.

Take Roman Catholics, as a prime example. 

Although the media has done a splendid job of diverting the public’s attention from it, the Catholic Church has been besieged by the Obama administration.  The Affordable Health Care Act—“Obamacare”—is an unprecedented attack against both religious liberty and freedom of conscience.  Catholic clerics around the country have alerted their congregants to this. 

Catholics will not be voting for Obama in anything like their numbers in 2008.

Independents constitute another group that threw its weight behind Obama in the last election.  Precisely because, as with everyone else, independents now have a track record with which to gauge Obama, there is no way that he will garner nearly as much support among them in November.

Fourth, 2008 marked the end of George W. Bush’s second term.  As evidenced by voters’ readiness to cashier congressional Republicans in the mid-terms of ’06 and Bush’s 30% approval rating two years later, the country had GOP fatigue.

Matters are otherwise now.

The economy has gone from bad to worse during the course of Obama’s first term. And it is the economy that is voters’ top priority. Even in those polls that show Obama leading Romney, the latter consistently ranks higher in voter confidence when it comes to this most crucial of issues.

Small business owners and young adults who owe tens of thousands in student loan debt but who can’t find a job know about Obama’s abysmal handling of the economy better than anyone.

They also aren’t bound to be suckered by him again.

Fifth, when we consider that Republicans are more enthused now than they had been in a long time, Romney promises to elicit every bit as much and significantly more support than John McCain received in ’08.  From the rise of the Tea Party to the Republican tsunami of the 2010 midterm elections and the recent explosion of support for Chick-fil-A, there is no conceivable reason to deny this.

There is one final consideration that portends a sweeping Romney victory.

Congressman and former presidential contender Ron Paul has a significant and devoted following of young voters.  Their passion is second to none.  Doubtless, some of them will refuse to vote for either Romney or Obama.  But there is reason to suspect that some of them will.

Paul and Romney never showed any signs of having a strained relationship, and even though Paul hasn’t as of yet endorsed the latter, neither has he endorsed anyone else, like he did in 2008. 

Nor do I think it is likely that he will.

Ron’s son Rand, Kentucky Senator and a rising star in the Tea Party, has endorsed Romney.  Paul Sr. is retiring.  Junior is not, and the father doesn’t want to make unnecessary waves for the son.  Moreover,Rand has been allotted a speaking platform at the GOP Convention—a turn of events that can only help Romney among young Paul supporters.

Barring any unexpected revelations to the effect that Romney is a killer or a closet enslaver (Obama’s and Joe Biden’s attempts to convince us of this have thus far failed), it looks like it’s going be a clean Romney victory in November.

originally published at The New American

Why the Massachusetts Liberal Must Win

posted by Jack Kerwick

Newt Gingrich was mistaken when he referred to Mitt Romney as “a Massachusetts moderate.”  The author of “Romneycare” is a Massachusetts liberal.

Regularly, I hear from my fellow Ron Paul supporters (as well as many others) that Romney and Obama, Republican and Democrat, are for all practical purposes indistinguishable.  These same people inform me that under no conceivable circumstances will they ever again vote for “the lesser of two evils.”

While the impulse underwriting these sentiments is understandable enough, it nevertheless reflects a refusal to recognize that this isn’t the next “American idol” for which we are about vote in November. 

To put it bluntly: anyone who is interested in arresting “the fundamental transformation” of America that President Obama set in motion four years ago has no other real option but to vote for the liberal from Massachusetts.

The objection, launched not just by Paul supporters, but some others on the right, that this election is a wash because the difference between Romney and Obama is one without a distinction is easily met.

First of all, it simply isn’t true to say that there is no difference between the two candidates: a liberal Republican is not a hard leftist like Obama.

Secondly, let’s just suppose for argument’s sake that this is true, that the policies of Obama are interchangeable with those of Romney.

From the perspective of those of us who share none of Obama’s enthusiasm to fundamentally transform our country, Romney would still be preferable to Obama.

There is one crucial reason for this that, to my knowledge, no one has touched upon:

No country lives by policy alone.

Invariably, those on the right who equate Romney with Obama do so by concentrating exclusively on the policy prescriptions of the two candidates.  This approach, though, is as narrow in focus as it is politically immature.

Above all else, Americans at least claim to value liberty. But the liberty to which we have grown attached isn’t some abstract universal concept.  It is a concrete, particular way of life that is determined at least as much by extra-political or cultural considerations as the legislation—the policies—for which politicians advocate.

What this means is that things being what they are, our liberty is threatened as much by the environment that allows Barack Obama to advance his leftist agenda as by his leftist agenda itself.

It is an axiom to the lover of liberty that the greater the concentration of power, the greater the threat to the object of his affections. Now, the President of the United States of America is among the most powerful people on the planet.  As such, he must be vulnerable to every conceivable kind of criticism, whether fair or entirely baseless.

However, because Obama is widely heralded as our “first black” president, a “world-historical” figure of sorts, he has been inoculated to a significant extent from the same type of treatment to which past presidents have been subjected.

To put it starkly, because Obama is the first black president, legions of mostly white Americans are reluctant to express their true feelings about him for fear of being considered a “racist.”  And those Americans, from Republican politicians to working class folk, who are openly critical of the President almost always take exceptional care to speak only to his policies, or to reassure us that, as a person, they find Obama to be just dandy.       

Yet it isn’t just that Obama is black. A black conservative or Republican would have a much tougher go at the presidency than Obama could ever dream of having. 

What is far more relevant is that Obama is a black leftist, a black Democrat.

This is more relevant because, sadly, the vast majority of those who have traditionally served the invaluable social function of checking abuses of power—the media, popular artists (like comedians and actors), and academics—share Obama’s ideology. 

But this isn’t the only incentive that they have to aid and abet his program to fundamentally transform America.  Obama’s readiness to play the race card has succeeded in rendering “the watchdogs” no less fearful than the majority of their compatriots of being charged with the “r” word.

If, though, Romney is elected, his standing as the Republican Party’s titular head alone will suffice to relieve the press and others of the fears that currently inhibit full throated objections to Obama.  

Again, the President of the United States must be vulnerable to all sorts of criticisms, from the most intelligent in nature to the most satirical and unjust. 

Furthermore, the conservative base of his party will be sure to forever keep the pressure upon Romney to at least think twice about indulging whatever liberal proclivities happen to possess him at any given moment.  In contrast, Obama’s left-wing constituents, coupled with the fact that he will never again face another election, make it all too easy for him to plow full steam ahead with his robust socialist agenda.

So, even if Romney wanted to do exactly what Obama wants to do, it would still make better sense for right-leaning dissidents to vote for Romney.  

In other words, the lover of liberty who wants to halt the fundamental transformation of his beloved homeland must see to it that the Massachusetts liberal wins.

The Myth of the Democratic Ideal: Revisiting J. Schumpeter

posted by Jack Kerwick

The government, every one who has ever lived under a modern democratic government knows all too well, “works” for the citizen.  Citizens delegate authority to their elected representatives on the condition that such representatives will do just what “the people” want.

This, at any rate, is the ideal of democracy. 

It is an ideal that reached its apex during the eighteenth century, and that hasn’t shown any signs of abating since.

It is also an ideal that the twentieth century conservative theorist Joseph A. Schumpeter decidedly debunked long ago.  

Schumpeter was born and raised in what is now the Czech Republic in 1883.  In 1906, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Vienna, where he studied law. In 1909, Schumpeter acquired a post at the University of Czernowitz where he was a professor of government and economics. Twenty-three years later, he left forAmerica, where he would began his teaching assignment at Harvard University. Throughout his life, Schumpeter would write extensively on politics, economics, and sociology.

Schumpeter explains that the theory of democracy ascribes “to the will of the individual an independence and a rational quality that are altogether unrealistic” (emphasis original).  In reality, the citizen’s “will” is nothing more “than an indeterminate bundle of vague impulses loosely playing about given slogans and mistaken impressions.” 

If, as is assumed, “the will of the citizen per se is a political factor entitled to respect,” then this would mean that “everyone would have to know definitely what he wants to stand for.”  This, in turn, would mean that each person would have to possess “the ability to observe and interpret correctly the facts that are directly accessible to everyone and to sift critically the information about the facts that are not.” 

If the will of each person is, as the theory of democracy supposes, a determinate thing, then from its union with the facts that it ascertains each person, “according to the rules of logical inference,” should be able to render “a clear and prompt conclusion as to particular issues,” verdicts possessing such “a high degree of general efficiency” that “one man’s opinion could be held…to be roughly as good as every other man’s.”

Schumpeter adds that all of this would have to occur “independently of pressure groups and propaganda, for volitions and inferences that are imposed upon the electorate obviously do not qualify for ultimate data of the democratic process.”

However, this idea of the individual voter as a rational machine carefully attending to his wants and needs and acting accordingly is, like so much else that came out of the eighteenth century, a fiction.

Schumpeter notes that “even in the most ordinary currents of daily life,” our “wants are nothing like as definite” and our “actions upon those wants…nothing like as rational and prompt” as theorists have imagined. 

Take the consumer-producer relationship.  Schumpeter tells us—what we already know—that consumers “are so amenable to the influence of advertising and other methods of persuasion that producers often seem to dictate to them instead of being directed by them.”  With its commercial advertising, this relationship is particularly informative when considering the relationship between the voter and his elected representative. 

The best advertising “indeed nearly always involves some appeal to reason.”  However, “mere assertion, often repeated, counts more than rational argument [.]”  Moreover, “the direct attack upon the subconscious which takes the form of attempts to evoke and crystallize pleasant associations of an entirely extra-rational” character is also far more formidable than any appeal to the sheer intellect could hope to be (emphasis added).

The voter’s will “is largely not a genuine but a manufactured will.”  It is a creation or product of the political process—not its impetus.   

Schumpeter remarks:

“The ways in which issues and the popular will on any issue are being manufactured is exactly analogous to the ways of commercial advertising. We find the same attempts to contact the subconscious.  We find the same technique of creating favorable and unfavorable associations which are the more effective the less rational they are. We find the same evasions and reticences and the same trick of producing opinion by reiterated assertion that is successful precisely to the extent to which it avoids rational argument and the danger of awakening the critical faculties of the people.”

Schumpeter never denies that, in some areas of life, individuals can and do act rationally.  Still, “when we move…farther away from the private concerns of the family and the business office” toward the realms of national and international politics, “individual volition, command of facts and method of inference” begin to fade. 

To put it more bluntly, “the typical citizen drops down to a lower level of mental performance as soon as he enters the political field.”  Schumpeter elaborates:

“He [the typical citizen] argues and analyzes in a way which he would readily recognize as infantile within the sphere of his real interests. He becomes a primitive again. His thinking becomes associative and affective.” 

To anyone who would deny Schumpeter’s critique of the classical doctrine of democracy, Schumpeter poses a challenge:

“The reader who thinks me unduly pessimistic need only ask himself whether he has never heard—or said himself—that this or that awkward fact must not be told publicly, or that a certain line of reasoning, though valid, is undesirable.”

Schumpeter was no foe of democracy, it is important to grasp. This should be clear when we read the words with which he ends his critical appraisal of “the classical doctrine,” as he describes the object of his critique:

“More than anyone else the lover of democracy has ever reason to accept” that the ideal is flawed “and to clear his creed from the aspersion that it rests upon make-believe.”

As we enter into the final days of but another election cycle and find ourselves on the receiving end of a dizzying array of polls informing us of what we want, we should recall the wisdom of Joseph Schumpeter.


In Defense of Superman: Learning Virtue throught Popular Fiction

posted by Jack Kerwick

For centuries and millennia, the inhabitants of the Western world have recognized the indispensable role that stories play in shaping moral character. 

Human beings are born neither virtuous nor vicious, as Aristotle correctly noted.  Rather, both excellence and vice are habits that we acquire by way of imitating others—whether these others are flesh-and-blood beings or works of fiction.

The superhero comic or—as it is more commonly, and accurately, called today, “the graphic novel”—is especially illustrative in this regard.  

Today, untold numbers of people from across the country (and the world) forgo all to pack themselves into movie theaters to enjoy cinematic adaptations of these graphic novels. Unfortunately, though, relatively few people look beyond the action and the glitzy special effects to discern the provocative moral insights supplied by the films’ protagonists. 

Let’s take Superman. 

The Man of Steel is the prototypical superhero, the Babe Ruth of superheroes, as it were. Yet not infrequently, and especially as of late, commentators of one sort or other have demeaned this perennial symbol of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way,” comparing him unfavorably with, say, Batman. 

Batman, as anyone who is at all familiar with DC Comics lore knows, has no super powers, and yet he tirelessly wages war against all manner of evil doers.  This, the Superman detractors contend, renders him more admirable than the god-like Man of Steel who is virtually invulnerable.

To look at Superman and see only an immovable object whose campaign to rid the world of evil must be easy and, thus, less than fully admirable, is like looking at the Grand Canyon and seeing only a big hole in the Earth.   

Far from detracting from his goodness, that Superman possesses enormous power actually accentuates it. 

The historical record is a depressing one on this score, but it is abundantly clear: the greater the power that is concentrated in the hands of a person or group, the greater the danger they pose to others.  Lord Acton famously summarized this point when he said that, “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”

Superman, though, in spite of having at his disposal far more power than the Earthlings among who he lives, chooses to use that power to serve, not his own selfish interests, but the well being of others—meaning the entire population of the planet.  His gifts—his awesome strength; his heat, x-ray, telescopic, and microscopic modes of vision; his “super” hearing; his ability to move at the speed of light; his “super” cool breath; and, of course, his ability to fly—he employs inexhaustibly to save strangers.

Like Jesus Christ, with whom he has been long compared, Superman voluntarily assumes to himself the incredible, and incredibly selfless, responsibility of serving as a beacon of hope, justice, and goodness to the world.  Both Christ and Superman could have deployed the enormity of their resources toward the same end—self-aggrandizement—upon which the powerful have been preoccupied from time immemorial.

Yet they refused to do so, instead ordering their very lives as a standing rebuke to oppressors the world over.

What this means, however, is that if Superman is insufficiently heroic or admirable because he is like a god, then Jesus—who Christendom affirms is none other than God—should resonate even less with us.

It will do no good to object that Christian theology also recognizes that Jesus is fully man.  Superman too is fully a man (even if he isn’t an Earthling by birth). 

Interestingly, there are Christians who seek to re-imagine the Person of Christ by emphasizing His humanity at the cost of de-emphasizing His divinity. This tendency has been particularly acute among contemporary Biblical scholars.  Some of these scholars—like those who compose “the Jesus Seminar”—deny that Jesus was divine at all. On the other hand, there are others who concede His divinity while all the same concurring with their unbelieving colleagues that unless we opt for a “lower Christology”—a more human-centered depiction of Jesus—we will not be able to relate to Him.

That our heroes must be relatable and, thus, human, no reasonable person would dare to deny.  But what both the detractors of Superman and the proponents of “lower Christologies” fail to notice is that the objects of their critiques are that much more human because of their unimaginable powers and the purposes that they elect to serve with those powers.     

Just as the deity of Jesus compliments and enhances His humanity, so too does the awesome power of Superman and his selfless use of it distinguish him as the finest of human beings.

Contrary to their critics, in choosing to devote themselves to serving others, Jesus and Superman do indeed render themselves vulnerable.  How could things be otherwise?  After all, the readiness with which Christ and Superman surrender themselves for the good of others is a function of their boundless love, and as anyone who has ever loved knows all too well, the price of love—any love—is pain.  But the greater the love, the greater does the pain promise to be.

Superman is a fictional character.  Jesus is real.  Still, there are crucial insights that this analysis yields.

First, neither the power of Superman nor that of Jesus makes them less heroic and worthy of imitation.  Quite the contrary, given what they have chosen to do with this power, they are actually the finest specimens of humanity.

Second, though none of us can ever become Superman or Jesus, we can learn from their example and aspire to use what power we have for similarly noble purposes. 

originally published at The New American







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