John Zmirak received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. He has taught at Catholic and secular colleges, including Tulane University. He has contributed to American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Catholic Social Thought. He has served as Senior Editor of Faith & Family Magazine and a reporter at The National Catholic Register. His new book, The Bad Catholic’s Guide to the Catechism, is now available. Check his new blogs and archived columns at The Bad Catholic’s Bingo Hall.
Q: So why did the Republicans lose?
A: Their irresponsible policies. We knew, or should have known, that there was no good reason for the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq; that building a Western liberal democracy in the Muslim world was a narcissistic daydream; that deregulating companies while insuring them as “too big to fail” was a recipe for bankruptcy. We knew better. But back in 2004 or 2006 our leaders had winning slogans, so we winked at their various fibs. Our fellow voters noticed. You can’t tout smaller government while trying to police the world—or save free enterprise through crony capitalism. So when Americans were offered a more consistent policy of “socialism in one country,” they bought it.
Q: Why should we object to the growth of government?
See Ben Wiker on the core Catholic principle of subsidiarity. The higher the percentage of people’s incomes the government takes, the less free we are to do anything it doesn’t approve or order. Since our country is by definition secular, every growth of government shrinks the Church. Every dollar you pay in school tax to that public school district where they teach “gay marriage” and hand out condoms is a dollar you can’t spend on tuition at St. Philomena High. And so on. How convenient that the administration which millions of Catholics just voted to re-elect is already outlawing nearly any Catholic institution that obeys Church teaching. Now there won’t really be any pesky Catholic charities here. They will simply be illegal. We can staple our checkbooks shut.
Q: But shouldn’t we try to redistribute more of our national income to the poor?
A: The virtue of Charity, like the virtue of Faith, means nothing when it’s coerced. I gain the same divine grace from paying my taxes as some native does when a missionary baptizes him at gunpoint: absolutely none. When a full-third of our income is taxed away before we ever see it, that’s a constant occasion of sin when we come face to face with the poor: We already gave at the office.
The growth of government also attacks the Natural virtues. When the State turns large segments of the U.S. population into subjects whose sustenance comes from the government, it obliterates habits of hard work and thrift, making it foolish for unwed fathers to pay for their children, adults to support their parents or neighbors to help each other. This dissolves every bond in human society except that binding the voter and his President. What’s driving the growth of government isn’t the old-fashioned socialist drive for “justice” (however misconceived). It’s the post-1960s ideology that dominates the West: utilitarian hedonism. We seek the greatest number of momentarily pleasant experiences for the greatest number of people, as quickly as possible. Hence we use abortion to bulldoze those tiny fetal speedbumps who block off our ecstasy.
Q: What does Romney’s loss mean for the life issue?
That the next two Supreme Court justices, at least, will be fanatical advocates of Roe v. Wade, “gay marriage” and every other social innovation to emerge from Harvard, Yale and Cal-Berkeley. There is no longer any prospect of promoting life issues through the Court — and hence, through presidential politics.
Q: So what should pro-lifers do?
The most effective pro-life leader I know is Jason Jones, the executive producer of Bella and a longtime supporter of the Personhood initiative. As we picked through the post-election rubble Wednesday morning, he reflected:
“Now it’s clear we won’t have votes to overturn Roe. So we must focus on the sole means left for protecting unborn Americans: a constitutional amendment defining them as persons. Brent Bozell of Triumph magazine argued back in 1973 that we needed to do the long, slow, thankless work needed to push such an amendment through the Congress and the states. It is time we finally get started on that work.
“Precisely because it’s detached from economic issues, this amendment would gain support (as the personhood initiatives have) from demographic groups who for simple, tribal reasons (like Boston Irish) will never vote Republican. We saw that the amendment defending traditional marriage did well with minority voters in California.
“Detaching the abortion issue from presidential politics will drain much of the support that unprincipled, pro-business drones like Mitt Romney and Karl Rove have always counted on from social conservatives. Instead, they will have to win our votes on other issues — perhaps by defending traditional marriage, for instance. For too long we have been pawns; we must learn instead to be chess players.”