Among democratic peoples, . . . the thread of time is broken at every moment, and the trace of the generations fades. You easily forget those who preceded you, and you have no idea about those who will follow you. Only those closest to you are of interest.
—Alexis de Tocqueville,
Democracy in America
During the polar vortex of 2019 the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act had its day in the United States Senate but, thanks to the opposition of Democrats, failed to meet the required number of votes necessary to end debate and call the question. This was both predictable and shocking.
It was predictable because Republicans brought the bill to the Senate floor knowing that it would not pass. And it was shocking because, regardless of the circumstances, the legislative body that purports to represent the interests of our states could not agree to say publicly that the murder of a freshly born baby is a crime worth acknowledging and punishing.
Was this whole episode a political charade? Yes, by design.
Let us acknowledge the absurdity of members of the national legislature making laws that pertain to the crime of infanticide. The idea that so many thousands of communities in a continent-sized country of 326 million people would submit the question of infant execution, pro or con, to the determination of 535 lawmakers and one president defies the wisdom of the ages regarding human nature and tyranny. That the fate of their determination depends ultimately on the will of “federal” judges who serve as the de facto third branch of the legislature adds insult to injury. All of this makes a laughingstock of those debates held two centuries ago in a hall in Philadelphia, in northeastern newspapers, and in the legislatures of the several states who agreed to cede very specific powers to this thing we farcically refer to as a federal government.
Have we passed the point of no return? The horrors of Kermit Gosnell’s clinic are not much less horrifying than the horrors that occur in Planned Parenthoods across the country every day. We are quibbling. Did Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam really explain to a radio audience that an infant may be executed if a third-trimester abortion fails, provided that a “meaningful conversation” has taken place between the mother and her physician? Of course not, say Democrats. But not one of them would deny that the same infant may be killed by poisoning and dismemberment hours before contractions begin, provided the “health” of the mother is threatened—and “health” means whatever an abortionist is willing to say it means.
Regardless, it is an insult to God and damaging to the moral psyche of citizens of this country to claim that an act of infanticide is justifiable hours before labor, but not seconds after birth. The bitter irony of the failure of the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act of 2019 is that pro-life Republicans brought their bill to the floor in the hope that they would highlight this monstrous incongruity, and Democrats simply stood their ground with no fear of electoral penalty because everyone, deep down, already knows exactly what is going on when an abortion occurs.
Everyone knows that abortion means killing a human being. Those who support “abortion rights” simply justify it. They play games with semantics because they do not wish to think about the bloody results of abortion or speak about them publicly. They are horrified at hidden-camera videos that show Planned Parenthood selling baby livers and brains to biomedical researchers not because they have learned something new by viewing them, but because they believe it is a human right not to have to think about that which they find unpleasant. In fact, they are perfectly content with the principle behind everything revealed in those videos: If abortions are going to occur, and the babies will be dead anyway, why should the living not benefit?
Hardly anyone on either side of the political aisle believes or acts as if there is a problem of any significance that the federal government cannot or may not solve. The same goes for the American electorate. Republicans are finished with offering voters denunciations of “big government.” It is not clear that they were sincere to begin with, but regardless, big government is what the people want, only on their own terms.
The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act is big government. So is a border wall.
Yes, this means we have all given up on federalism; we’ve admitted, tacitly, that it’s dead. And that would be correct. What the War Between the States had left in place of our constitutional order has been eroded by the incorporation of the Constitution into the states. Stripped of the context of tradition, “Due Process” and “Equal Protection” become cute, vague terms that fit whatever agenda the left wishes to push, and it remains only for the idea to occur to someone in Hollywood or at the New York Times to devise a new right that must be defended at all costs and ultimately incorporated into the laws of every state. This modus vivendi can go only in one direction: leftward.
Somewhere, deep down, we know that the people cannot be trusted. We know that they elected Donald Trump, but they also elected Barack Obama—twice. We know that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. We know that #FakeNews (whether from Russian bots or from the employees of Jeff Bezos) has the power to influence people, or else we wouldn’t be so eager to call it out. We know that a border wall—whatever it takes to get one in place—has the sort of permanence that will insure against the next open-borders president, whoever he, she, or zhe may be. We know that the big-business Republicans who fund GOP campaigns still want cheap labor, and that Democrats both New and #Woke hope to accelerate the pace of the disenfranchisement of white Christian males and streamline the Democratic path to victory for the foreseeable future.
And we know from the water cooler and from talking to our public-school educated children that Americans believe abortion should be “legal in all or most cases,” as the Pew Research Center puts it, by a majority of 58 percent as of 2018.
Big government is, quite simply, the fulfillment of the promise of liberal democracy. We literally can’t shake it. The illusion of self-government that accompanies any democracy causes men to develop an acute awareness of the inequalities that all people face because of unchanging human nature; and thus comes an obsession with individual rights. This obsession grows in accordance with the size of the group of individuals—neatly organized for us by poll—against which any one individual may compare himself. And so the consolidation of the American nation under a national government and by means of a national media culture that follows us wherever we go via ironically named smart phones causes jealousy and resentment to be ever-present hindrances in time of trouble. Local, state, and regional identities, and those vital mediating institutions mentioned so favorably by Burke and Tocqueville, once quelled resentments and fostered duty and loyalty. They have been neutralized.
A base as massive as ours will always tend toward baseness—unless it has a profound religious sensibility to keep it in check. And Christianity, being the one true Faith, cannot be replaced by a mere civic religion, neopaganism, nationalism, racialism (white or nonwhite), or citizenism; God is not mocked. Yet Christianity does not know how to operate apart from those mediating institutions which it instinctively creates and inspires: The Church must create culture, for She seeks to cultivate saints.
Conversely, the death of America’s mediating institutions—of family, school, university, neighborhood, community, local government, arts and letters—is the direct result of the Church’s failure to uphold the natural order, to cultivate virtue, to create culture. Cultural Marxists cannot march through Christian institutions.
Today, “conservative” Church leaders seek shelter under the wings of liberal democracy, repeating the bromides of the Enlightenment, touting abstract “religious freedom” as if it were written by the finger of God on tablets of stone. Instead of saying “Thus saith the Lord,” they apologize for the Church’s failure to defend human rights. They speak not as prophets but as Jacobins.
Infants—whether they wait unaware of the uncertainty of their fate in the warmth of the womb of women zealous of individual rights, or whether they lie helpless on a clinic table while mothers and doctors have “meaningful discussions”—should not be bit players in political theater. That they are tells us something about the wretchedness of our “sacred” political theories and the composition of this thing we call the American nation.
Democrats and Republicans, liberals and “conservatives”—all talk about the importance of our American democracy, and each accuses the other side of threatening it. But what if democracy is our problem?
What if our infanticide-friendly national culture is the inevitable result of the individualism and atomistic isolation that democracy fosters? “[N]ot only does democracy make each man forget his ancestors,” wrote Tocqueville,
but it hides his descendants from him and separates him from his contemporaries; it constantly leads him back toward himself alone and threatens finally to enclose him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.
Clearly, there is no better way to escape into the solitude of one’s own heart than to hide one’s descendant from oneself by killing him in utero—or even on the clinic table when he no longer poses any threat to the “health” of his mother. Or does he still, even after he has been successfully “born alive”? Does a breathing child not serve as a living testament to undeniable and unavoidable hierarchy and duty, subverting the sovereign self and his “individual rights”?