A Thumb in Leviathan’s Eye

Pundits are still analyzing the outcome of last night’s elections, and it will take months to figure out what Americans’ votes will mean in terms of policy. Myself, I’m actually relieved that Republicans didn’t win both houses of Congress; since the economy (corrupted by bad investments encouraged by cheap money from the Fed) isn’t likely to magically revive in the next two years, a solidly Republican Congress would have made an easy scapegoat for President Barack Obama to flog right up to the next presidential race.

Still, the election of more pro-life members to both the House and the Senate will help us to stymie further anti-life initiatives on the part of the most pro-abortion president in history. Of course, the fundamental issue — that the “right” to abortion is now anchored in the “liberty” clause of the 14th Amendment — has been frozen in amber by the courts, and it will remain there until we elect a pro-life president and pro-life Senate that will confirm his reliable nominees to the Supreme Court. We shouldn’t hold our breath.

Open-borders Catholics will mourn the fact that this election yielded gains for immigration reformers who wish to tighten border security and force employers to verify whether the workers they are hiring have the right to work in our country. It’s certain now that no immigration amnesty will be passed in the next two years; what remains to be seen is whether serious border security and workplace enforcement can be secured against the will of a hostile president, and order restored to the increasingly lawless border regions of our country. Perhaps, once the border really has been secured and the numbers of legal migrants reduced so they don’t drive down the wages of our homegrown poor and undereducated, conservatives will consider a “path to citizenship” for illegal aliens who have long lived in America. But since that’s a huge concession, a massive and unpopular reward for illegal activity, reformers won’t trade away this trump card for anything short of real and permanent border security and workplace enforcement. This week’s election gives us some hope we might be able to make a fair compromise down the road.

Leftists are running scared that three significant races have been won by conservative “minority” candidates: In the founding state of the Confederacy, South Carolina, Tim Scott won a House seat, making him the first black Republican congressman elected there since Reconstruction; in the same state, Indian-American Nikki Haley was elected governor; and in Florida, Hispanic conservative Marco Rubio was elected to the Senate. Indeed, according to our friends at National Public Radio, national Democrats were so worried at the prospect of Rubio’s possible future as a vice-presidential candidate that former President Bill Clinton tried to strong-arm black Democrat Kendrick Meek out of the race — hoping to throw it to ex-Republican incumbent Charlie Crist. These wins, and others like them, will help conservatives fight off the false charge that the Republican Party solely represents white male corporate executives and angry “rednecks” polishing their firearms inside their double-wide trailers. Indeed, The New York Times worried on election night at the trend of independents and women (!) voting for more conservative candidates.

The very overreach of President Obama’s aspirations has broadened the base of his opposition; most Americans, increasingly of every color, bristle at the idea of remaking America along the failed lines of European social democracy. It certainly hasn’t helped the cause of Europhile, big-government advocates that (35-working-hours-per-week) Frenchmen have been throwing a national tantrum at the prospect of their retirement age being jacked up all the way to . . . 62. Great Britain, the mother of Fabian socialism, is being forced to slash its public sector to stave off national bankruptcy, and governments are panicking at deficits all across Europe. Is this really the time to be building a national health-care bureaucracy? Sounds to me like snagging a stand-by seat aboard the Hindenburg.

More important is the victory of Rand Paul in Kentucky, because this newly elected U.S. senator represents a strain of principled politics such as Republicans haven’t seen since Ronald Reagan — who ran as a vigorous opponent of Communism abroad and high-tax, bureaucratic overreach at home. Who would have thought, in the dark days of the 2008 campaign when “conservative” commentators were openly snickering during Rep. Ron Paul’s answers in presidential debates, that Paul’s son and intellectual heir would be the face of the Republican sweep in 2010? Throughout the Bush administration, Karl Rove was funneling GOP money to squelch the primary candidacies of real (Tea Party-style) conservatives; who’d have thunk that, just a few years later, Rove would be trying to clamber onto their bandwagon? Let’s hope that no one is fooled.


As Catholics living in secular America — and not in some benevolent, pro-clerical Catholic monarchy, or a de facto Catholic state like De Valera’s Ireland — we should recognize what our Church and our families need from the government: to be left alone. By its very nature, by virtue of our country’s Constitution, national government in America is secular. In the past, when Protestant culture and faith were stronger, this secularism was heavily tinged with the old certitudes that were common to Christendom. You didn’t need a confessional Catholic or Protestant state to forbid gay “marriage” or adoption, to protect unborn lives, or keep prurient sex education out of public school kindergartens. Government charity, even as set up as part of FDR’s New Deal, was designed to help keep families intact — not to underwrite and perpetuate fatherless households.

None of this is true anymore. As the logic of secularism has advanced through the courts, all the residues of the old pan-Christian consensus, and indeed of natural law, have been erased. Now the State recognizes no intermediate associations of any kind; the individual asserts his “rights,” which he holds in stark isolation, at the sufferance of government, with no institutions to back his claim. The State protects the “right” of minor girls to abort their children and of spouses to break their marriage contracts on a whim. (Imagine if we could repudiate credit card debts that easily — that shows you what our society holds sacred.) The social pathology that results from the atomization of the family creates the very problems that big government generously steps in to “solve,” and the process repeats itself — grinding down every institution that is not directly subsidized and controlled by the State. Or do you think it’s an accident that Catholic hospitals and schools are going bankrupt, even as the secular government expands?

While the Church might, in other contexts, support the State’s providing education and even health care — I could imagine this in Habsburg Austria, the Philippines, or maybe Malta — in secular America, the State will follow the dictates of its governing ideology: Utilitarianism, the promise of the greatest amount of pleasure for the greatest number of voters. There is zero prospect of bending the State to our will, of restoring to our public institutions the ancient Christian certitudes. Even in deeply conservative communities, the will of localities will always be tortured by the courts to accord with the legal philosophy that dominates New England law schools and New York law firms; hence, school prayer enacted in Alabama will always be struck down in Washington, and so on. Atomize, homogenize — then tyrannize. That’s the cultural program of the Left throughout the West.

The only hope for Christians of any sort — and Catholics in particular — to carry on our mission of evangelization and social charity is to shrink the secular State. We must claw back the taxes that make it so hard to afford to raise a decent-sized family, to pay for Catholic schooling, to support works of charity that are not value-neutral but truly Christian. We must push back, hard, against the ever-expanding, Utilitarian Leviathan. We do so not because we are secret Randians, who shrug off any moral obligation toward the weak — but rather because we see the family as the basic unit of society, churches and families as the primary educators of children, and the godless modern State as a monster that must be killed.


John Zmirak is the author, most recently, of The Bad Catholic's Guide to the Seven Deadly Sins (Crossroad). He served from October 2011 to February 2012 as editor of Crisis.

Join the conversation in our Telegram Chat! You can also find us on Facebook, MeWe, Twitter, and Gab.