Politics & Policy

New Deal . . . Conservatives?

President Franklin Roosevelt delivers a fireside chat from the White House, 1933 (National Archives)

I am second to none in my admiration for William F. Buckley Jr., but on matters of electoral politics his judgment was not exactly infallible. For example, he floated the idea of having former president Dwight Eisenhower join Barry Goldwater’s ticket as the vice-presidential nominee, which was possibly unconstitutional and certainly preposterous. Professor Kevin Kruse of Princeton, pretending to correct my assertion that it is a mistake to call the segregationist Democrats of the Roosevelt era “conservatives,” correctly notes that WFB believed he had found a kindred conservative spirit in some of those Democrats and thought that they might be pried away from the Democratic party by the Republicans, among whom self-conscious conservatism was ascendant by the middle 1960s.

WFB did believe that and wrote as much. And—this is the part that you would think might interest a professor of history—he was wrong. With a tiny handful of notable exceptions (the grotesque opportunist Strom Thurmond prominent among them) the segregationist Democrats remained Democrats. Why?

The most obvious answer is that they believed what the Democratic party believed, and believes. This is probably why the so-called conservative coalition in Congress came to so little: The Republicans and the Democrats disagreed on the basics, from economics to foreign policy. They agreed mostly on not thinking much of the big industrial unions and big-spending urban-development programs.

WFB helpfully published a list of those Democrats he thought possibly ready to defect to the Republican party. You would have done well to bet against him. James Eastland? No. John McClellan? No. John Stennis? No. Sam Ervin? No. Herman Talmadge? No. Allen Ellender? No. Spessard Holland? No. John Sparkman? Strike . . . eight.

WFB also thought “liberals like Olin Johnson” might be recruited to the GOP. Strike nine.

While it is easy to get lost in the hurly-burly of lurching from one election to the next and from one supposed national crisis to the next, it is remarkable how far back the ideological-partisan lines of U.S. politics are at least partly visible and comprehensible. In the Wilson era, you have a Democratic party pursuing centralization and central planning, suspicious of free markets and competition, allied with academic elites, and pursuing an agenda of regimentation that Democrats presented as “scientific” and supported by dispassionate, empirical evidence. Against that, you have a Republican party allied with business interests, hostile toward taxes and redistribution, promising a restoration of an idealized prelapsarian American order—the “return to normalcy.”

Wilson, the godfather of American progressivism, was a plain and undisguised racist, backward and vicious even by the standards of his time: The progressive torchbearer resegregatedthe federal government. Teddy Roosevelt, the personification of progressivism in the Republican party, was a frank racist as well. There was, unhappily, plenty of that to go around for both parties. But the Republican opposition to the primordial welfare state is entirely familiar to the modern political ear, whether it was Frederick Hale describing FDR as a proxy of the Socialist party or Ronald Reagan a couple of decades later warning about socialized medicine. “Conservatism” in the sense we use the word in American politics is there to be seen.

There were conservative tendencies in American politics before the 1930s, but the modern conservative movement was founded on opposition to the New Deal. The segregationist Democrats, on the other hand, were for the most part eager supporters of the New Deal—provided it was administered in a way that would exclude African Americans from most of its benefits. You do not have to take my word for it—consider the votes: on labor reform, on entitlements, on financial regulation, etc. If the southern Democrats were “conservatives,” then the New Deal was passed on conservative support, which is a very odd claim to make. What do we call the Republican anti-New Dealers, then?

Professor Kruse offers WFB’s description of some southern Democrats as “conservative” as though this settled the issue. That’s an adolescent parlor game, and he knows it. But if you want to play it, here’s Franklin Roosevelt describing the impenitent racist Theodore Bilbo as “a real friend of liberal government.” That is not something dredged up from the shadows and margins: It’s from a Ta-Nehesi Coates essay titled “A History of White Liberal Racism, Continued.” Coates is not exactly a right-wing provocateur—or, as Professor Kruse likes to put it, a “denialist.”

Professor Kruse’s line here is something between error and intellectual dishonesty, i.e. willfully conflating the issue of policymaking in the 1930s with the question of how people talked about coalition-building politics a generation later. It certainly is the case that many New Deal liberals were by the 1960s alienated from the Democratic party by its embrace (or at least openness to) the radical elements of those years. These were not exclusively southerners: Ronald Reagan was one. (Reagan’s FDR hero-worship and his intellectual inconsistency regarding the New Deal did a great deal to soften conservatives who had once vowed to have the New Deal out root and branch.) And yet very few of those old Democratic bulls crossed the aisle.

As Ira Katznelson put it in Fear Itself, the southern progressives stuck by the Democratic party because, in the words of one contemporary observer, the New Dealers “fought the money power and the big industries.” (The rest of that quotation reads, in part, “so long as they were pro-farmer and did not stir up the n*****s.”) Banks and railroads were targets of particular ire. Again, the modern Republican-Democrat/conservative-progressive lines are already there, at least in part. And it seems likely that those real differences in values and loyalties go a long way toward explaining why those Democrats remained in the Democratic party: They were the Democratic party, to a considerable extent, and they fundamentally shared its progressivism. The southern Democrats who helped to create the modern welfare state were not about to join a Republican party whose conservative firebrands were promising to tear it down.

If the New Deal Democrats were in some meaningful sense “conservatives,” we are going to have to come up with a new word to describe those Republicans who opposed it, and who did so using language and arguments that remain familiar today.

 

 

 

Culture

Ten Things that Caught My Eye Today (June 21, 2019)

1.

And this.

2.

(Leah uses Twitter well.)

3. Ramesh on communion and integrity

4. I Thought There Was a Simple Solution to an Unwanted Pregnancy, But I Was Wrong

5. I know next to nothing about basketball, but this seems simply beautiful.

6. Orthodox Jews And Indian Eagle Feathers

7. The Divorce Rate Is at a 40-Year Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older

8. Also, this.

9. Arthur Brooks: Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think

10. A homily for today

PLUS:

To sign up for my weekly e-mail, click here.

If you’re interested in pre-ordering the upcoming A Year with the Mystics, see here.

If you want to highlight anything for a future edition of this feature, email klopez@nationalreview.com

Hope you have a good weekend. Pray for that woman and her baby in England.

Pray for women feeling desperate closer to home.

World

Have a Good Day

Along the Med, Tel Aviv (Jay Nordlinger)

Years ago, there was a movie, The Longest Day, about the Normandy landings. Today, June 21, is, I believe, the longest day of the year. Is it the best day of the year? Well, I like “fall back,” when we gain an hour. I begin my latest episode of Music for a While with “A Soft Day,” one of my favorite songs: by Stanford (setting a poem by Winifred Mary Letts). It came to mind when I was out in a park, seeing everything lush and wet. Anyway, you’ll love the song, if you don’t know it already.

Yesterday, I had a “Tel Aviv Journal,” which prompted some interesting mail. I heard two versions of a story — a story that is a joke with a point. To set it up, let me quote the opening of my journal, please:

When we land in Tel Aviv from Bucharest, some people on the plane — women! — are very, very rude: pushing, shoving, and yelling. I’m about to put my dukes up and the F-word hangs on my lips — and then I remember: “Ah, right: They’re Israelis. They’re supposed to be this way.”

And the same women who are trying to run you over to get to the overhead bins they want would probably cook you a meal and tuck you in at night.

And take up arms to defend you.

Culture, culture …

Okay, here’s the story, or at least one version of it: It’s late December on a flight from New York to Tel Aviv. The pilot gets on the speaker and announces that the plane is starting the descent to Ben-Gurion Airport, and it will be 20 minutes until touchdown. It will probably be another ten minutes before arrival at the gate. During this half-hour, he stresses, all passengers must remain seated with their seatbelts secured. He adds, “For those of you still seated, as I speak: Merry Christmas.”

A reader said he had lived in Israel in the mid-1970s and really and truly saw the following sign in a hospital in Haifa: No Smoking. On the Sabbath, Positively No Smoking.

Ah, Israel.

NR Marketing

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If you’re not in NRPlus, there’s a way to change that.

 

Education

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

(File photo: Jonathan Drake/Reuters)

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn’t resist the urge to side with its woke students against a local business.

College leaders should learn from this — if you want to avoid such lawsuits, don’t let school officials get involved in political protests. That’s my argument in today’s Martin Center piece.

Rather than wasting money on diversity training, college leaders should spend some time training their minions that there is a line between education and political activism which in their official capacities they must not cross. The problem, of course, is that a huge number of college employees from the top on down don’t think there should be any such line. They regard everything as tied in with their progressive commitments.

Oberlin’s new president, Carmen Ambar, exemplifies that mindset when she recently declared that the case will not sway us from our core values. Since those so-called values obviously keep the school from realizing when it is viciously defaming and damaging an innocent business, there will probably be more cases like this one.

Politics & Policy

A 50-Year History of the Worst Comparison

Everything old becomes new again, and such is the case for comparing Republican presidents to Nazis. Last weekend’s “nationwide day of protest” were filled with placards and signs insinuating so. Salon recently published an article that compared President Trump’s criticism of the media to that of Hitler. Protesters in London decried Trump and his supporters as “Nazi scum.” In April, Democratic presidential hopeful alleged that the president’s rhetoric “echoed Nazis.” On June 18th, CNN’s Don Lemon once again deployed this technique and compared President Trump to the Nazi leader. Aside from being old, tired, and untrue, this trope is nothing new. For decades, left-wing activists have compared Republican political leaders to Adolf Hitler.

As Larry Elder has recounted, liberals have compared everyone from Barry Goldwater to George W. Bush to Nazis. It’s a history that dates back at least 55 years. And as Steven Hayward has recounted, even Ronald Reagan met with the calumny:

Democratic Rep. William Clay of Missouri charged that Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from Mein Kampf.” The Los Angeles Times cartoonist Paul Conrad drew a panel depicting Reagan plotting a fascist putsch in a darkened Munich beer hall. Harry Stein (later a conservative convert) wrote in Esquire that the voters who supported Reagan were like the “good Germans” in “Hitler’s Germany.”

There was ample academic support for this theme. John Roth, a Holocaust scholar at Claremont College, wrote:

“I could not help remembering how 40 years ago economic turmoil had conspired with Nazi nationalism and militarism—all intensified by Germany’s defeat in World War I​—to send the world reeling into catastrophe. . . . It is not entirely mistaken to contemplate our postelection state with fear and trembling.”

Maybe the people with the problem are not Republican leaders but the ones using divisive, unsubstantiated hyperbole.

National Review

David Mamet, Appearing Now, in the New Issue of National Review

True! The acclaimed author and playwright pens a terrific piece in the July 8, 2019, issue of your favorite conservative magazine — or, most likely, your favorite magazine period — in which he gives a rundown of his choices of American women writers whose work deserves to be in the nation’s best-of canon. It is a most instructive and illuminating piece, which you can read here. (Of course, if you’ve already maxed out on free articles this month, you’d still be able to read it if you became a member of NRPLUS.)

Interested in a few other recommendations? Well, the entire issue is a marvel, but here are three additional pieces that would prove of interest to any intelligent American: Christopher O’Dea’s cover essay, “Logistics with Chinese Characteristics,” is an expose of Red China’s weaponization of the global supply chain, which is an emerging (and big) national-security threat that should move to the top of every agenda. You can read O’Dea’s essay here. Then there is the powerful examination of the Iraq War — why it was a mistake, why its defenders were wrong, and why many of its critics were too — by Hal Brands and Peter D. Feaver. Read it here. Our leader, Rich Lowry, fan of our National Pastime, reviews Paul Goldberger’s Ballpark: Baseball in the American City. Read it here. And finally there is Jay Nordlinger’s profile of Thae Yong-Ho, one of the highest-ranking North Korean officials ever to defect. Read it here.

Well, not so finally: Since we’ve mentioned a profile, let’s make a bonus recommendation: John McCormack’s piece on Missouri’s exciting freshman senator, Josh Hawley — you can read it here.

U.S.

In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Coleman Hughes on Capitol Hill (C-SPAN)

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young man his overdue inheritance?

He begins his speech by honoring his grandfather’s suffering: Nothing he will say is intended to lift responsibility from those who caused it. But he goes on to say that he does not believe he should collect on his grandfather’s debts, because he does not want justice for the dead at the price of the living. He sees millions of people in his country struggling to afford the means to survive, and others’ lives being wasted as they languish in prison cells. He sees citizens shooting each other on the streets as police numbers dwindle, and schools too poor to offer their students the chance to succeed. These injustices, he argues, are more pressing than his own grievances. He comes from a privileged household in the suburbs and attends an Ivy League school. Many of those who would be forced to pay him deserve his compassion, not his financial demands.

This congressional hearing occurred on Tuesday, June 20, 2019. What I did not mention was that the young man happened to be black, and that he did not only speak on his own behalf, but on behalf of the estimated 15 million black Americans who share his view. His name was Coleman Hughes, and he argued that his country should not pay reparations for slavery — that debts should be paid to those who were once affected by Jim Crow, but not to those who have suffered no harm. For this, he was booed, but he persisted through the taunts. He has since been labelled a traitor, an Uncle Tom, and a coon.

Ta-Nehisi Coates was one of those asked to testify for the opposing view. The accomplished writer contended that reparations are the only way that the United States can come to terms with its stained history. Every one of its institutions stole from the African American community. The nation’s financial accounts are not bound by generations, but by a collective enterprise. If a person has benefitted from America’s shores, he has a duty to help the descendants of those whose exploitation created them. Reparations are tantamount to a thief returning his stolen goods.

Coates’s testimony was treated with a round of applause in the room. He has since been hailed as a courageous hero who dared speak truth to power. The people who have not praised Coates include those who are currently homeless, starving, incarcerated, or uneducated. Because, even if they received reparations, those facts would remain the same.

When he stepped into the room, Coleman Hughes knew what he was doing. He knew that many members of his country would accuse him of defending white supremacy, and that he would leave the room with fewer friends and numerous life opportunities closed. But he delivered his testimony because he was asked to state what he believed. He delivered his testimony because he did not want millions to be turned into victims and perpetrators without their consent.

One can debate the merits of the arguments for and against reparations. One can label them impractical, immoral, previously paid, or pressingly necessary. But one must never debate whether a person’s skin color ought to determine his view. Because nothing — I repeat, nothing — could be more disgustingly racist.

Politics & Policy

Some Summer Reading

Summer is upon us, and with it the Summer 2019 issue of National Affairs. Among the offerings this time:

  • Josh McGee on the state of state pension systems
  • Rick Hess and J. Grant Addison on busting the college-industrial complex
  • Rafi Eis on what’s gone wrong in education theory
  • Daniel Gade on empowering veterans
  • Devorah Goldman on physician burnout
  • Daniel Semelsberger and Arthur Rizer on police norms
  • Salim Furth on the economics of neighborhoods
  • Patrick Brown on the darker side of social capital
  • Joshua Mitchell on the meaning of identity politics
  • Jon Shields on marriage, religion, and James Q. Wilson
  • Algis Valiunas on Americans’ changing tastes in murderous fiction
  • Philip Jeffery on culture policy

Some are open to all, others only to subscribers. And here is where you can subscribe. Happy reading.

Culture

Fifteen Things that Caught My Eye Today (June 20, 2019)

1. Our Marlo Safi at the Coptic Solidarity conference in D.C.

2. A law to prevent future Charlie Gard/Alfie Evans cases in Britain

3. Iraqi envoy to Vatican urges international help for Christians to return home

4. 19 killed by gunmen in Burkina Faso: ‘There’s no Christian anymore in this town’

5. The U.S. State Department highlights people working to combat sex trafficking, including Italian Sister Gabriella Bottani:

. . . in recognition of her dynamic leadership of an extensive international network of Catholic sisters committed to preventing human trafficking and connecting survivors to critical services and her relentless resolve to elevate the importance of combating human trafficking in communities around the world.

More here.

6. The surrogacy bill is not happening in New York this session

Consider writing a note to Gloria Steinem thanking her for opposing it.

7. Salena Zito on pro-life Democrats in the South

8. All about the “Peace Cross” case

9. William Saletan: Abortion Funding Isn’t As Popular As Democrats Think

10.

11.

12. About Christian friendship

13. “She was heard because she loved.” A good talk on Catherine of Siena

14. JD Flynn on the need for saints, one year after the Theodore McCarrick news first broke.

15.

Law & the Courts

More Muddle from the Supreme Court

Establishment-clause jurisprudence is famously a mess. One path for cleaning it up is suggested by Justice Clarence Thomas’s opinion today in American Legion vs. American Humanist Association, the Bladensburg Cross case, which notes the strong originalist case that the clause should never have been incorporated against the states.

Another course was suggested by Michael McConnell et al in the Becket Fund’s brief.

Under a historical approach to the Establishment Clause, the question is not whether a fictive “reasonable observer” would think the government is “endorsing” religion (as compared to what?). The question is whether the government’s actions share the historic characteristics of an “establishment of religion” at the time of the founding. This is an objective inquiry that is not hard to apply, as there is abundant evidence of what constituted an establishment at the founding—namely, (1) government control over the doctrine and personnel of the established church; (2) mandatory attendance in the established church; (3) government financial support of the established church; (4) restrictions on worship in dissenting churches; (5) restrictions on political participation by dissenters; and (6) use of the established church to carry out civil functions.

The Supreme Court didn’t take either course. Did it nonetheless clear things up? Well . . .

ALITO, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–B, II–C, III, and IV, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and BREYER, KAGAN, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Parts II–A and II–D, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and BREYER and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. BREYER, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which KAGAN, J., joined. KAVANAUGH, J., filed a concurring opinion. KAGAN, J., filed an opinion concurring in part. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment. GORSUCH, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which THOMAS, J., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined.

As a friend of mine commented: Good luck, circuit courts!

Politics & Policy

Sasse: Planned Parenthood Dictates the Democratic Party’s Abortion Policy

Sen. Ben Sasse (File photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)

On the Senate floor this afternoon, Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) knocked Democratic presidential candidates as they prepare to participate in a “women’s health” forum, hosted this weekend in South Carolina by abortion provider and political-activist group Planned Parenthood.

“Planned Parenthood is the country’s largest abortion business. That’s their main staple operation,” Sasse said in his remarks, noting that the group reported performing more than 330,000 abortions last year alone and that Planned Parenthood president Dr. Leana Wen admitted that “providing, protecting and expanding access to abortion” is part of the organization’s “core mission.”

Sasse criticized his Democratic colleagues for embracing Planned Parenthood’s hardline stance on abortion: that it ought to be available for any reason, at any stage of pregnancy, funded entirely by the U.S. taxpayer. “Today, the radical things that the nation’s largest abortion business wants are basically indistinguishable from the position of almost every Democrat running for president: Abortion — anytime, anywhere, for any reason, for free,” he said.

The Nebraska senator reminded listeners of comments from Virginia governor Ralph Northam suggesting that infants born alive after an attempted abortion procedure could be denied medical care, at least in some circumstances, as well as the fact that Democratic presidential contenders voted against his own bill earlier this session to protect those infants from neglect. This position is morally abhorrent to be sure, but it’s also, as Sasse noted, highly unpopular with the public, including with Democratic voters and with Americans who call themselves pro-choice. More from Sasse’s remarks:

Gallup polling over the last two decades has consistently shown that a majority of Americans are opposed to unrestricted abortion access beyond the first trimester. The Gallup numbers show that well under one-third of Americans support abortion beyond the first trimester. And a new NBC/PBS/Marist poll found that only fully four out of five Americans are opposed to abortion in the third trimester — and that includes a majority of self-identifying pro-choice voters.

In particular, Sasse called out New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand — who is attempting to run for the Democratic presidential nomination but continues to linger at the bottom of the pack — for recent remarks in which she equated being pro-life to being racist. “According to a sitting United States senator, and a candidate for the Democratic nomination to be president of the United States,” Sasse said, quoting Gillibrand’s comments, “holding pro-life views is ‘no longer acceptable.’ It is not a ‘fair’ position, she tells us. It is the ‘moral equivalent’ of ‘racism’ or ‘anti-Semitism.’ Perhaps in the senator’s next interview, my colleague will suggest that pro-life Americans belong in a basket of deplorables.”

He went on to note the historic connection between the abortion industry and the eugenics movement in the U.S. “It’s in part because of this ugly history that black women in America are three-and-a-half times more likely to have an abortion than white women,” he said. “In some parts of Senator Gillibrand’s home state, black children are actually more likely to be aborted than to be carried to term.”

Sasse said Gillibrand’s comments are evidence that Democrats aren’t just out of touch with Americans’ views on abortion, they’re also incapable of talking about ideas at all or engaging with pro-life Americans as human beings:

Slandering pro-life Americans as, in effect, Klan members and Nazis is a way of crushing debate. It’s a way of saying that these people — people like my mom, who prays outside abortion clinics; people like my daughters and my wife, who’ve spent a lot of hours volunteering at a crisis-pregnancy centers; and people like the overwhelming majority of the Nebraskans that I get to represent — . . . are so morally repugnant that they don’t deserve a voice. They don’t deserve to be treated like human beings. They don’t deserve to be engaged in debate. They’re not people that you could possibly have reasonable conversation with them.

“I’d suggest to the Democrats that are heading to South Carolina this weekend that they should spend less time wrestling with each other to say more ridiculously extreme clickbait things for a high propensity primary voter, and they spend more time listening to the voices of their pro-life fellow citizens,” he concluded.

Watch Sasse’s full remarks here:

Religion

Cardinal Cupich Errs

Cardinal Blase Joseph Cupich waits for the arrival of Pope Francis at the Vatican, February 7, 2018. (Max Rossi/Reuters)

Illinois has eliminated protections for unborn human beings, even late in pregnancy, and mandated insurance coverage of abortion. Some of the officials who voted for the law are Catholics, and Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield has argued that they should not receive communion. Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago agrees with Paprocki that the law is gravely unjust: “It says that human life is cheap,” he told the Catholic News Agency. But he disagrees about communion.

“I think it would be counterproductive to impose sanctions, simply because they don’t change anybody’s minds, but it also takes away from the fact that an elected official has to deal with the judgment seat of God, not just the judgment seat of a bishop. I think that’s much more powerful,” Cupich told CNA.

“I have always approached the issue saying that the bishop’s primary responsibility is to teach, and I will continue to do that.”

I think the cardinal has erred, falling prey to certain misconceptions that have plagued the long-running debate about communion for Catholics who support legal (and often subsidized) abortion.

He errs because canon law does not appear to make the denial of communion a matter of discretion. It says that no one who obstinately persists in manifest grave sin may receive communion. Unrepented grave sin breaks the unity of the Church, of which communion is the sign. Typically a priest will not know if a parishioner in the communion line at Mass has committed a grave sin for which he has not repented. Voting in the legislature to expose unborn children to lethal violence is, however, a highly public sin, and a priest should at the very least advise someone who has committed it not to present himself for communion.

Cupich errs because he seems to be thinking of the denial of communion as a punishment designed to induce certain behavior on the part of those on whom it is inflicted. This is the wrong way to think about it. The point of withholding communion is not to punish the sinner nor to get him to change his ways — even though change on his part is of course desirable, most importantly for the sake of his own soul. The point, rather, is to protect the integrity of the Eucharist.

A Catholic bishop or cardinal might apply his own judgment to go further, as Archbishop Joseph Rummel of New Orleans did in 1962, excommunicating three public figures who were resisting the desegregation of parochial schools. (The three were forbidden to receive sacraments and even to be buried on Church grounds until they recanted.) But the withholding of communion in cases of obstinate persistence in manifold grave sin appears to be mandatory.

He errs because the goal of protecting the Eucharist is not subject to calculations about political consequences. Even if the denial of communion were absolutely guaranteed to be “counterproductive” – to cause the politician to harden his heart against the Church and its teaching, to make voters sympathetic to his stance — it would still be obligatory.

The cardinal errs, finally, because he takes too narrow a view of his teaching role. He teaches through his words, including his very welcome words of condemnation of the unjust Illinois law. But priests also teach — about the seriousness of the sins that law involves and about the Church’s understanding of communion — through their actions, especially their sacramental actions.

As politically fraught and personally wrenching though it may be to insist that politicians — and others who have in public joined their will to the denial of ordinary legal protections against homicide for subcategories of people – may not receive communion, Cardinal Cupich should carefully consider that it is, as it seems to me inarguably to be, his duty.

Elections

Biden, Gillibrand, and the Problem of Deep Political Disagreement

Two Democratic presidential candidates have come under criticism in recent days: Joe Biden, for showing too much tolerance toward segregationists; and Kirsten Gillibrand, for showing too little toward pro-lifers. My latest column for Bloomberg Opinion offers a way of thinking about citizens who hold views we find appalling. An excerpt:

Gillibrand’s description of the state of play in our society is obviously mistaken, indeed self-refuting. We have not corporately decided to treat opponents of abortion as the equivalent of racists, which is why she feels compelled to draw that comparison. Nor have we made the opposite conclusion, that supporters of legal abortion should be shunned as enemies of human rights. There are, in our country, intelligent and well-meaning people in each camp. Politicians who can’t see that, or pretend not to see it, are unlikely to help us navigate our divisions to reach a better place.

Most Popular

U.S.

In Defense of Coleman Hughes

Picture the scene: A young man walks into a congressional hearing to offer witness testimony. His grandfather was barbarically brutalized by people who are now long dead. The nation in which he resides built its wealth of his grandfather’s brutalization. The question: Should his fellow citizens pay the young ... Read More
Film & TV

Toy Story 4: A National Anthem

The Toy Story franchise is the closest thing we have to an undisputed national anthem, a popular belief that celebrates what we think we all stand for — cooperation, ingenuity, and simple values, such as perpetual hope. This fact of our infantile, desensitized culture became apparent back in 2010 when I took a ... Read More
Film & TV

Fosse/Verdon and the Dismal #MeToo Obsession

In the final episode of Fosse/Verdon, one of the two titular characters, Bob Fosse, is shooting one of the greatest films of all time. The other, Gwen Verdon, is having a quarrel with her unspeakably dull boyfriend about whether he approves of her performing in a road-show production of a Broadway musical. These ... Read More
Elections

Joe and the Segs

Joe Biden has stepped in it, good and deep. Biden, if he has any hope of ever being elected president, will be dependent on residual goodwill among African Americans from his time as Barack Obama’s loyal and deferential vice president — so deferential, in fact, that he stood aside for Herself in 2016 even ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Madcap Caution of Donald Trump

The worry last week was that the Trump administration was ginning up fake intelligence about Iran blowing up oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz to justify a war against Iran. Then, this week, President Donald Trump said the Iranian attacks weren’t a big deal. The episode is another indication of the ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren’s Terrible Plans

Elizabeth Warren is being lauded as the serious candidate in the race. Her motto, “I have a plan for that,” is accepted as proof that she is thoughtful and conscientious. That’s too generous. One should expect a grown-up to evaluate costs and benefits, to understand tradeoffs, and to pay for what they ... Read More
Education

College Leaders Should Learn from Oberlin

Thanks to their social-justice warrior mindset, the leaders of Oberlin College have caused an Ohio jury to hit it with $44 million in compensatory and punitive damages in a case where the school couldn't resist the urge to side with its “woke” students against a local business. College leaders should learn ... Read More