I’m looking forward to seeing Andrew Sullivan at the annual March for Life in a couple weeks. And Rachel Maddow. And Paul Krugman. And Keith Olbermann.
After all, these are people who, in the wake of the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, are deeply, piously concerned with the correlation between language and violence. And there is no greater example of that correlation than the case of abortion. It’s probably more likely that their new calls for civility will mean that the pro-death left will make further attempts to corrupt the language to stop people from telling the truth about abortion.
The main difference between the most heated political rhetoric and the defense of abortion is that a lot of the rage on both the left and the right misses the truth through hyperbole, whereas pro-abortion rhetoric abuses reality through evasive, understated euphemism and medical terminology. But both are forms of violence to the truth. And fealty to the truth is what people in a constitutional republic based on God-given rights should care about. It’s the only thing that will secure our freedom.
The most compelling book I read last year was Richard Reinsch’s “Whittaker Chambers: The Spirit of a Counterrevolutionary.” In Reinsch’s assessment of Chambers, the great journalist and communist defector, Reinsch makes two points that to me get to the heart of our current political crisis — and the anger that comes with it. The first: FDR and the New Deal did not bring socialism to America. The second: most liberals are not communists, yet the atheistic utopianism at the core of liberalism makes it difficult to mark where it ends and socialist utopianism begins. Both these points are at the heart of today’s rhetorical hysteria.
“When I aimed at communism, I also hit something else,” Whittaker Chambers wrote in his great book “Witness.” “What I hit was the forces of that great socialist revolution, which, in the name of liberalism, spasmodically, incompletely, somewhat formlessly, but always in the same direction, has been inching its ice cap over the nation for two decades.” This could be a Tea Party Ur-text. But as Reinsch notes — even while acknowledging that there were indeed communists in the US government and Alger Hiss was guilty — most of FDR’s changes didn’t amount to that much. Most of the early legislation was rejected by the Supreme Court, and later moves, like “the switch in time that saved nine,” resulted in things like the expansion of the Commerce Clause. Reinsch: “[FDR’s] political vision is obviously not the Founders’ Constitution, and these developments placed important milestones toward an expansive federal government, eliminating inlaid, constitutional limits to power. Nevertheless, a revolution did not occur.”
Today, there still exists a gap between some anti-Obama rhetoric and the reality of some of what the president is trying to accomplish. He is indeed a socialist, but it is socialism lite, the kind that goes on in Europe. He’s more of a bureaucratic tinkerer than a Stalin. He’s wants universal health care, which is a great thing if it’s accomplished the right way — i.e. through consumer choice and free markets (the Republicans are already trying to make this happen). Most of his other proposals are not even noteworthy — it’s Clinton lite, which itself was FDR lite. More gays in the military most likely will just mean a better military. (Not to go all Rachel Maddow, but the stereotype that there are no powerful and athletic homosexuals who would be valuable in combat is not only silly, it’s detached from reality.) And bringing up Obama’s birth certificate is just goofy.
There is, however, one area in which Obama is a revolutionary — abortion. And I’m sorry, but saying that this man is complicit in the murder of millions and the culture of death is not over the top — indeed, unlike the shooter Jared Lee Loughner, he doesn’t have the excuse of mental illness. The revolution Whittaker Chambers claimed happened did in fact occur, but it happened long after FDR was gone. The revolution came in 1973, when the cases Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton made it possible for one human being to murder another simply based on age. This is one area where the rhetoric has not been strong enough. There is an entire book, William Brennan’s “Confronting the Language Empowering the Culture of Death,” that itemizes the terrible euphemisms the abortion industry uses for murder: “interrupting a pregnancy,” “fetus,” “women’s health decisions,” etc. Brennan notes that the Nazis used medical language to justify the Holocaust.
This is a genocide that does in fact deserve elevated rhetoric. It’s also where the second point that Richard Reinsch makes about Whittaker Chambers is useful. Because the philosophy of liberalism tends to be atheistic, it finds it very difficult to explain suffering or accept limits. Thus the emphasis, in everything from the very word “progressive” to those MSNBC ads about “evolving” and “leaning forward” (the ad that strike “endowed by their creator” from the recitation of the Declaration of Independence), on the idea that in the name of progress absolutely anything is permissible — and that it is morally justifiable to eliminate anything that stands in the way of your happiness, including a child. Those who call for limits and resist the new god of progress become pariahs. Reinsch’s description of the fate of resisters to communism sounds like those today who call for an end to the abortion slaughter (or who resist gay marriage): “Those rejecting the redirection of ‘man’s destiny’ were to become subject to the most uncompromising judgments and fates. They were handed death and imprisonment by new gods –totalitarian regimes — who claimed to understand the intricate movement of history and the precise import these events had for the future. To resist the metaphysical regime on whose behalf history was now laboring amounted to a refusal to join the new community of man. One thereby became less human, choosing against the new criterion of human excellence.”
To be fair and honest, and in the new spirit of self-examination that has come in the aftermath of the Giffords shooting, it can be noted that there is also something of a utopian streak on the right — indeed Chambers warned about it. Intelligent conservatives know that we are mortal creatures that God does not intend to live forever (at least in these bodies), and that life involves limits. But there is also a strain of progressive conservatism that seems to think that if we just expand markets enough, and build enough suburbs and cars and highways, we can have heaven on earth. But that kind of thinking just results in bafflement when the market tanks — and a lot of pollution. It doesn’t result in dead bodies.
So, by all means, let’s use our God-given reason and tone it down where we should. Obama was born in America. The final health care bill will not be socialism. Immigrants are not hurting America as much as some people think.
But 50 million deaths since 1973? If that doesn’t make you want to scream, then you’re already dead.
See you at the rally, Andrew.
Mark Judge is the author of A Tremor of Bliss: Sex, Catholicism, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.