For a while now I’ve felt this gnawing antagonism towards most people. The incipient rage was inexplicable, and defied articulation. Why was I so irritable? What could be the cause? Once the 2016 presidential jockeying began in earnest I noticed that the irritability deepened with every boneheaded social media post that I read about the virtues of vaginal voting (Retards for Hillary) or revolutionary populism (Reds for Sanders). It was all so aggravatingly dense, this much was true. Yet still, I couldn’t adequately explain to myself the reason for this internal tumult.
Last week brought the incertitude to an end in a flash. In two days, I could articulate everything that I’d only intuited darkly for months. The trio of cases decided last week by the Supreme Court (in its supreme wisdom) crystallized everything, clearly revealing my own subconscious to me. While I believed the cases to be wrongly decided and ideologically motivated, I was bothered not so much by the determinations themselves as I was by the jubilant reactions to decisions rendered in contravention of all Constitutional principles.
I finally apprehended what had eluded me for so long: that core principles-and by extension the systems and orders sustained only through the the recognition of these core principles-no longer mean anything to the Typical American. The Typical American prefers the “feelgoods” of political expediency and the gratification of seeing enemies vanquished to the discomfort of developing solutions to the most pressing issues facing the demos through engagement, logic, and protocol. The Typical American cannot comprehend that every ill-gotten short term victory takes them ever closer to the gulag in the long term.
At bottom, my simmering rage was no more than the sadness of an individual coming to grips with the implications of the culture’s wholesale rejection of principles and fundamentals.
Intellectually, the average American prefers the sugar rush to the slow burn, simultaneously incapable of adhering to principle and of understanding the consequences of rejecting principle in favor of ad hoc rationalizations. This makes it clear that this is no longer a nation that can countenance democracy. Last week was both an augur and a revelation as it relates to the American democratic experiment, presaging the end of the American democratic republic and unmasking the populace’s unfitness to be governed by a system of democratic norms.
The question of whether democracy is valid as a model of governance aside, for democracy (rule by the people) to remain viable, the people who are to rule must be a virtuous one. That is to say: if a democracy is to remain functional and durable, the people (the rulers of a democracy) must be morally excellent, good, righteous, ethical, and upright. The Founders were unequivocal in this outlook. The people need discernment to distinguish between right and wrong and to steer the republic in the right direction. In the words of Thomas Jefferson:
No government can continue good but under the control of the people; and … their minds are to be informed by education what is right and what wrong; to be encouraged in habits of virtue and to be deterred from those of vice … These are the inculcations necessary to render the people a sure basis for the structure and order of government. (Emphasis added)
A functional democracy presupposes the virtue of the citizenry. Underlying this presupposition is that there are that there are cognizable principles and timeless truths which exist for a reason and inform the individual on how to properly order his life. Thus, individuals in the aggregate, the demos/body politic, can effectuate virtuous rule through the adherence to principle.
In a healthy society, the principles underlying norms of virtue would be explicated to all and these norms would be transmitted from generation to generation, through the mechanisms of family, faith, and society and making individuals fit for self-governance. There are no longer any mechanisms for the transmission of virtue from generation to generation, leaving society only with the cancerous philosophies of non-judgmentalism and “if it feels good, do it” to guide its actions. People now embrace relativism so thoroughly that they can be whipped into near Puritanical fervor by devious elites in defense of even the meanest of vices.
Even at its best the cause of democracy is nonetheless easily subverted by power hungry, silver tongued demagogues. Without adherence to principle, there can be no virtue. Without virtue, there can be (and should be) no democracy. What was democracy in times when virtue and tradition were ascendant quickly devolves into rule by fiat, mobocracy or kakistocracy when virtue and tradition are at an ebb.
If you cheered the Supreme Court’s wrongheaded, “anything goes” jurisprudence on gay marriage with cries of “Love Wins!,” you cannot also have respect for the foundational American constitutional principles of states’ rights and federalism. You certainly don’t care about impartiality, or the non-justiciability of political questions. You’re perfectly fine with the Court making law rather than adjudicating questions of constitutional import.
If you cheered the Court’s Obamacare decision, you cannot also believe in the principles freedom of choice and freedom from undue government coercion.
If you cheered the Court’s housing decision in the Texas case, you cannot also believe in the principle of freedom of association.
If you opt to vote for a candidate because he promises to “redistribute” wealth from people who have earned it to you because “income inequality,” the only principle you believe in is parasitism.
If you elect a candidate on the basis of their genitals rather than on the basis of their platform, you are a degenerate.
If any of these statements characterize you, your inability to grasp first principles betrays your lack of virtue. You really cannot say that you believe in anything but expediency and emotionalism. You are worthless and dissolute and a perfect example of why democracy is completely untenable.
And this is precisely what has been bothering me this whole time.