Berwyn, PA. I woke this morning, prepared to write a point-by-point assessment of yesterday’s election, though I was not looking forward to the job, since one must say this morning the same things that were said here at FPR more than three years ago: a Republican or a Democratic victory, one no less than the other, is epiphenomenal in comparison with the real work of rebuilding the tattered net of small, placed communities that is the proper terrain of politics. A Romney victory might have made the U.S. administrative state somewhat less antagonistic toward Christians and might have set back the agenda of sexual libertine clientalism that has become the “new normal” of American liberalism. But it is hard to despair now, when the best hope one had only the day before was the continuation of benign neglect in a few key areas of social life.
Rather than despair, or not despair, I shall simply make readers aware of two essays. First, the estimable Bruce Frohnen’s piece headlining Crisis Magazine today. Frohnen’s critical assessment of Romney is well said, though, I suspect, a touch hyperbolic, but his central insights ring true and, like a bell, are a summons to all of us to pick up the work of true politics where we left it yesterday evening:
And here is my point: none of this is a reason for despair. Indeed, knowledge of the dead-end that politics so obviously has become should be liberating for conservatives. It is far beyond time for conservative Americans—and Christians in particular—to put aside the distractions of mass politics for the tactile realities involved in building a decent life. We still need to vote and otherwise get involved, of course, but we need to remember what we are doing: hoping to prevent or mitigate the damage being done to us, not “taking back” a state apparatus that has long been used to reshape our society in unwholesome ways. We must come to recognize that the federal government, to its very core, has become hostile to our very way of life, not a violent oppressor, but nonetheless our adversary as we seek to raise our children, educating them in our faith, our morals, and our traditions. We must build neighborhoods, parishes and other religious and secular communities in which spiritual, intellectual and fundamentally moral lives are possible.
I was more hopeful than Frohnen that some good might come of a Romney-Ryan administration, and so, second, it is perhaps worth my sharing this essay of my own, which ran in Crisis last week. It provides a Catholic localist account of Church teaching and its consonance with Paul Ryan’s proposals. You may read “Liberal Catholic Critics of Paul Ryan Misread Catholic Social Thought” here: an essay that I hope has more than passing relevance for those who wish to reimagine political life in terms of subsidiarity.