Is This the Dawning of the Age of Vulgar Demagoguery?
Frank Cocozzelli printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Sep 05, 2016 at 10:19:43 AM EST
Before the end of GOP primaries, I wrote about how Catholic neo-conservatives couldn't bring themselves to support Donald Trump. Even now that he is the Republican nominee, he even seems to be a bridge too far for their tastes.

But Catholic neo-cons are not unanimous about Trump.  Former U. S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) is one of Trump's most prominent supporters.

In March 2016, during the Republican primary season two prominent Catholic neo- conservatives, Robert P. George and George Weigel wrote in the National Review, a tersely-worded declaration urging American Catholics not to vote for Donald Trump.

The statement pulled no punches. Among the admonitions it contained:

Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States. His campaign has already driven our politics down to new levels of vulgarity. His appeals to racial and ethnic fears and prejudice are offensive to any genuinely Catholic sensibility. He promised to order U.S. military personnel to torture terrorist suspects and to kill terrorists' families -- actions condemned by the Church and policies that would bring shame upon our country. And there is nothing in his campaign or his previous record that gives us grounds for confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life, to religious freedom and the rights of conscience, to rebuilding the marriage culture, or to subsidiarity and the principle of limited constitutional government.

As well as:

We understand that many good people, including Catholics, have been attracted to the Trump campaign because the candidate speaks to issues of legitimate and genuine concern: wage stagnation, grossly incompetent governance, profligate governmental spending, the breakdown of immigration law, inept foreign policy, stifling "political correctness" -- for starters. There are indeed many reasons to be concerned about the future of our country, and to be angry at political leaders and other elites. We urge our fellow Catholics and all our fellow citizens to consider, however, that there are candidates for the Republican nomination who are far more likely than Mr. Trump to address these concerns, and who do not exhibit his vulgarity, oafishness, shocking ignorance, and -- we do not hesitate to use the word -- demagoguery.

Let's underscore that:  "...his vulgarity, oafishness, shocking ignorance, and -- we do not hesitate to use the word -- demagoguery." Let's underscore that:

In neo-conservative parlance, those described as "vulgar" have specific meaning - and it is not praiseworthy. The vulgar among us are the opposite of "the thinkers." It is a concept that comes down to us from the neo-cons' philosophical guru, Leo Strauss. As the writer Shadia Drury observed:

The difference between the vulgar and the wise (I will for the moment leave the gentlemen and statesmen out of the account) are for Strauss quite fantastic. The vulgar are self-seeking lovers of pleasure and wealth. They are Hobbesian men seeking power after power ending only in death. They can only be motivated to moral virtue by laws that threaten severe punishments and by the terrors of Hades. In contrast, the philosophers are almost godlike in comparison to ordinary men. They know that there is no God and no support in the universe for the laws that men make. They know that Hades is a necessary but noble fiction meant for the vulgar. Yet in spite of this they have no desire to harm others or get the better of them, even when they can do so with impunity. They are possessed of what might seem to be an incomprehensible nobility. Their justice is not a result of philanthropy or love for mankind. Nor is it motivated by fear of the earthly or heavenly powers. Strauss explains their nobility by saying that they place little stock in the things that ordinary men `hotly contest'. It is not that they do not love pleasure; on the contrary, they wish to lead the most pleasant life (for they believe that pleasure is the only truly natural good). However, unlike the vulgar, they have experienced not only the lower pleasures of eating, drinking, sex, wealthy, and power, but the eros of philosophy. According to Strauss, in relation to the pleasures of the philosophical life, all the other pleasures pale into insignificance. What other men so `hotly contest' appear `paltry' to those who have seen the `truly grand'. This is meant to explain their unusual nobility.

It should be duly noted that both George and Weigel are firmly in the Straussian camp. Thus their use of the word vulgar was no random choice of words.

Trump's vulgarity and demagoguery are readily apparent. During the course of his campaign he has mocked a disabled reporter; degraded various women opponents and journalists in the most misogynistic terms; and has tacitly accepted support from the Alt Right. Beyond that his invective against Mexican immigrants often borders upon racism.  From almost any point of view, his reckless disparagement of NATO as well as his warm comments about Vladimir Putin is downright alarming.

He is clearly far from the Straussian ideal.

Their inability to stop Trump has left them in a quandary. While many are unhappy about a Hillary Clinton presidency, they are also frightened that the Trump phenomenon is pulling the overall conservative movement into the undesirable direction of pitchfork populism - something infused with a very large dose of isolationism.  So it appears that most of them are sitting out this election while hoping for a better horse to back in 2020.

Enter Rick Santorum.

Originally a supporter of U. S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-T X .), Santorum claims that his overriding concern is that liberals will control the United States Supreme Court for generations to come if Hillary Clinton becomes President.

But perhaps Santorum is just vulgar.

Unlike William Kristol and Robert P. George, Santorum can be a bomb thrower. His many caustic statements have been well documented.  Perhaps most infamous among them was his assertion that John F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state to the Protestant clergy of the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston in 1960 -- made him want to "throw up."

When you come right down to it, Rick Santorum's Catholic politics is of the culture war variety. When he hews the orthodox line, it is only on biological issues. Other than that, his pronouncements often run counter to Catholic Social Teaching. He has embraced in Donald Trump a man who he claims speaks for the working man; something that just does not square with the facts.

While Pope Francis speaks out for workers who do not receive a living wage, Santorum supports a man who has declared that wages are too high. And as the pontiff has spoken out on the danger of Global Warming, both Santorum and Trump are climate science deniers. And while the Pope has expressed a desire to tone down the divisive rhetoric on biological issues in favor economic social justice, the former U. S. Senator from Pennsylvania has taken the opposite tack.

Santorum has shown the world that his Catholic neo-conservative orthodoxy takes a backseat to his culture war identity. And to that end, he is willing to embrace a scorched earth policy.

Santorum is helping Trump bring new life to the old school hateful language of Roy Cohn. Arguably they have seized the day -- and we wonder, is this day the dawning of the age of vulgar demagoguery?




Display:
Santorum's endorsement of Trump makes it clear that politics makes for strange bedfellows. Santorum is the type of Republican that the big money boyz in the GOP encouraged without any concern that the culture warriors and alt-Right might turn on the big money boyz. Normally, I wouldn't agree with Robert George and George Weigel on much, but they are absolutely correct on Donald Trump's complete vulgarity and demagoguery. To that I can also add Trump's utter racism and contempt for people of color. Weigel, George, and Kristol thought they could have their little wars in the Middle East and maintain control over the knuckledragging rank and file voters, but Trump's emergence has shown that the so-called leaders of the GOP have lost control. The GOP has been headed in this direction ever since Nixon sought to reach out to resentful white voters after the initial success of the Civil Rights Movement. They have now reached the pits with Donald Trump, and they seem to be clueless how their political strategies led them to their current predicament. They are not showing any sign of learning from it, either.

by khughes1963 on Mon Sep 05, 2016 at 11:20:18 AM EST

When Trump, George and Weigel use the term "political correctness" as a pejorative, what they really mean is that they want to have the freedom to insult other people without getting any negative responses or consequences in return. Sorry, guys, but that horse is already out of the barn, and it's a good thing!

by khughes1963 on Mon Sep 05, 2016 at 11:22:04 AM EST

"From almost any point of view, his reckless disparagement of NATO as well as his warm comments about Vladimir Putin is downright alarming."

This is your political opinion, and because this is not an overtly political site, all I will add is that I can cite authoritative opinions that disagree emphatically, upon good evidence, with the demonisation of Russia, and Putin in particular. Indeed it is much more the case that Putin (as the leader of Russia) is the victim of the "vulgar demagoguery" which you (rightly) decry, and this aggressive demagoguery is risking war between two nuclear-armed powers.

If there is interest, and if the moderator(s) approve, I can present documentation and sources to back up my assertion. The forces and interests at work provoking Russia are the same ones that are provoking China (another nuclear power) in the South China Sea and elsewhere.

Trump's "Russia friendly" comments, and his disparagement of NATO constitute a cause for alarm to those whose interests are behind the USA's aggressive policies in these areas.

by Brian H on Wed Sep 07, 2016 at 01:54:37 AM EST

There are about 38.5 million Poles who would beg to differ.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Fri Sep 09, 2016 at 12:17:06 PM EST
Parent
The situation in the Ukraine has also caused a great deal of grief for a lot of innocent people.  I was purchasing an item from a Ukrainian when it all came down - and he told me of the attitudes on the street (he was also forced to move, along with all of his neighbors, when the Russians came in).  When the item went out in the International Postal Service, Russia confiscated all of the mail from that area of the Ukraine and routed it through Moscow, adding several weeks wait to the delivery time for me (and many people never got their mail when that happened).  We weren't sure that I'd ever receive the package.  From the stamps imprinted on it, it sat in a Moscow office for most of that time.

Putin is NOT liked among Ukrainians, especially those who were forcibly displaced (and before they moved, they also experienced persecution for not supporting Russia).


by ArchaeoBob on Sat Sep 10, 2016 at 11:07:13 AM EST
Parent




This is cheap politics to bring religion into elections and asking people to not vote him because he is religion friendly guy. As per best essay writers articles We must see for leadership qualities and confidence in doing the work given to him in any person and then decide whether right person for the president seat is or not.

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