By Ross Douthat
After following some of the more intemperate liberal reactions to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision yesterday, I thought of this post from Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum from earlier this year, making the case for a liberalism that owns up to its own culture-war aggressions and success:
Over the last half century, various branches of government have … taken plenty of proactive steps to marginalize religion. Prayer in public school has been banned. Creches can no longer be set up in front of city hall. Parochial schools are forbidden from receiving public funds. The Ten Commandments can’t be displayed in courtrooms. Catholic hospitals are required to cover contraceptives for their employees. Gay marriage is legal in more than a dozen states and the number is growing rapidly.
Needless to say, I consider these and plenty of other actions to be proper public policy. I support them all. But they’re real things. Conservative Christians who feel under attack may be partly the victims of cynical politicians and media moguls, and a lot of their pity-party attempts at victimization really are ridiculous. But their fears do have a basis in reality. To a large extent, it’s the left that started the culture wars, and we should hardly be surprised that it provoked a strong response. In fact, it’s a sign that we’re doing something right.
As far as I’m concerned, the culture wars are one of the left’s greatest achievements. Our culture needed changing, and we should take the credit for it. Too often, though, we pretend that it’s entirely a manufactured outrage of the right, kept alive solely by wild fantasies and fever swamp paranoia. That doesn’t just sell the right short, it sells the left short too. It’s our fight. We started it, and we should be proud of it.
A cultural liberalism that took this line would be no less militant, obviously, but it would be a lot more clear-eyed about its actual situation vis-a-vis its present foes. For instance, it would be able to see that far from ushering in the Republic of Gilead, yesterday’s high court ruling at most placed a modest limitation — and, if I and others are reading the tea leaves in Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence correctly, possibly a very modest limitation — on a recent and significant liberal victory: That is, it didn’t even roll the clock back to 2009, let alone to 1959, and it’s quite possible that the ultimate impact on insurance coverage will be identical to what would have happened had the justices had ruled the other way. Such a liberalism might also be able to see that the larger pattern I wrote about yesterday, in which the Supreme Court has become a frequent refuge for religious conservatives rather than just their reliable bete noir, is itself partially the result of liberal gains in the political and cultural sphere, which have reduced religious traditionalists to making the kind of defensive appeals to liberty and pluralism and minority rights that tend to end up adjudicated in the courts. And such a liberalism would take ownership of its own ascendance and take more responsibility for (and pride in!) its own aggressions, rather than perpetually crying “theocracy” whenever its advance is interrupted.
Why doesn’t this self-aware social left show up (save in sharp, undeluded blog posts like Drum’s) more often? Well, a few reasons. First, political mobilization depends on a sense of victimhood, grievance and looming apocalypse, so no matter the correlation of forces on a given issue you can be sure that the professional agitators on both sides will have an incentive to inculcate solidarity by insisting that theirs is the heroic, hard-pressed side about to be crushed by a ruthless opposition. (See Christmas, the War on, and other extravaganzas of fauxpression, for examples from the rightward end of the spectrum.)
Second, political mobilization also requires a certain amount of ignorance, willful in some cases and cynically inculcated in others, in which the inevitably-complicated details of legal controversies (you see, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act says …. YAWN …. actually, Hobby Lobby already covers most …. zzzzzz) get boiled down to slogans fit for Twitter and cable shoutfests, and no nuancing counterpoint is allowed to be considered.
Third, as social conservatives know from bitter experience, the sense of grievance and resentment after a defeat is always sharper when you lose in the courts, because the possibility of democratic recourse feels more foreclosed than when the defeat is electoral or legislative. So even though it really is a sign of social liberalism’s gains that these issues are being litigated in the courts at all, it still feels (understandably) painful and unfair when a long drawn-out political debate ends with a 5-4 vote by a group of unelected lawyers (which is really often a coin-flip by Anthony Kennedy, philosopher king).
Fourth, human nature being what it is, loss aversion is generally more potent than the joys of winning, and even a string of victories doesn’t necessarily satisfy; if anything, it can just sharpen the appetite for further victories still. This is why ascendant parties, no matter their ideology, are rarely magnanimous to the defeated or the disfavored: Where a transformative agenda is being pursued, one set of gains is more likely make the next set of items seem that much more necessary, more essential, more inarguably correct. And under such circumstances, residual, rear-guard resistance can actually inspire more outrage than a stronger opposition, because the winning side comes to feel that it’s offensive that anyone is still fighting — don’t they know the battle’s over, don’t they know that history’s verdict has been rendered? Will no one rid me of this troublesome craft store?
This last impulse, I would suggest, is particularly potent in cases where the transformation in question is not necessarily delivering on its promises, and where there’s a felt need to find someone outside the enlightened community/the holy Catholic empire/History’s vanguard to blame for that falling-short. Where our current kulturkampf is concerned, for instance, I think most contemporary liberals are aware that post-1960s America is not quite the liberated and egalitarian utopia that was promised … but many of them are quite determined to believe that their own ideology is blameless, that there aren’t actually any internal contradictions in social liberalism, and that contemporary social problems must always and everywhere be the fault of something called “conservatism,” in all its varied guises. The revolution hasn’t failed or fallen; it’s just been resisted and disrupted by wreckers and reactionaries; etc. Which is how you end up with the sense, palpable in the liberal Twitter reaction to the Hobby Lobby decision, that if it weren’t for Catholic Supreme Court justices and evangelical-owned craft stores, all sorts of problems would gradually be washed away, like tears in a soft progressive rain.
And perhaps, if current trends persist for long enough, we will get to actually test that proposition. But not yet, not yet.
By Daniel Greenfield
After Cain killed his brother,
the Lord told him, "A fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth."
But the natural order has been reversed, instead the Abels, if they survive, become homeless
wanderers and the Cains build their Caliphates on the tombs of their victims.
"Cursed shall you be from the earth," the Lord said, and so it has been.
The earth under their feet may be cursed, it yields nothing but sand and thistles, but they are nomads, forgetting agriculture, remembering only their tradecraft of murder. They become worshipers of death dreaming of the green verdant fields of paradise which they can reach only if they kill enough men, women and children.
Leaving devastation behind them, dead lands, lost cultures, widows and orphans, they claw their way up to heaven on a ladder of bones.
Everything around them dies until the only green is on their flags. They are cursed from the earth and they curse the earth. Where they go, the world dies.
It is not murder that makes it impossible for Abel to live with Cain says the State Department, says the European Union and says the New York Times. It is Abel's fields and houses that provoke Cain.
The PLO formed a unity government with Hamas and the loud voice of consensus, the voice of men who imagine that they become god when they speak in a single voice, is that it was the Israeli houses that were to blame. It is not Cain's fault that he kills. It is Abel's fault that he builds.
Of the three kidnapped and murdered boys, two Israeli and one American, Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times wrote, "Palestinians... see the very act of attending (school) yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation."
Abel is forever provoking Cain who rises up and kills him. And if only Abel hadn't had so many sheep, if only he hadn't built so well, if only he hadn't made the desert bloom, if only he hadn't won so many wars and if only G-d didn't appear to favor him.
Cain sows fields of corpses of the innocent for the Lord and he still does not understand why his sacrifice is not accepted and why the earth he dwells on is cursed.
Abel does his best to appease Cain with gifts of earth, but the earth is useless to Cain. What good is cursed earth to cursed men? What can a man plant in the desert? What can he harvest when everything dies at his touch? All he can offer is a harvest of death.
That is what he brings to the faintly remembered Creator he calls Allah. From Iraq to Iran, from Kuwait to Saudi Arabia, from Nigeria to Somalia, from Pakistan to Indonesia, he holds up human heads and cries, "Allahu Akbar."
As if G-d needs such petty proofs of superiority.
Cain cannot be appeased with earth. The earth is his curse. All that lives hates him and he hates all that lives. He tortures animals and raises dead crops. He kills his daughters and sisters, his mother, the source of his life and the source of his future, for the same honor that made Cain the first killer.
There is no use negotiating with Cain. There is no compromise that he will accept. Cain is his own curse. He loves death and that is all he will ever have. His acolytes cry, "We love death, you love life."
Cain was meant to wander the earth. To be a rootless nomad whose curse of death would not collect in any single place. He was not meant to build kingdoms of death. He was not meant to rule over a Caliphate of death and a culture of death.
There is no room for Cain anywhere. Where he remains there will be death and suffering. He will kill because it is all he can do. He has nothing else to offer the world, his own kind or the Creator.
The curse of the earth that he brings can only be lifted when he is removed from it. Only when Cain is driven out, will the land come into its fullness, will the people know peace and will the shadow lift from the valleys, mountains, rivers and cities of the land.
Cain seeks sympathy in his wanderings. With bloody hands, he pleads his case. Every one of his victims made him do it. From the east to the west and the north to the south, they all started it.
He kills from one end of the world to the next and it is never his fault. Each time, each Abel did it.
That is why the Lord put the mark of the killer on Cain's forehead. All were meant to know what Cain was and to move him along, prevent him from settling down, becoming offended and killing over his long lost honor, and then beginning a war that would lead to his own death and the deaths of others.
Cain was not to be killed. It was no use killing him because all men have a little Cain in them. The curse of Cain infects in many forms. Nazism, Communism and Islam are only a few examples of the disease. Instead Cain was meant to be a living example of the futility of evil. His accursed nature made him into a living symbol of death. Each thing he touched would be cursed by his existence.
When we remember what Cain is, when we know what his signs, the swastika, the sickle and the crescent, represent, then he is no threat to us.
We move him onward, we cast him out and drive him away before he kills us and we kill him and the cycle of bloodshed that he starts everywhere he goes begins again.
It is when we forget that he becomes truly dangerous. When Abel and Cain cannot be told apart, then Cain can pretend that he is the victim and that Abel was the killer. The blood soaks into the earth and he washes his hands of it and pretends that he knows nothing about it. Men begin playing detectives, they search for the root cause of Cain's crimes and try to understand what provoked him this time.
But even when the Lord does not speak to men, the blood can still be heard crying from the earth. A thousand years of blood, the blood of men, women and children from every race and every part of the world.
Cain has made a mountain of corpses. His Caliphate was built on bones. His code is cruelty and his holy book is written in blood on the flayed skins of his murdered victims.
A thousand years of blood calls from the earth. The cries of peoples long vanished from the earth warn us that we will either drive out Cain or his curse will fill our lands with blood and dust and all that we love and all that we have worked for will die at his cursed touch.
By Thomas Sowell
Pundits are pointing to President Barack Obama's recent decline in public opinion polls, and saying that he may now become another "lame duck" president, unable to accomplish much during his final term in office.
That has happened to other presidents. But it is extremely unlikely to happen to this president. There are reasons why other presidents have become impotent during their last years in office. But those reasons do not apply to Barack Obama.
The Constitution of the United States does not give presidents the power to carry out major policy changes without the cooperation of other branches of government. Once the country becomes disenchanted with a president during his second term, Congress has little incentive to cooperate with him -- and, once Congress becomes uncooperative, there is little that a president can do on his own.
That is, if he respects the Constitution.
President Obama has demonstrated, time and again, that he has no respect for the Constitution's limitations on his power. Despite his oath of office, to see that the laws are faithfully executed, Barack Obama has unilaterally changed welfare reform laws, by eliminating the work requirement passed by Congress during the Clinton administration.
He has repeatedly and unilaterally changed or waived provisions of the ObamaCare law passed by Congress during his own administration.
President Obama has ordered Border Patrol agents not to carry out provisions of the immigration laws that he does not like. We see the results today in the tens of thousands of illegal immigrants entering the country unimpeded.
President Obama's oath of office obviously means no more to him than his oft-repeated promise that "you can keep your own doctor" under ObamaCare.
Why do we have a Constitution of the United States if a president can ignore it without any consequences?
The Constitution cannot protect our rights if we do not protect the Constitution. Freedom is not free, and the Constitution is just some words on paper if we do not do anything to those who violate it.
What can ordinary citizens do?
Everything! Theirs is the ultimate power of the ballot that can bring down even the most powerful elected official.
The most important thing the voters can do is vote against anyone who violates the Constitution. When someone who has violated the Constitution repeatedly gets re-elected, then the voters are accomplices in the erosion of protection for their own freedom.
Laws without penalties are just suggestions -- and suggestions are a pitiful defense against power.
After voters have failed to protect the Constitution, the last-ditch remedy is impeachment. But Barack Obama knows that he is not going to be impeached.
Who wants to provoke a Constitutional crisis and riots in the streets? And, worst of all, end up with Joe Biden as President of the United States? Some cynics long ago referred to Barack Obama's choice of mental lightweight Biden to be his vice president as "impeachment insurance."
With neither the Constitution, nor the voters, nor the threat of impeachment to stop him, Barack Obama has clear sailing to use his powers however he chooses.
Far from seeing his power diminish in his last years, President Obama can extend his power even beyond the end of his administration by appointing federal judges who share his disregard of the Constitution and can enact his far-left agenda into law from the bench, when it cannot be enacted into law by the Congress.
Federal judges with lifetime tenure can make irreversible decisions binding future presidents and future Congresses.
If Republicans do not win control of the Senate in this fall's elections, a Senate controlled by Majority Leader Harry Reid can confirm judges who will have the power to extend Barack Obama's agenda and complete the dismantling of Constitutional government.
Barack Obama can, as he said before taking office, fundamentally "change the United States of America." Far from being a lame duck president, Obama can make this a lame duck democracy.
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