So, how are you all feeling about the final stretch of the American election? Tired yet? Bewildered, perhaps? You wouldn’t be alone. As some pundits have noted, it’s been like watching a circular firing squad.
It’s certainly been memorable. The debates, when not scaling the heights of hyperbole or descending to mere insults, definitely touched upon such key ideological contrasts as elitism versus populism, or statism versus individualism. Regardless of where one is on the political spectrum, most observers can likely agree on this much: though election day be in the same month as American Thanksgiving, and though the issues often appear black and white, neither candidate could possibly be accused of being a puritan. Historically speaking, however, one American Founder, James Madison, appears to have anticipated this very moment when he wrote:
“But what is government itself but the greatest of all reflections on human nature. If men were angels, no government would be necessary”.
To look at government, then, is to look at ourselves. Government is us, merely magnified. Hence, as we peer into the mirror of our own governance, how is our own countenance? If an electorate ultimately votes its own values, then it already appears as though the majority of Americans are a bunch of lying, manipulative, litigious, elitists, or a group of randy, vainglorious, money-worshiping, fame-cultists. As a symbol, this can’t be good.
And although modern social progressives are hardly ones to believe the study of history fashionable, prudence would remind us of what early American leadership thought of their country’s own limitations:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
To paraphrase Declaration of Independence signatory, the Rev. John Witherspoon, even a good form of government can only hold rotten materials together for so long.
Canadians, however, have zero reason to gloat over their southern neighbours.
Given the same Madison-esque theory of reflective politics, what shall we conclude about ourselves? Critics might say we look like groupies who follow a pop-band called “Sophie and the Selfie.” If leadership is a mirror of us, Canadians are about as shallow as a trending tweet.
Unwittingly, we might actually be helping the CRTC keep the oxymoron in the phrase, “Canadian content”. No, Canadian critics of American politics should likely remove the maple logs in our own eyes before commenting too much on the unsightly “eye-boogers” to our South.
For instance, does the Canadian Left do well to rail at Donald Trump’s designs to close American borders to illegals and radical Islamists when they themselves have already closed their “borders”, and built a vetting-wall, to exclude pro-lifers?
Isn’t it, in fact, amusing to watch the Left revelling in the distinction between consensual and non-consensual sensuality in the American Presidential race — they who despise, in Ontario and beyond, those parents not consenting to progressive sex education? In more general terms, isn’t it fascinating when a continent-wide liberal culture that routinely wallows in the muck of its own sexual license suddenly summons the capacity for moral outrage when it is confronted with the mirror-like fulfilment of its own sexual politics?
Just how old, after all, was Donald Trump when the “Summer of Love” was so aptly misnamed by the paragons of progressive culture? For the record, he was a malleable 21.
Is the Right, somehow, above all reproach? Not at all. Its American tendency to “gag with the flag”— to dismiss any criticism as unpatriotic — means that it can leave itself open to a form of confirmation bias, the insular perspective of a populist echo chamber. Contrary to trending political thought, one cannot actually “make America great again”, if the only humbling— the only repentance— necessary is someone else’s repentance. In truth, Madison’s mirror spares no one, and pride always balloons before a bust. While absolutely none of us are enamoured with our critics, absolutely everyone needs to listen to them occasionally.
A democracy that publicly diminishes and routinely dismisses what is godly, right, and true, is decadent and moribund. Additionally, a Republic that increasingly votes its own financial wants and never its own desperate needs is adolescent— inexcusably puerile.
Moreover, a general public that thinks that it can glean a few convenient “goods” from the “inconvenience” of God is dangerously playing god. It builds a cultural Tower with one hand, all while tearing at its very foundation with the other. The lead-up to election 2016 in the United States has undeniably been the most polarized, ribald, and acrimonious political process I have ever witnessed — at times, even resembling theatre of the absurd.
It would be easy to suggest that neither of the two candidates deserve the Office of the President, or that the election of either one represents a significant breakdown in the nomination process.
Yet, I’m reminded that the failure of all politics is, ultimately, the failure of our own collective character. The same people who are “always right” on election night, the Bible (more honestly) describes as always wrong — or, at least, routinely sinful. Hence, except by an intervention of Divine grace, voters always get what we rightly deserve.