What the Election Means

President Barack Obama has achieved something historic: Getting re-elected when not a single one of his major initiatives enjoys popular support. It is also noteworthy, to judge by the voter breakdowns, that the moral and spiritual demographics and geography of the United States have changed – considerably.  

If Governor Mitt Romney, an honorable man of moderate political preferences and traditional personal convictions, cannot attract a winning coalition, we are in deep trouble.  His loss illustrates the changes that have occurred in the nation and the challenges they portend.  

Politics is about addition and Gov. Romney surely tried to run an “additional” campaign. I can think of no Republican who was more likely to put together the pieces that were necessary to win this election with the hopes of securing a center-right victory.

This illustrates that America has become a trending leftist, drifting towards dependent nation that will continue to move culturally “left,” which means that: 

  • conservative causes that take their bearings from the truths and moral rationality offered by the Judeo-Christian political and philosophical tradition will continue to be marginalized,
  • the Church’s liberty will be increasingly restricted,
  • and the long march of leftism, hedonism, and materialism, with their attendant anomie and nihilism, will continue unabated through our public institutions.  

Given the Catholic Church’s failure adequately to address the cultural, political, and even existential threat posed to it by President Obamas agenda, the credibility of the Churchs witness has been further eroded and weakened, making it less likely to be courageous and effective in speaking the hard truths necessary for personal, ecclesial, and national renewal.  

Because of this failure, the leftist cultural and moral agenda will continue to increasingly inform – and even invade – our personal, familial, and communal lives. The effect on our national existence and civil society will likely be devastating. Trends towards cultural degradation, moral turpitude, debt, deficits, and fiscal ruin will likely be super-accelerated.

Further, the president and his administration have been the most historically anti-life, anti-liberty, and anti-orthodox Christianity in the history of the nation.  I have grave reservations about the future of many of the Catholic Church’s integral apostolic activities, but not only because of the policies President Obama will continue to pursue.

Many Catholics, especially suburban women (as initial voting analysis suggests), are now firmly in the camp of a gentle, yet cautionary statism and a hedonism that emphasize material prosperity, extensive but superficial education, 
choice, and comity. They have chosen these aims over moral and economic truths, as well as the demands of virtue and the habits of mind such truths call forth.


This reality, if the voting breakdown is to be believed, is bad for the political agenda of the nation and poses tremendous challenges for authentically Catholic apostolic efforts in the coming years.

The other fact supporting such concerns about conservative initiatives, especially those drawing their inspiration from orthodox Catholicism and Christianity, is that the Catholic bishops ran a largely incompetent campaign against the religious liberty restrictions of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

Even worse, they helped pass the act itself legislatively by providing the hierarchys moral cover at a critical moment when passage was far from certain. Given that the president and the Democratic Party ran a pummeling campaign against the Catholic Church, which included regularly mischaracterizing the Churchs teachings, Mr. Obama has no political or personal reason to reach a compromise with the Church on issues essential to the free exercise of religion.  

Given the hostility of Democratic campaigns to Catholic concerns on the question of the HHS mandate and the broader question of religious liberty, the president and his administration will proceed with the notion that he has a mandate to continue his aggressively anti-Catholic, anti-religious, and culturally libertine agenda.    

To be brutally honest, my admittedly dark assessment of this emerging reality is that conservatives, especially orthodox Catholics and other Christians, should be prepared for the worst. We are going to be marginalized, our institutions hemmed in, our liberties restricted, and our persons attacked.  

We have few deeply principled and thoroughly well informed leaders who enjoy support locally and beyond who are in a position to offer real resistance. And how many of those possess the courage to be effective in keeping our views and positions viable in the public square?  

President Obamas victory is not about a popular policy agenda, but about the triumph of emotionalism and relativism in the face of an inarticulate, ineffective, and ultimately uncourageous opposition.  Our culture leaders and media have convinced a majority of the American people that perception is reality, that feeling is the same as fact, and that “being nice” is a moral imperative. 

As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat has said elsewhere, neatly summing up the present moment: “We confuse charisma with competence, rhetoric with results, celebrity with genuine achievement. We find convenient scapegoats for national tragedies, and let our personal icons escape the blame. And we imagine that the worst evils can be blamed exclusively on subterranean demons, rather than on the follies that often flow from fine words and high ideals.”

Father Phillip W. De Vous, a new contributor to The Catholic Thing, is the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, KY and an adjunct scholar of public policy at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.
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Father Phillip W. De Vous is the pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, KY and an adjunct scholar of public policy at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.