Monday, December 12, 2022

When Democracy Is Not The Common Good

I've seen many people make versions of the point, and I've done so myself a few times, but Katherine Stewart in her book The Power Worshippers does it really well.

This is not a "culture war." It is a political war over the future of democracy,

It [Christian nationalism] asserts that legitimate government rests not on the consent of the governed but adherence to the doctrines of a specific religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage.

In other words, this is a brand of "conservatism" that believes that Thomas Jefferson got it wrong and that democracy is not the correct way to run a country. 

This guy
And now, according to a recent piece at Politico, these folks have a formal legal to back it up. 

It's called Common Good Constitutionalism, and one of its proponents is a Harvard law professor named Adrian Vermeule. As the article explains it

The cornerstone of Vermeule’s theory is the claim that “the central aim of the constitutional order is to promote good rule, not to ‘protect liberty’ as an end in itself”

In other words, democracy is bunk. Liberty is bunk. All that matters is the common good, as defined by wise men who understand that things like abortion bans, the end of same sex marriage, a government that extends its reach to do things like ban naughty books--that's all okay, even if the majority of citizens oppose it and vote against it.

As one might expect (and the article delineates), there are plenty of conservatives who disagree with this theory. The American Conservative wrote of Vermeule and his "moral madness" that "One can critique the limits of freedom and excesses of libertarianism without echoing the nihilism of totalitarians." 

But it has great appeal to the folks who make up what I think of as faux conservatism, the not-my-father's-conservatism that has swept through the GOP. It is also, as many critics of the article have pointed out, awfully fascist-looking. (They are also, the article points out, mostly Catholic).

Well, at least we have a name for it now, this movement that says "We should just take the power and exert it to impose what is Right and True." And we should understand that when we say an attack on public education is an attack on the foundations of democracy, these are people who don't care, people who believe liberty is only for those who align with the Right Values. Moral madness indeed.

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