And that's a thing I'd sworn I'd not do again, trying to remind myself of the verse in Psalms, "Put not thy trust in princes." That is what all the other peoples of the ancient world put their trust in, even while Samuel is saying to the Israelites, "So, you want a king, is that it?", and Jeremiah is saying to Zedekiah, "So, you think the Lord will not allow the Babylonians to destroy this precious city of Jerusalem, do you?"
Anyway, I did pay attention. I'm not entirely sure why I did. The kind of conservatism I espouse, one that is grounded in a metaphysic of the human person as made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore not simply a bundle of appetites sexual or otherwise, not to be managed by bureaucrats and technocrats from Susa or Alexandria or Nicomedia, and also not to be encouraged in sexual or fiscal solipsism — that kind of conservatism, such as is to be found in the writings of Leo XIII, is hard to find now. So I have to take my small victories where I can. And I am cheered by the fact that we have probably elected four or five dozen pro-life representatives to Congress, at least two of them African Americans.
Yet — I fear that the battle, not always but all too often, is between a radical materialism and a softer materialism, a radical worship of Progress (to where, is never specified) and a softer worship of Progress. For instance, I saw the former governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, on television with Geraldine Ferraro, the two of them commenting upon the difficulties of being a woman in national politics. One of them said, "There are still some Neanderthals out there who believe that it is impossible for a woman to have a family and raise her children properly while embarking on a political career. We hope that they will soon evolve beyond that position." Those italics are mine. Note the assumptions here. People in previous generations were bigots. What they actually believed about the relations between men and women, and their roles in private and public life, can be dismissed with a sneer. We, who divorce half of the time, when we bother to marry in the first place, we whose cities are sinkholes of sexual and familial chaos, we can safely ignore the so-called wisdom of past ages. We have evolved, don't you see. Just as, I suppose, our understanding of freedom has evolved beyond that of that fellow Jefferson — that ascetic and patrician landowner, to use William F. Buckley's words, whom we can call upon to justify denuding the public square of all expressions of religion, but otherwise dismiss.
The person who made that comment, of course, was Governor Palin. I guess I shouldn't single women out for the collapse of our political thinking — that we are not producing even an eloquent and somewhat addled populist like Bryan, or a stubborn constitutionalist such as Cleveland; and those fellows are rather dwarfed by the political intellects of the Adamses, or Jefferson and Madison, or Webster and Calhoun. Yet I wonder sometimes what a Palin or a Pelosi can be thinking. Are they entirely unaware of the great (and sometimes failed) statesmen of the American and British past? Are they not embarrassed by the vulgar cackling of the commentators on that show that is inevitably on the screen when I go to the doctor's or the dentist's, The View? Cackling which makes Rush Limbaugh appear like Demosthenes. Or are they aware in the slightest of the collapse of the American family, which in certain sectors of our population is evident in the disappearance of responsible men, the should-be fathers of their communities?
I note, by the way, that the actual performance of "conservative" women candidates last night was in general disappointing. Anyone picked at random from Nevada should have been able to defeat the much-disliked Harry Reid. Mrs. Whitman in California lost to a has-been political hack, Governor Moonbeam himself, by a million votes. Barbara Boxer is a gaffe machine, and yet Carly Fiorina could not come close to defeating her. The touted Nikki Haley, now governor of South Carolina, squeaked by in one of the four or five most conservative states in the country. Kelly Ayotte, the best of the lot by far, from what I can gather (and genuinely pro-life) won handily in New Hampshire, but Christine O'Donnell was pasted in Delaware.
Ah well. The fiscal conservatives have no idea that they lack a proper understanding of the human being and of the common good, and that they therefore play the secularist's game on the secularist's own turf. The social conservatives have either bought the idea that "government," for good or bad, means management by bureaucrats from afar, or have bought so much of the sexual revolution that their residual opposition to killing children remains utterly unmoored from any consistent vision of what a good human life or a virtuous and just human community looks like. But maybe a few more of the congressmen next year will be willing to listen. If not, I can always accompany Jeremiah to Egypt — though he never did get there, did he?