The Lumbering of Leviathan

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.”

John P. Hittinger is a full professor in the department of philosophy and he is a member of the Center for Thomistic Studies at the University of ST Thomas in Houston. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame (1974). He has held faculty positions at  Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas (where he was the first faculty moderator of the pro-life club), the College of St Francis in Joliet, Illinois; the United States Air Force Academy, St. Mary’s College of Ave Maria University in Orchard Lake, Michigan, and Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit Michigan. John has published four books; he edited the recently published The Vocation of the Catholic Philosopher: from Maritain to Wojtyla, Washington, Catholic University of America Press, 2010, and he authored a collection of essays entitled Liberty, Wisdom and Grace: Thomism and Modern Democratic Theory.  Lanham, Md.: Lexington Press, 2002. Dr Hittinger is the founder and director of the Pope John Paul II Forum for the Church in the Modern World (
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  • guy Mcclung

    Could You, Would You?

    Dear England: Some years ago we sent a cordial note to your
    monarch – some here called it a DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE
    – in an effort to commence a mutually beneficial dialogue between some of us
    over here and you all over there. Only
    for potential negotiating advantage did our forefathers refer to your monarch
    as a “Tyrant” and his form of government as “despotism.” Due to recent developments here in the
    colonies, we entreat you to consider re-opening this dialogue begun in the
    Spring of 1776 and, after a serious study of the benefits for all of us, that
    you allow us to again join with you and
    become part of the realm. Let us in
    mutual cooperation submit facts to a
    candid world.

    Our Declaration listed some proposed talking points (in the parlance of that time over two
    centuries ago these topics for
    discussion were referred to as “usurpations” which then was just another word for “deliberations”). “He” was the esteemed and beloved His Royal Highness George III.
    We believe some of these topics bear
    reconsideration today since they perfectly describe our present tyrant in the
    White House; for example

    “He has refused his
    Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

    He has endeavoured
    to prevent the population of these States;

    He has erected a
    multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our
    people, and eat out their substance.

    He has combined
    with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and
    unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended

    For imposing Taxes
    on us without our Consent:

    For taking away our
    Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the
    Forms of our Governments:

    For suspending our
    own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for
    us in all cases whatsoever.

    He has excited domestic insurrections
    amongst us.”

    We had no clue that the “swarms” of which
    we complained previously in 1776 could today multiply exponentially into heartless hordes, virtual
    mobs, of intransigent agents and

    We apologetically admit that we had no idea
    that someone could subvert words we wrote specifically to prevent tyranny; and
    then could sign treaties which countermanded our Constitution and were contrary
    to the will of the people. By his
    imperial pen he is at this very moment preparing to sign a UN Treaty to repeal
    our 2nd Amendment, when he is fully aware that our Constitution explicitly does not permit
    amendment in this way.

    Our taxes, as compared to those just and
    reasonable ones under the esteemed and beloved George III,
    have also increased both exponentially in rate and in the scope of things and
    activities taxed. We did not realize that
    what we were setting up could be abused via so-called “penalties” so that a
    huge percentage – now almost 50% – of all the populace live off the labor and
    sweat of the remaining people who work.
    We had no idea that our plans could be embodied in a work force nearly half of
    whose jobs are working for the government to either control every aspect of our
    lives or to collect the taxes which apply to every aspect of our existence from
    birth to death and even thereafter.

    Your revered monarchs have always respected
    the rights enshrined in the Magna Carta, while our current tyrant invests
    himself and his government with power to legislate –which we thought we had
    reserved to a legislative branch of
    government – while now via imperial
    decrees – which are called “executive
    orders” – he himself alone legislates enacting his imperial “laws” which are
    not based on and are usually contrary to the will of the people.

    And now our country, at his bidding, is
    divided – making what we called “domestic insurrections” in 1776 look like
    picnics – while he purposefully pits one group against another, making
    Americans hate Americans, to increase his power.

    What was written in 1776 applies to our current despot: “A Prince
    whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit
    to be the ruler of a free people.”

    For some time we have been inclined to
    suffer, while evils were sufferable,
    rather than to right ourselves by leaving our loved homeland so that we
    are not subject to the new form of aristocracy
    here in the colonies. Since in this day and age change as occurred in 1776 is
    unrealistic and politically impossible, we humbly and earnestly ask, no, we beg
    and beseech you, that you most seriously consider allowing us to rejoin you so
    that we can again lift our heads high with others who respect human dignity, who value the Creator-endowed inalienable rights
    of all men and women, and who believe
    that government is of, by and for the people.

    God bless the Queen; and God bless America.

    Sincerely, the People of the Unites States
    of America

    Al rights reserved in the event of a “Queen Camilla”

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