The Morning After

I had trouble falling asleep last night. I think, or rather hope, it was more because of a lingering nasty flu than the political news I was following yesterday. I finally drifted off between coughs about 4am. But given the wild dreams that followed, my subconscious must have been working hard to clean up that inner slate.

Lots of people on all sides asking, “How could this have happened?” Is Mr Trump’s successful candidacy a b****** offspring of economic hardship and racism? For a while I’ve caught the whiff of just plain rudeness. I don’t know if I’ve woken to some clarity after watching a deinonychus eat poodles in a mansion, but I see a few threads connecting today.

They say the Obama presidency was built on the internet. I don’t doubt it. I think the heir apparent is Donald Trump. People scratch their heads about his brash talk and ask how he gets away with it. Those folks probably don’t get online much. That brand of ugly has been all over the Catholic blogosphere for years. I’m sure that conservative Catholics are not unique in that respect. From what I see some Catholics get mad, attach themselves to a willing guru. Want to find a kissing cousin to Mr Trump? A conservative Catholic won’t need to look far, or even get past the end of the alphabet.

On one level, some people are just tired of being polite when their inner demon is just urging them to let loose. The whole array of online communities from Facebook to specialty locales like St Blogs shows numbers of people who are on a slow boil. Does the medium contribute to the indulgence of rude? I suspect it does.

Not disconnected from all this is the curious case of Tony Spence, reported here at Commonweal. I’ve known colleagues and friends to be ousted from jobs at the urging of an angry self-appointed Temple Police. It happens for any number of reasons and knows no single ideology: we don’t like the music, we don’t like musicians, we don’t want to pay, we don’t like their marital status, their Twitter feed, their politics, their not being as anti-abortion as we are … Many Catholics would love to get their claws into bishops and maybe a pope or two. Is this any way to run a Church? It seems like it’s the way we run a society these days. Stoke the anger, find somebody to blame, and run with it.

One of the commenters at Commonweal asked, “But why should the Church employ a person with such views?” What about this? He was excellent at his job. Mr Spence on his detractors:

What blows my mind is these groups are given so much credibility and have influence. They are destructive. We’re only talking about a few hundred people in a very big church, but church leadership sometimes doesn’t have confidence in its own voice and these shrill challenges make them jump for cover.

This is accurate. We have a lot of followers in leadership positions in both politics and in the Church. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing. People can grow into good leadership. The key is to find trusty support: knowledgeable people who can keep the presumptive leader from running off the rails. We don’t see this in the cult of celebrity. How many big names in pop culture go down because fame and power have clouded good judgment?

Bullies smell fear and indecision. That is why they keep their power.

John Gehring’s conclusion from that Commonweal piece:

The bishops’ conference, and the American hierarchy more broadly, face a crossroads. Culture warriors are digging in. Self-appointed guardians of orthodoxy will only grow more emboldened now that they can claim another scalp. There is nothing joyful, inspiring, or authentically Catholic about any of this. Catholics on the left and right don’t have to agree on everything to recognize a better path is possible. The ideological purity tests and ugly character assassinations that sicken our secular body politic should be a cautionary tale for our church.

The Church has dealt with that tale for over a decade now, and select quarters seem disinterested in putting down that book. But not all. We are seeing a thaw, or at least something of a truce, as discerned here.

A lot of this energy has shifted to national politics now. Mr Trump is a natural consequence of the angry internet. However unforeseen by some, the fruit looks undeniable to me.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Hermeneutic of Subtraction, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Morning After

  1. Liam says:

    Last August, I was at a dinner populated with Right-Thinking Progressive People(TM). Someone expressed amazement about Donald Trump. I said, matter of factly, that Trump could very well win the GOP nomination, but beat Hillary Clinton and become president. I explained that such a thing was perfectly consistent with the role of the president-as-celebrity, our credulity as a people at large (married with what has become habitual instant gratification), widespread frustration at entrenchment of an array of stakeholders in the so-called Deep State, et cet.

    While odds currently favor Clinton to win, that could change. She could be elected in a landslide, but Trump could win narrowly if she stumbles in getting out her vote.

    Trump will likely feel some pressure to select a female running mate. He would likely want to avoid selecting a congresscritter who has established positions on federal policy matters at odd with Trump’s tumbleweed policy evolution. I suspect he will end up with a female governor with a proven track record of attracting and keeping the Reaganite coalition happy.

    (Reading True Conservative(TM) punditariat yesterday taking about ideas such as tapping Gingrich to be VP struck me as QED about how so many vested in the old order remain in denial that the Reagan Paradigm is shattered at the presidential level – it remains alive like American chestnut trees in the forest. FDR’s New Deal coalition lasted 36 years – 1932-68; Reagan’s lasted likewise, 1980-2016.)

    • Devin Rice says:

      As for the end of the Reagan coalition, I would not get your hopes up too soon. If Trump loses the election, I am not sure the next midterm or presidential election will produce anything but the typical Republican candidates. His winning the presidency would be a different matter.

  2. Atheist Max says:

    I agree with Liam. The Reagan paradigm is over.
    And the Bush vs. Obama argument was also lost when nobody went to jail for the financial meltdown of 2008 while white collar bank robbers were allowed to run free – an injustice which still enrages much of the country.
    Obama was too cool – he didn’t bring justice or a good fight. Trump is a scrappy, vulgar fighter smashing both parties to bits for their negligence, complacency and wastefulness. Trump was right to rip into the GOP for the reckless, expensive Bush wars and the doddering democrats who never stood up to fight any of it.

    As a liberal, I am sad Obama failed to reset the country on a better course after the catastrophes of Bush. As an American, I am sad we can’t manage to save our democracy from the ideologues and the oligarchs who will soon be the only remaining powers.

    Trump is a mirage. Hillary a scandal. What a mess.

  3. Devin Rice says:

    As a Democrat from central PA (who is not voting Trump), I think you underplay people rationally voting for Trump. Free trade has ravished many parts of the American economy so we can have cheap goods (both in cost and quality). He is criticizing the Bush and Obama wars. He wants to slow down the influx of cheap labor which i have mixed feelings about from a humanitarian perspective. But this and some of his other position are in the economic interests of his voters. NPR has interviewed former Obama voters going Trump. And in New Hampshire, independents were debating voting for Sanders or Trump. It is not just anger that is motivating these people.

    As for Tony Spence, it is like comparing apples and orangutans. He was hired to report the news and to de facto represent the Bishop’s Conference positions (or at leasts not contradict them). All government and many private business employees know this and this prevails in other religions as well. It is expected in my job. It is just common sense. I had a friend who used to work as a teacher at a conservative christian school even though she had a live in boyfriend. She failed to mention this to her employers and she knew never to bring it up or contradict school policy or she would be fired. I suspected she felt she was living a bit of a double life during her employment but she brought it upon herself. I have to wonder how much of a double life Mr. Spence thought he was living depending on his level of support LGBT issues. Maybe he will find some new relief, freedom and a better suited job.

    As for how a small group of right-winged bloggers can get a man fire, they are relatively limited. They lack money and numbers. They can only point out behavior that the bishops/employer already doesn’t like. They cry foul a lot but are often ignored. The main cause of Spence’s termination is with the Conference and Spence. The fault is not with the Blogging Stars, but within themselves so to speak.

  4. FrMichael says:

    “As for how a small group of right-winged bloggers can get a man fire, they are relatively limited. They lack money and numbers. They can only point out behavior that the bishops/employer already doesn’t like. They cry foul a lot but are often ignored. The main cause of Spence’s termination is with the Conference and Spence. The fault is not with the Blogging Stars, but within themselves so to speak.”

    Ah, the truth!

    • Todd says:

      Count me a skeptic on this. Mr Spence had one intemperate tweet, something not even out of line with Church teaching.

  5. FrMichael says:

    Oh, it was most certainly contrary to Catholicism. No such things as “LGBT rights” other than the basic human rights all human beings enjoy.

    • Jim McCrea says:

      The highest court in this land has ruled that there ARE LGBT rights. Now if dour religionists want to get their surplices in a tight know about this, tough noogies.

      This country has yet to become a theocracy. Thank God for that!

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