Pragmatism and Perfection in U.S. Politics
Some Christians, pleading the need to be pragmatic, smugly chide those like me, who insist that any proven departure in principle from the standard of right wholly makes a candidate for high office unacceptable. Where I say “in principle,” however, they use the word “perfection.” This enormously small substitution allows them to benefit from the conclusion that perfectionism is a political absurdity: Since no human beings are capable of absolute perfection, the standard of perfection excludes all human candidates for office.
Of course, the phrase “departure in principle” is not, in fact, about perfection. It is about consistency. Perfection depends on the complete attainment of an intended objective or result, depending, in either case, on the most exacting definition. Consistency looks at the objective or result in a more general way, in order to ask whether, on account of some flaw or error in one’s approach he entirely fails to attain the objective or result in question.
This is why, when writing about the inadequacy of the GOP’s political candidates, I refer not to their flaws (which are, of course, to be expected) but to their fatal flaws. If it can be shown that some small departure from principle has a fatal effect, the failing involved cannot be dismissed as forgivably human. Because it is fatal, it’s intolerable.
With all this in mind, consider the nature of my criticisms of the supposedly conservative candidates the GOP presently has on offer. I begin from the premise that the term “conservative” means what it says. It therefore has to do with preserving or holding on to something. Since we are using it in the political context, it also has to do with our vocation as citizens of the United States, as we decide how best to carry out our duty as members of the sovereign body of the people. The duty of the sovereign is to care for the common good of the nation, which includes not only its survival in material terms, but the preservation and fulfillment of the distinguishing qualities and attributes essential to its existence as a whole.
When they become citizens of the United States, legal immigrants take an oath in which they declare that they will “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We call this process “naturalization” because it confers upon people who are not natural born citizens of the United States all but one of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by those who are. The oath of allegiance they are required to take is meant to affirm the national allegiance that is, rightly or wrongly, taken for granted as an attribute of natural born citizens.
This attribute may not be the only thing Americans have in common, but the fact that it is thus particularly ascertained as part of the naturalization process makes plain our common sense that the preservation and defense of the form of government established by the Constitution of the United States is the sine qua non of our common identity as a people. It is therefore the essential belonging without which we do not constitute a community, without which, therefore, we have, as a people, no common good.
Our foremost sovereign duty as members of the body politic of the United States is therefore to conserve (i.e., preserve, protect and defend) the form of government established by the Constitution. But the Constitution reflects a certain understanding of the aim or end of government, an understanding that relies on the principles of right and rights for the sake of which the people of the United States asserted their independent existence as such. The words and logic of the American Declaration of Independence epitomized that understanding. They are the premises, set down at the beginning, in respect of which the Constitution must be maintained, or cease to exist, along with our identity as a people.
In every generation of our life as a people, the issues of the day that involve these premises are the ones on which the common good of our people most depends. They involve the aspect of our existence as a nation that is, to our body politic, what the soul is to our individual bodies. In our day, they include the issues in respect of the God endowed unalienable right to life; the basis, in God-endowed natural right, for the institution of marriage and the family; and, in general, the source and limitation of just governmental power in and by the transcendent authority of the Creator, God.
Whatever their rhetoric, it is now clear beyond any reasonable doubt that both political parties have treasonously rejected those premises. It is not “perfectionism” to reject any and every candidate whose stand on any issue shows that they are infected by that treason. By focusing our attention on the crises and dangers inevitably spawned by their treason, the elitist faction forces mean to consolidate its results, bringing our Constitutional government to an end. This is a fatal result. It is not perfectionism to insist that our approach to all these issues be consistent with the premises that called for and must still define our existence as a nation.
But neither is it the way to defeat that treason, and restore our government, under God; of, by and for the people. To do that we must look first to God and His understanding of justice; and then to the conscientious spirit and heart He is willing to instill in us, in order to bring forth fruits worthy of our return to the path of right and rights consistent with that understanding. And finally, we must focus all our efforts on becoming, amongst ourselves and for our nation, the vehicle through which candidates clearly willing to bear that fruit are lifted up for election as the representatives of our good will.
Shouldn’t this be the goal of Americans determined to be faithful to the rule of the Creator, God? Should this be the goal of those who trust in the promise of His Son, Jesus Christ; who told us that when we gather in His name, seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He will be there, standing in our midst? And shouldn’t’ this be the goal of all who are willing to stand, as Christian Federalists, apart from and against the deep corruption of our present sham partisan politics; and against the “major” Parties that perpetrate the sham (so called even though they no longer represent anything like the majority of us)?
We will never attain the goal that defines us as a nation in the name of any self-promoting candidate or Party. When it comes to our vocation as citizens, it is only by gathering at the polls in the name of our faith in Christ that we will witness for our nation the true salvation that is the only greatness worth reaching for, whether as citizens or simply as human beings. And isn’t the perfection of the union of humanity and citizenship, of human nature and our nationhood, precisely what, in the preamble to our Constitution, we the people of the United States, make it our first aim to perfect?
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