Obama/Biden 50.5%. Romney/Ryan 47.9%.
It will take some time for the country to understand what happened in the election, why it happened, and the election’s implications for the future. But let us recall a few fundamentals in the wake of the victory of this extreme pro-abortion president and declared enemy of the rights of conscience and freedom of religion.
What happened? A slim majority put President Obama back into the White House. A democracy must function through some formula for “majority rule.” John Locke, grandfather of our constitution, is quite pragmatic as he states the principle of political community: it must have a “power to act as one body, which is only by the will and determination of the majority” (Second Treatise §96): “it is necessary the Body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority.” To deny majority rule, Locke says, would make “the mighty Leviathan of a shorter duration than the feeblest creature” (§98).
What happened was the lumbering of the American Leviathan; the election was a display of “force” carrying the body leftward. It was not violent, and for this we are thankful, but it is nevertheless a “force.”
In a previous article, I discussed Pope John Paul II’s warning about majoritarianism – it may provide a functional principle for democracy, but it is not an arbiter of what is good and just. The will of the majority is not automatically “wise;” indeed, often it is not. We must remember that the election is first of all a display of force, that is, the force of the majority, and brush aside the giddy self-righteousness of the victors.
The New York Times (7 November 2012) trumpets the election as an endorsement of abortion and same-sex “marriage,” among other items on the agenda of the Democratic Party. The underlying hostility towards the value of human life and the institution of marriage as the union between a man and woman is deeply troubling.
The Vatican issued a statement on the same day scoring this ominous turn in American politics. “If Obama truly wants to be the president of all Americans,” said L’Osservatore Romano (7 November 2012), “he should finally acknowledge the demands forcefully arising from religious communities — above all the Catholic Church — in favor of the natural family, life and finally religious liberty itself.” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, urged Obama to use his second term for the “promotion of the culture of life and of religious liberty.”
The rhetoric of liberation and progressive values, combined with new coercive measures, reveals the powerful ideological component of the election. I strongly recommend Aurel Kolnai’s essay “The Meaning of the Common Man,” (Privilege and Liberty, ed. Daniel Mahoney (Lexington Books, 1999)). A Hungarian refugee, a Jewish convert to the Church, Kolnai lived and taught in Canada and Great Britain. He discerned in the United States an “inherent tendency towards anti-constitutional, monistic, totalitarian types of power.” Kolnai thought that American political life would generate an insidious form of the “ideology of the common man,” which includes such ideas as the reduction of the good need satisfaction and a centralized consciousness and will to accomplish an equal satisfaction of wants.
On this view, society loses an objective idea of the good, and it is readily defined in terms of appetite and satisfaction. Government must do something to make me happy, equal, and free. Kolnai calls this facet of progressive democracy the “immanent sovereignty of human needs.” The common good must be interpreted in terms of “sameness of reference, use, enjoyment, and immediacy.” That is, “no man must hold more or be more than his fellow man” and if he does happen to “hold more or represent more” this be “on behalf, and in the name and jurisdiction of Society.”
So financial success or even heterosexual marriage are an affront to the uniformity of the common man’s satisfactions. Kolnai says “the quasi-religious impetus of Total Equalitarianism draws on deeper forces than envy and jealousy, competitive self-assertion, the need to overcome for one’s inferiorities, and craving for material comforts.”
In fact, the Common Man is “Man Divine as mere man . . . Man above whom is set no Order, no Power, no Being essentially different from him, impervious to his reason, independent of his will; no social authority, therefore, either, which symbolizes and expresses this fact and this sense of metaphysical subordination.” The notion of common man embodies the modern aspiration to overcome limitations and contingency – to be free in the most radical sense of free from limitation of nature and God.
Thus, Kolnai claims that the “war against nobility” is “in truth an essential and metaphysical rebellion leveled at something that towers infinitely above kings, dukes, barons, squires, factory owners, generals and admirals, fops or usurpers.” The common man must be the generator of value, not submissive to any higher value. So progressives must rely on the means of a centralizing “mass consciousness and will.”
Indeed, Kolnai attributes to the political power of the Common Man “the ensemble of human consciousness moving and decreeing in complete unison throughout all individual minds.” This progressive ideology is astir in our country today. The consummation of the marriage of the Democratic Party and the national media has allowed the ideology of progressivism to permeate the electorate and is no doubt a factor in this election. We confront powers and principalities.
And this brings me to a third point. Are the Catholics who help to elect President Obama sharing in the self-righteousness triumph of the progressive Democratic Party in this victory of Obama and Biden? The slaughter of the unborn will continue unabated. Contraceptives will be distributed far and wide. Homosexual behavior and homosexual “marriage” will gain a deeper hold upon the social life of the country. Catholics and others will be forced to fund and facilitate these attacks upon life and marriage. Catholics will increasingly be ridiculed and silenced through the bias of the media and the censorship of the Academy.
Will the Catholic supporters of Obama stand by and support their fellow Catholics when Obamacare and the HHS mandate force the closure of Catholic institutions? What if Catholics choose to resist the law and face harsher legal penalties, such as imprisonment?
It is a time for action, especially resistance to unjust law, and it is a time for deepening of faith formation. The English historian Christopher Dawson famously said, “The secular Leviathan is most vulnerable in its brain.”