People living In the United States and other so-called Western countries, are living with what may be the death throes of the brief but eventful “democratic” age. That age began in earnest when the United States was still growing in the womb. The events precipitated by the successful terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 may, in effect, denote its end—though this remains to be seen. If it is true, the electoral competitions that still formally implement the democratic idea, in the United States and elsewhere, are now the death throes of the age, the precipitating events whereby the irresistible tyranny of history works to dispel the brief delusion that, as Alexander Hamilton wrote, “societies of men are really capable… of establishing good government from reflection and choice, ….”
As it happened, the proof of this human capacity depends on definitions and postulates, (i.e., God, reason, and truth; creation, deliberation and right). In their mad worship of “History” people who have abandoned these prerequisites acknowledge no standard except “what happens,” which is to say, material results, however achieved. Because they ideologically reject its premises, such people do not distinguish electoral politics from all-out war. In that war, formal political institutions, and the people who bring them to life, have no importance except as strategic instruments or obstacles, like the rivers, forests, plains and other features of a battleground.
In this all-out war, only one thing matters—who ends up standing, at the last, in a position to control and dominate the ground. Think this through and it becomes clear that the most important (indeed, the only truly important) weapon in this political warfare involves what is called the “politics of personal destruction.” In this respect (or disrespect), political discourse has no relevant content except as it contributes to the personal destruction of the opponent. It does not target the objectionable nature of his professed goals; or the reasonably evident flaws in his plans for achieving them. It seeks to discredit the enemy; to prove that he is worthy of no preferment or respect; to portray him as contemptible vermin who must be constrained, ostracized or otherwise removed from the field.
Once politics degenerates into this kind of all-out war, the accuracy, intelligibility and truth of political speech no longer matters. The only thing that matters is its effect. Of course, that effect can vary with the sensibilities of the audience being addressed. This is what leads politicians to say one thing to one audience, and something diametrically opposed to it, to another. But with the advent of internet powered social media, the scent of pork that beguiles one audience, may quickly be wafted to another, habituated to react against it reflexively, as a loathsome stench.
As it turns out, the safer approach is name-calling, the use of epithets that inspire general aversion, while leaving it to the audience to supply the reasons for it. It is, therefore, left to others to release the appropriate stench into the air (for example, by way of some “fake” news story), timed to assure that the epithet and the smell, working in conjunction, achieve the desired repellent effect. When dealing with people who thoughtlessly embrace the risky nostrum that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” this coincidence may induce them to conclude that “we’re on the same side.”
This is especially effective with people who respond to the pricks and goads of current events, but who have neither the time nor the energy to research past events. So, after others have smeared an opponent with fish oil, one wins friends by saying that they stink like a swamp. This, despite the fact that you yourself were reveling in the same malodorous pool, not long ago. These reflections came to my mind today as I considered the spectacle of Democrats deploying the “racist” smear against Senator Jeff Sessions. The “racist” charge is, of course, the core of the arsenal they deploy in campaigns of personal destruction. In the weapons labs of their political warfare (often disguised as university courses in “black, Afro-American or African-American studies”) academicians have been hard at work to make sure that the racism charge selectively damages anyone with a white skin, but only if they have failed to keep up a record of immunizing leftist cant.
It’s ironic that people whose ideology offers no standard for judgment except “what happens,” are always eager to use racist statements as proof of guilt, no matter what actions can be placed in evidence against them. Judging by things that he said—even in the speeches he gave in opposition to slavery—it’s not hard to show that Abraham Lincoln was a racist, with prejudices like those of many slaveholders, who regarded him as their enemy. Yet his actions either produced or in consequence contributed to results (the North’s victory in the Civil War, the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution) that made the moral idea of God-endowed human equality an effective legal and political resource in the battle against racist segregation and discrimination in the 20th century.
Lincoln did not simply reject racism. In this he was in fact not so different from many leftist ideologues today. They decry Jewish nationalism (Zionism) in the Middle East, even though Israel provides full citizenship for non-Jews. Yet these same leftist ideologues applaud the national aspirations of Muslims living in, or seeking to establish, states in which non-Muslims are stigmatized, driven away and even killed outright. Under Israeli jurisdiction, Muslims are free to live and worship openly, in accordance with their creed. Meanwhile, PLO supporters insist that Jews be removed and barred from territories to which the PLO lays claim; and UN resolutions like UNSCR 2334 aim to criminalize Israeli actions that challenge this racist demand. How is it that the actively racist nationalism of the PLO is to be implement as justice, while actively egalitarian Israeli nationalism (Zionism) is to be condemned as racism, as a prelude to treating it as a crime against humanity?
In his day, the racially prejudiced Abraham Lincoln proved to be instrumental in an historic turn against racial injustice. Meanwhile, in our day, purportedly anti-racist ideologues prepare the way for the perpetration of an historic, racist atrocity—the annihilation of the Jewish state of Israel. And they do so in the context of resurgent Islamic imperialists, who evince the implacable intention to cleanse the world, by fear and terror, of every creed except their own. I am sure that liberal ideologues like John Kerry would insist that they reject the racist goals of the terror-mongering Islamic jihadists. Why then have they fallen prey to becoming useful tools in its propaganda war, not only against Israel, but against all the formally democratic non-Islamic societies?
I think the answer lies in the contrast between Lincoln’s practical statesmanship, and the “pragmatism” that characterizes most democratic (note the small “d”) politicians in countries like the United States. Lincoln’s practical statesmanship involved thinking realistically about how to do what is right. Pragmatism is an ideology predicated on the specious assertion that getting things done is right, no matter what. Lincoln’s approach points to a standard of action in light of which right actions must be justified. Pragmatism is just another way of worshipping the putative power of History. It leaves judgments of right and wrong to those left standing with sufficient power to make them stick. For the pragmatists, as “Red” Sanders said, “Winning isn’t everything. It’s the only thing.” Relying on the wisdom of America’s Founders, Lincoln would reply: “Sorry, “Red,” only God can say that, and only by God’s standard can we hope to back it up.” Which is why the “racist” Mr. Lincoln helped enslaved blacks to freedom; and why the self-idolizing political frauds of our time are busily surrendering free men and woman to a new form and creed of slavery.