An Unpretentious Election Scorecard
“By the spring of 1991, in parts of Washington, D.C., capital of the richest nation on earth, the proportion of (illegitimate births) was as high as 90 percent. There was no point in trying to pretend that one-parent families and illegitimacy were anything other than grave social evils, devastating for the individuals concerned and harmful for society, leading, as they inevitably did in many cases, to extreme poverty and crime.” — Paul Johnson in “Modern Times.”
A COMMENT BY TOM HUSTON got us to thinking: The thing that liberals do really well, perhaps the only thing, is pretend — pretend the nuclear family is irrelevant, pretend enemies are disarmed by ideas, pretend prosperity is created by decree, pretend there are no borders, pretend backward is forward.
We’ve begun to call this Huston’s Law. In its support, he cites a list of recent headlines ranging from Caitlyn Jenner’s new identity to the erasure of Gen. Robert E. Lee from history. “If you can believe a woman has a penis, then you can believe just about anything,” Huston writes in his inimitable style.
The value is not in a scathing characterization of liberals — they are what they are and always have been — but in an awareness that we do not seem able to rise to the challenge that pretense represents. Liberals, unchecked by a grounded school system, are free to pretend that their various social arrangements and political reforms (trending now to the totalitarian) will produce the same results in freedom and prosperity. Only it will be better, in the long run at least — safer, happier, more environmentally responsible and more fair.
Huston’s Law allows us to apply reality to that claim in the form of a scorecard for the upcoming election campaigns. The heading row reads (pick one): “Pretending,” “Sort of Pretending” and “Not Pretending.” Underneath, there is a list of imperatives:
- Exceptionalism — Does the candidate wave the flag (standard Republican pretending) or is he emphatic that our society is the product of a unique, even miraculous set of historic, religious, philosophic, economic and geographic developments beginning in 12th-century England? Can he spell Magna Carta?
- Equality — Does the candidate pander when race, national origin, sexual preference or income inequality is mentioned? Or does he assert that peoples as diverse as those of Hong Kong, Denmark, Singapore, India and New Zealand, not to mention eight generations of immigrants here, have opted into our system with the same results in productivity and resultant prosperity?
- Economics —Does the candidate grasp the difference in incentive when all economic activity not specifically prohibited by government can assumed to be legal compared with the reverse? Does the candidate understand the profound consequences of private property?
- Justice — Does the candidate appreciate that there are two mutually exclusive views of justice, contractual and redistributive? That the latter — regardless of best intentions — degenerates into a system in which everyone tries to live off everyone else? That the one will create a different type of citizen, will attract a different type of immigrant?
- Religion — Does the candidate understand that those who constructed the First Amendment did not envision a “wall of separation between Church and State”? (The phrase is in one of Jefferson’s personal letters.) That instead they foresaw a nation ever mindful of what belongs to God and what belongs to Caesar?
The point of the exercise is to remind ourselves that what liberals have long pretended to be progress is in fact a throwback to a time “when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people,” to quote Calvin Coolidge on the subject. “Their ideas are not more modern but more ancient than those of the Revolutionary Fathers,” he said of the pretenders of his day (oh, that FDR had listened).
It is worse now, of course. Our very civilization is a target for pretense if not derision. This is a Syracuse University history professor writing in the New York Times just last week: “I think that what modern philosophers call ‘pure’ reason is a white male Euro-Christian construction.”
Yes, and it has worked everywhere in the world that it has been allowed to take root — regardless of social standing, church denomination, sexual identification or deoxyribonucleic acid. That’s why the sociologist Charles Murray urges us to turn and face the pretenders. He wants us to stand up and “preach what we practice” — that is, the unique set of principles so carelessly dismissed as the outdated ideas of old, dead and (presumably) straight white men.
Let’s follow Mr. Huston’s lead and quit pretending about important things. And then let’s do what we can to make sure our democratic representatives quit pretending as well.
— Craig Ladwig