Acton Institute Powerblog

What Happened

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It is clear that what President Barack Obama has achieved is historic: Being re-elected when not a single one of his major initiatives has enjoyed broad popular support.

What is also clear is that the moral and spiritual demographics of the United States have changed considerably.  If Gov. Mitt Romney, an honorable man of moderate political preferences and conservative personal convictions, cannot attract a winning coalition we are in deep trouble.  His loss illustrates the change that has occurred in the nation and the challenges it portends.  Politics is about addition and Gov. Romney surely tried to run an “additional” campaign and I can think of no Republican who was more likely to accomplish what was necessary for a center-right victory.

Last night’s election illustrates that Americans have become a people more dependent on the government. The country will continue to trend culturally and politically to the left. This means that conservative causes that take their impetus from the truths and moral rationality offered by the Judeo-Christian political  and philosophical tradition will continue to be marginalized, the Church’s liberty restricted, and the cultural, moral, political and spiritual leftism, hedonism,  and materialism, with its attendant anomie and nihilism, will continue the long march through all of our cultural and governmental institutions.

Given the Catholic Church’s failure to adequately address the cultural, political, and even existential threat posed to it by President Obama’s agenda, the credibility of the Church’s witness has been further eroded and enervated, making the Church less likely to be courageous and effective in speaking the hard truths necessary for personal, ecclesial, and national renewal.  Because of this, the leftist cultural and moral agenda will continue to increasingly form and even invade our personal, familial, and communal lives. The effect on our national life and civil society will be devastating. Trends of cultural degradation, the normalization of what has until recently been widely understood as moral turpitude, along with debt, deficits, and fiscal ruin will likely be accelerated.

This Obama administration has been the most historically anti-life and anti-liberty administration in the history of the nation. Its policies stand in clear opposition to the teachings of orthodox Christianity. I have grave reservations about the future of many of the Catholic Church’s integral apostolic activities, not only because of the policies President Obama will continue to pursue unabated, but also because many Catholics, especially suburban women,  are firmly in the camp of a gentle, yet cautionary statism and hedonism which emphasizes material prosperity,  extensive superficial education, “choice,” and comity, over the substance of moral and economic truth and the demands such truths call forth.  This reality is bad for the political agenda of the nation and poses tremendous challenges for authentically Catholic apostolic efforts in the coming years.

The other fact supporting such concerns about conservative initiatives, especially those drawing their inspiration from orthodox Catholicism, is that the bishops ran a largely incompetent campaign against the religious liberty restrictions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), which they helped pass legislatively by giving it the hierarchy’s moral cover at a politically critical moment when its passage was far from a given.  Given that the president and the Democratic Party ran a pugilistic campaign against the Catholic Church, in which they regularly mischaracterized the Church’s teachings, President Obama now lacks any political nor personal reason to reach a compromise with the Church on those issues essential to the free exercise of religion.  No doubt, given the hostility of Democratic campaigns to Catholic concerns on the question of the HHS mandate and the broader question of religious liberty, the president will proceed with the notion that he has a mandate to continue his aggressively anti-Catholic, anti-religious, and culturally libertine agenda.

To be honest, my dark assessment of this emerging reality for conservatives and  especially orthodox Catholics and other Christians, amounts to this:  We are going to be marginalized, our institutions reduced, our liberties restricted, and our persons attacked.  Evidence suggests that we have too few deeply principled and thoroughly well-informed leaders who enjoy support locally, parochially, and beyond, who are in a position and possess the courage to be effective in keeping our views and positions viable in the public square.  President Obama’s victory is not about a popular policy agenda, but about the triumph of emotionalism and relativism in the face of an inarticulate, ineffective, and ultimately uncourageous opposition that has convinced a majority of the American people that perception is reality, that feeling is the same as fact, and “being nice” is a moral imperative.

Fr. Phillip De Vous Father Phillip W. De Vous is the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, Kentucky, and an adjunct scholar of public policy at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

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