Politics & Policy

This Is What Post-Christian Dissent Looks Like

Anti-Trump protesters at a rally in Portland, Ore., on inauguration day. (Reuters photo: Steve Dipaola)
Politics without a sense of proportion are more dangerous than you’d think.

I’m beginning to get a sense of what it was like to be alive in ancient times when a marauding warlord melted down your village’s golden calf. Weeping. Gnashing of teeth. Rending of garments. Wearing of vagina hats. Their god failed to protect the village, and now he’s a bracelet on the warlord’s wrist.

It’s pathetic, really, the emotional reaction to Donald Trump’s victory, but the intensity of the emotion is nothing new. Remember the ecstasy when Barack Obama won? Remember when somebody actually wrote this, and a mainstream newspaper actually published it?

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

Remember the shining faces in Chicago the night of Obama’s first victory? Remember the promise that the rise of the oceans would stop, and the planet would start to heal? That wasn’t politics; it was religion, and Obama was — if not actually Ba’al — then his high priest, the central figure empowered to enable the hopes, dreams, and very evolution of the American people.

Fast-forward eight short years and the ecstasy has turned to agony. The people whose faces shone in 2008 have weeping eyes in 2016. Some can’t function. In the energy department, staffers are offered counseling. At the EPA, they come to work in tears. Some skip work entirely. Colleges offer safe spaces and opportunities for “self-care,” and even workers in “real America” are taking time off to gather themselves. I’m getting reports from friends across the country of bosses and colleagues who are gone for days and return deeply depressed.

Celebrity buffoonery is off the charts, with extraordinarily wealthy and powerful actors casting themselves as the rabble-rousing heroes of the world’s least dangerous resistance. Their prime risk is incoming Twitter fire, and their reward is the thunderous applause of all their peers.

Yes, there’s more than a whiff of violence in the air, for certain, but it’s largely coming from the left. Broken windows, burning cars, and bloodied faces are causing the media to write about protests with its typical apologetic euphemisms — “mostly” peaceful, “largely” quiet, and “generally” calm.

This is post-Christian politics to its core. This is the politics one gets when this world is our only home, and no one is in charge but us. There is no sense of proportion. A conventional but politically talented progressive is the Lightworker. A populist who lacks the power or constituency to do even a fraction of what his worst critics fear is now some sort of Darkworker — a malevolent force touching off an existential crisis across the land.

And what makes this all the more strange is that in many respects Trump agrees with the marchers. The progressive base was just as hostile to NAFTA and TPP as he is. He cares far less about the culture wars than any other national Republican politician. He has been a fierce critic of military interventions from Iraq to Libya, even going so far as to claim that Bush lied and people died with all the intensity of an Occupy drum circle. He wants big federal spending on infrastructure. He wants to protect entitlements. In many ways he’s made the Republican party more moderate. Not stylistically, of course, but certainly in policy and priorities.

It’s not just about policy positions, though. It’s about totems and symbols and “meaning.” The phenomenon that caused some Republicans to jettison long-held principles for the sake of political victory is causing the progressive base to react as if Nero is sitting on the throne.

Eight years ago, all too many on the left thought that light had come into the darkness. Now they believe the darkness has overcome the light. In reality, the false dawn preceded the false dusk. Our Republic is still built to last, and the hysterical reaction threatens to be worse than the man who triggered it.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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