Shun False Paths to Power

A great statesman offers an attractive vision that can transform friendless strangers into strange friends, appealing to what Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.” This is not to say that even the most skilled political leader may not say things with which others may disagree, even vehemently. Rather, it means that a great statesman does not intentionally sow seeds of discord for the sake of political power.

He procures political power for the sake of advancing the common good, though he is aware that some of his detractors may quarrel with how he understands that good. Because he respects his critics, and wants to make them his allies, he offers – with charity and grace – the sorts of reasons that he believes any fair-minded citizen would find compelling, though conceding that even the most fair-minded adversary may still walk away unconvinced.

For this reason, in argument and in victory he will never denigrate his opponents’ character or suggest that they are less than full members of the political community. Conversely, the leader who speaks to provoke rather than to inspire, who employs language to make virtue more difficult and vice second nature, would rather win with Machiavelli than lose with Socrates.

For political conservatives, especially those who are observant religious believers, this prescription for political leadership is a very difficult pill to swallow. These citizens have, for nearly a decade, not experienced the sort of civic friendship with their adversaries that I am suggesting is one result of the work of a true statesman.

When they raise serious questions about illegal immigration, they are called xenophobes.

When they pursue religious liberty legislation to ensure they are not coerced to participate in liturgical events prohibited by their moral theology, they are labeled bigots trying to “weaponize religious liberty.”

When they try to form non-profit corporate entities to advance their own civic beliefs in the public square, they are targeted by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for “special evaluation.”

When they appeal to principles of justice, once widely-thought to be the antidote to racial, gender, and ethnic discrimination and prejudice, in their opposition to policies that require that race, gender, and ethnicity be taken into consideration in hiring and school admissions, they are accused of advancing a culture of discrimination and prejudice.

“I'm the bad guy?”
“I’m the bad guy?”

When they want to protect and nurture their own institutions – their colleges, charitable organizations, civic groups, etc. – in ways that can resist cultural trends that they believe are deleterious to the integrity of those entities, they are not only sneered at, but become the subject of calls to remove their tax-exempt status.

They are confused by a political leadership that praises the virtues of diversity, but at the same time seems to want to use cultural and governmental power to make sure that everyone thinks alike, every institution looks the same, and that encourages the view that dissenters are to be marginalized and denied social respect.

They can no longer trust an educated political elite that rejects the transparent rules of governance outlined in the Constitution while outsourcing unaccountable administrative agencies to do their legislative and executive dirty work, e.g., IRS, EPA, HHS, DOA, DOJ, etc.

Like Bill Foster, Michael Douglas’ character in Falling Down (1993), these voters are asking, “I’m the bad guy?…. How did that happen?” This explains why Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are in ascendancy among religious conservatives, especially Evangelicals.

It also explains why Trump (who recently spoke at Liberty University) and Cruz (who never misses an opportunity to display his Evangelical street cred) campaign with the sort of edge and biting rhetoric that is meant to attract a constituency that believes it has nothing left to lose and who are not going to take it anymore.

Although this is totally understandable, it is unwise for religious conservatives to acquiesce to the temptation to cooperate with this sort of electoral strategy. This is the time to lead by example, to rise above the urge to poke back, and not to follow some of our progressive friends in engaging in a politics of ridicule, insult, and marginalization.

On the one hand, the frustrations and complaints of religious conservatives – as I have already noted – are real, substantial, and should not be disparaged. On the other hand, political leadership, true statesmanship, is not just about electoral victory and subsequent payback to yesterday’s sore winners on the other side. It is about offering a vision that is attractive and intelligent, and can unite a wide coalition of citizens around a candidate who can do the most good given the reality of the nation’s demography.

For serious religious conservatives this at least means not emulating the worst political habits of your partisan opponents. For, at the end of the day, it is more important to be good than it is to be elected. “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul?” (Mt 16:26)

Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith

Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and 2016-17 Visiting Professor of Conservative Thought and Policy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Among his many books is Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    Does no one read Carl Schmitt anymore?

    The political comes into being when groups are placed in a relation of enmity, where each comes to perceive the other as an irreconcilable adversary to be fought and, if possible, defeated. “Every religious, moral, economic, ethical, or other antithesis transforms itself into a political one if it is sufficiently strong to group human beings effectively, according to friends and enemy.” “The political is the most intense and extreme antagonism,” Schmitt wrote.

    Of course, he denies the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting
    positions; for Schmitt there is no such neutrality, since any rule – even an ostensibly fair one –represents the victory of one political faction over another and is merely the temporarily stabilised result of past conflicts.

    Internal order can only be imposed as the necessary means of pursuing external conflicts. For Schmitt, a world state is impossible, for humanity has no enemy.

    • PCB

      Ah, but humanity does have two very formidable enemies – itself and Satan.

      “(A)ny rule – even an ostensibly fair one –represents the victory of one political faction over another and is merely the temporarily stabilised result of past conflicts. – I do not know if it was Bernard Avishai who said it first, but he has at least repeated it on many occasion, “Democracy is a peace process.” – I find this to be an interesting way of looking at it.

    • Mactoul

      The idea of politics as a consequence of relation of group enmity is the antithesis of the entire Western tradition dating from Aristotle and well marks Carl Schmitt as the Nazi philosopher.
      He lays out the Nazi essence very clearly. For Schmitt, the group enmity has no rational reason and exists by itself.
      It is well that nobody reads Carl Schmitt.

  • Michael Dowd

    This is not our deck of cards. We have to play them as they’re laid which means dealing with bad hands, i.e., picking the best of the worst. Right now blowing up the whole corrupt system has much appeal against the three headed monster of government, big business and the media who couldn’t care less whether Republicans or Democrats are elected. We are becoming a nation of serfs and overlords under the strict control of a secular system that despises Christianity. This helps explain Trump and Cruz. If you want Jesus go to Mass.

    • Craig Payne

      And keep your convictions at Mass? Because politics is only for “realists”?

      • HMV

        When you need surgery you do not just pray. You pray and you cut. Prayer and action.

        • Craig Payne

          Missed the point.

  • AAD1

    Unfortunately, for Lincoln, he brought out the worst angels in a nation that led to a civil war. It was justified to fight the evil of slavery by history. Also unfortunately, the myth of great statesman is just that a myth. The poitical climate during those more noble times was just as rancorous if not more so than now. Those great statesman used journalists to do their dirty works to tear down their opponents.

  • John Willson

    Daniel Boone was asked if he had ever been lost. He said, no, he didn’t think so, “But I was once bewildered for about three days.” Well, this charitable essay, so right in so many ways, makes me bewildered in today’s political wilderness. By the author’s standards, nobody in the present presidential race, is worthy of support (with the exception of Dr. Carson, who cannot win). The two people who are most likely to try to address the very disagreeable situation Dr. Beckwith describes are the very ones he names as acquiescing to the temptation he warns against. Unless religious conservatives are themselves willing to get their hands a little dirty, it seems to me that they have no alternative other than to give the presidency once again to someone who is likely to make our problems worse. It may be more important to be good than to be elected, but only if one is willing to exit the public square.

    • Craig Payne

      “Unless religious conservatives are themselves willing to get their hands a little dirty…”

      What is a religious conservative? Is it the same thing as a political conservative, but with a veneer of religion? A veneer that can be easily peeled off if things get nasty?

  • RainingAgain

    I’m an outsider, in Ireland looking on. The way I see it, this article is promoting a recipe of certain defeat. One must fight fire with fire. Although Trump may be far from ideal, he has called out the political correctness nonsense in a highly skilled manner and has set the agenda upon real issues, and away from -isms and -ologies. The establishments of both parties seem hopelessly entangled in various types of liberalism.

    • Craig Payne

      “One must fight fire with fire.”

      I repeat my previous comment.

      • HMV

        You fight fire with a giant high pressure hose that destroys fire before it kills innocent life.

        • Craig Payne

          As long as it is a giant pressure hose that does not stoop to lying, hatred, and so on, we have no problem. Whatever happened to the Catholic principle that ends do not justify means?

    • Sheila

      Not all the candidates on the Republican side are hopeless. There are 2 that I respect a great deal and neither are DT. He is a rude and prideful man. If he erred I seriously doubt he would admit it. Not Christian traits. We don’t need a repeat of current inexperience and lack of Christian beliefs that is already in the oval office.These are important traits to look at when sizing up a person’s character. I dont trust his judgment. One can’t pretend to be full of Christ or to have some of Him. It shows itself. Christians are not perfect, but at least there may be a fighting chance of making some solid and godly decisions. You will kniw them by their fruits. Open our eyes and ears Lord.

  • Mktingguy

    I agree with your diagnosis of how frustrated political, and particularly religious, conservatives perceive the political environment, but not your prescription for addressing it. Broad “attractive and intelligent” visions don’t work in the face of “ridicule, insult, and marginalization.” Ask Mitt Romney. Jesus did not offer the tax collectors and merchants a sweeping vision of what a Jewish temple could be. He tuned over their tables and ran them out. That is the equivalent of what Trump and Cruz are doing.

  • D. Mann

    I understand that on an ethical level, conservatives want to play fair and use facts and rational argument to make their points. We want to think that the best argument will out and that voters will be wise enough to see reality and be persuaded to our points of view by honest debate and the unavoidable truth that comes from hard-fought but civil discussion.

    However, that puts us in a position where we repeatedly come to a gun fight with a dull spoon. Our opponents have no problem with lies, distortion, manipulation of the dialogue, appealing to the uninformed (but psychologically crafted for appeal) opinions of those who refuse to even acknowledge facts or history, and consider winning at all costs legitimate. Media joins in with infotainment and with the big lie guns where anything conservative is ridiculed and reviled regardless of the truth. And if and when the truth comes out, the media is right there to either ignore it to death or provide cover – often by manufacturing excuses or twisting the blame around to the conservatives.

    To throw down our weapons as we continue to do is the way to failure. We can’t win if we will not fight fire with fire. So time after time we are too cowardly or too timid to fight back and lose for our lack of courage and commitment. Now even the internet has been taken over by our enemies. The lies there are extraordinary. But once in print they are deadly. We’ve even been convinced that refusing to fund outrageous or immoral parts of government means that conservatives are shutting down the government and punishing the citizens – even when it’s the liberals that are vetoing or blocking legislation. We’ve stopped even arguing our side and conceded all points.

    Surely conservatives are not incapable of mounting a response – although we have so far refused to do so. We may have to hold our noses for the slime we have to encounter and get into the pen with the pigs to fight them. But I ask how standing outside and patting the pigs gently on the head so as not to offend them will result in cleaning the stinking, corrupt mess that we have to deal with. Rules? We don’t need no stinking rules! If you want proof, look at the unconstitutional and blatantly unethical – and certainly unrestrained by rules – thuggery of the Obamanation and cohorts.

    With respect, I admire your high road proposition and agree that if both sides would adopt it we’d be far better off. But as long as the other side is willing to sink to any depth, corrupt anything, ignore and violate law, and attack and destroy anyone who does not agree with them, if we adopt your position we will continue to see the degradation and destruction of our country and reap the wrath of God toward a godless and disobedient people.

    • Craig Payne

      “We can’t win if we will not fight fire with fire.”

      This may be true for conservatives. I do not think it is true for Christians.

      • D. Mann

        David stepped up in the midst of war and fought in God’s name. He did not try to talk his enemy into a change of heart because he knew that it was a pointless exercise. Instead, with God’s support and approval, took up a stone, planted it Goliath’s forehead, and lopped off his head to make the point even clearer. Goliath had no intention of a civil discussion, only death, and had David stood there trying to act the polite politician he would have been buzzard chow. He fought fire with fire and with God’s help overcame enemy evil. There was nothing polite about it and it is also one of the great events in Bible history, sanctioned and made possible through God and the faith and ACTION of one of His faithful.

        We as Christians must prefer the gentle path, but are not obligated to allow our enemies to slaughter us (68 Million murdered babies since Roe V. Wade). Rather we are obligated to be members of God’s army and be willing to fight for what He makes clear is righteous and against what is evil. How many times did God instruct his people to not only fight but kill every living man, woman, and child – and their livestock? Was He wrong? Are we smarter and more enlightened than God?

        • Craig Payne

          You may fight as hard as you desire; I have no problem with that. However, fighting with the weapons of anger, hatred, insinuation, outright lying, and so on, just because the other side does? I don’t think so. THAT is “fire with fire,” and that is wrong.

          • D. Mann

            This is beginning to be nonsense. If you care about your family – or your country – and your God you will not let the enemy set rules and establish limits they will not adhere to, using PC and misguided idealism, to destroy them. You may find it distasteful and prefer to bury your head in the sand or simply allow the enemy to win through appeasement, but history proves this to be disaster. Wars are not fought because you love your enemy and no one wins if there are self-imposed limits the other side does not adhere to. The winner has the biggest stick and the most incentive to win. The difference is that a Christian will look for moral alternatives to overwhelm the enemy if at all possible, be sure that the fight is God’s will, but anyone but a complete fool knows you can’t win if you are not willing to fight and overcome and out-match whatever the enemy throws at you.

          • Craig Payne

            Sorry, because I can tell you are passionately convinced you are correct. But you aren’t. For Christians, the ends do not justify the means.

          • D.Mann

            Tell that to God since you know better. The means He instructs us to use to achieve His will we have no right to be arrogant enough to question. But first, read the Bible so you have some idea what you are talking about. Or do you intend to simply keep your brain switched off, cover your eyes, plug your ears, and leave your mouth in overdrive, throwing unrelated cliches and redefining the conversation with every post? Typical liberal tactic – redefine any conversation you can’t use to your own benefit or use euphemism to change meaning when cornered by reality. And the Big Lie – that of redefining something to your advantage and then repeating it over and over until people start to believe it – is still a lie. I said what I had to say and your efforts to keep redefining or twisting my words are dishonest and unproductive. We are God’s servants and as such are expected to fight evil and win with His help, and whatever He chooses we use as means is not ours to debate, nor are we expected to pick and choose from the means but to follow His commands.

          • Craig Payne

            Well, all right; let me ask directly. Do you think that the ends justify any means necessary to reach them?

            By the way, if you think I have been “redefining” anything in my posts, you need to clean your glasses a bit. They might be steaming over.

            To say that “the ends never justify the means” is now “liberal”? Benedict XVI taught on this repeatedly. It is a simple Christian teaching. Well, anyway, I’ll quit “redefining” here. Could you directly answer my initial question: Do you think that the ends justify any means necessary to reach them?

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Thank God I am not like the others! Assassins, men whose only god is their egos. That aside, I’m disappointed you haven’t given anything to which I can vent more self-righteous outrage. Although I agree with you in principle there is one hitch, reality. We have to play as Michael Dowd says below with the cards we’re dealt. We don’t have a Lincoln. The only Rep candidate who gives the clear impression that he can get things done is narcissist, grandiose, and an insufferable blowhard which the other candidates, except one [if only Jeb would rise from the pack] in their pathetic attempt to imitate appear weaker versions. He has a record of exceptional achievement in the very tough world of business. Take it from the notorious grump [perhaps more admired because we all have some grumpness in us] who pointed out the light that relative to the leading Democratic option, who I heard say to the Press “Christians must change their doctrines to accommodate society”, the entertaining Machiavelli is with the risks a better choice. If only your article could have universal currency. Nice try.

    • Dave Fladlien

      We may have to disagree on whom we support!

      • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

        The grave moral decision Dave is whether to be an accessory to the killing of innocent life.

        • Dave Fladlien

          Let there be no doubt: we both support pro-life candidates. It’s some of the other things that differ.

    • Sheila

      Uggh. King Grump. Another newbie playing his flute! OK Sheeples. Are we mice or men? (In my case women). Remember… the current and inexperienced man in the oval office played his flute and all the sheeples ran after him. But…now that the ship is near port it is sinking fast. And what do we hear? We hear the violin. Or should I say fiddle! Aagh. A sense of humor helps sometimes. Enjoy.

  • maineman

    “America, it is said, is suffering from intolerance. It is not. It is suffering from tolerance: tolerance of right and wrong, truth and error, virtue and evil, Christ and chaos. Our country is not nearly so much overrun with the bigoted as it is overrun with the broadminded.” (A Plea for Intolerance, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen)

  • pj_re

    “he respects his critics, and wants to make them his allies … he will never
    denigrate his opponents’ character or suggest that they are less than full
    members of the political community” — this assumes a basic level of good will and decency among one’s opponents. Should a Christian monk in Syria respect ISIS terrorists, and want to make them his allies? Should he refrain from denigrating their character, and welcome them into full membership of the Syrian polity?

    The article is good as far as it goes, but it should acknowledge also that there is a time when one must stand up in defense of goodness and justice against injustice and viciousness. So a judgment of one’s opponents’ character and of the justice of their actions must precede these conclusions about how to interact with them.

  • JGradGus

    If the country was 70 % or 80% Catholic (practicing Catholics who understood and lived Catholic Doctrine and teachings on a daily basis) it might be possible to have the kind of leaders and statesman you describe. But when the majority of population of the country thinks they are saved by their faith alone and acts are not required, should we really expect more from our ‘leaders’?

  • Fr. Peter Morello, Ph.D.

    Perhaps this may be considered extreme. I ask you think about this. The Democratic Party is the Party of death. It is the contemporary version of Hitler’s National Socialism without the marching bands. Euthanasia, abortion, selective births based on wanted qualities namely Eugenics, focus on the masses as a classless body, denial of God in moral decision making, moving toward despotism and complete control over practice of life style. Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg would be ecstatic except that Jews are not the enemy. Catholics are.

    • James

      I agree with the gist of your comment, Father, but we have to watch out for the final conclusion. Biden, Pelosi, “the” Kennedys, et al., notable, if not notorious Catholics indeed. And they get to receive the Holy Eucharist as well — without a frown. Yes, authentic Roman Catholicism is a target. The warmed up, but the left over Vatican II fast food substituted for theology is given deference — by both ecclesiastics and the Demoncraps.
      This is a monster very much of our own making. And it will thrive as long as it has a sympathetic ear at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

    • Sheila

      Please don’t apologize Father. You are right on. Sheeples are blindly following evil and marching right behind its music. And then right over the cliff. God blessed America and look what’s happening. Is it too late? Dearest Jesus help us to vote for the right man. A true Christian that is moral and does what he says he will do. One who knows how to follow Your lead. We will see you dearest Jesus living in the one we can trust. A tried and true Christian that will steer our country in the right direction and make godly, wise and fair decisions so that we may be able to work and help ourselves 1st to live moral family lives and then lead others to do the same. And to grow in Your love and serve You. All for Your sake. Because that is what you deserve! You deserve our best efforts.

    • Diane

      You are right Father. We need to pray that the Catholics become enlightened. The majority of Catholics voted twice for Obama, who was the most pro-abortion president that we ever had and I pray to God, that we ever will have. The Democrat party is not their Fathers party any longer but they don’t seem to get it or they are not paying attention. If Hillary is elected, it will be a third term of Obama. One cannot be Catholic and be Democrat, everything they stand for is anti-Catholic.

  • Fides

    Well said Prof. Beckwith. As you note it is not easy to strive for that goal of being a statesman and not just a man of politics. Asking yourself constantly what the right thing to do — everyday and every juncture — it is exactly what a man with an informed conscience does — he tries to cooperate with the grace God has showered upon him. He tries to get others to do the same. It is not mysterious in its application — just hard work. If men like you continue to speak out like this I am sure we can call forth the necessary numbers to get the job done.

  • Rick

    Am I a “religious conservative”? I am a conservative catholic. Separating religion from politics for the moment, I’m just waiting for someone to stop the insanity.

    * Monetary policy – insane!
    * Immigration policy – insane!
    * Bringing our enemies in during war – insane!
    * Social services (public/private) that enable dysfunctional behavior – insane!
    * Defending the world for free – insane!
    * Bombing Christian Serbs – insane!
    * Unfair trade deals – insane!
    * Passbook savings accounts that pay .01% – insane!
    * Gas is cheap and we are complaining – insane!

    Fyi, my catholic list is just as long…more insanity

    of course we have to be careful, but really, these Harvard/Yale yahoos that we’ve had for the last 30 years have been huge disappointments.

    • RainingAgain

      Very well expressed. Mr Trump may be rude, vulgar, uncouth, definitely unsaintly, even opportunistic but he seems to me to represent quite a lesser threat to what is right and sane than most of the other candidates. Also, he seems electable.

  • Robert S. Bingham

    I for one wish we had again presidential candidates like Lincoln or for that matter like JFK. Neither one was perfect. But they are far better than anything we have today!
    It would be far better to elect a new President whose political arguments could be slightly improved by more closely following the calls of Angels to a greater purpose in life. Than it would be to elect another President who shuns the teachings of Jesus Christ. Someone always has to win the next election. So I pray we Christians don’t stay home and not vote just because candidate “Foghorn Leghorn” is not precisely, perfect!!! For example, Ronald Reagan had been divorced.

    • Fides

      Actually, Ronald Reagan was the first to sign abortion into law — a tragic lapse in judgement. Speaking the truth about that difficult decision, acting upon that truth and having the conviction to stay the course has been a good example of the challenge that good men face when involved with US politics. Ronald Reagan and his advisers bear the burden of the leadership — not all good, but committed to doing the right thing always.
      don’t wish for the past — we have among us the necessary leadership — let us find it and encourage it — if it has any sanity it will be somewhat reluctant to be involved.

      • TomD

        While it is true that Ronald Reagan, in June of 1967, signed California’s Therapeutic Abortion Act into law, he soon came regard that decision as his greatest regret in public life. By the late 1960s, the political tide was turning toward the liberalization of abortion laws in many states in the United States. California was the first, but many soon followed because that was the trend.

        After the state legislature amended the bill to accommodate some of Reagan’s concerns, he was advised that the state legislature most likely had the votes to override his veto. In addition, the assumption that many limitations would remain in the legality of abortion proved to be false, aided by judicial rulings that expanded the scope of legal abortion. The legalization and expansion of abortion was going to occur, by judicial fiat, no matter what state officials did. That is the true tragedy, the judicial usurpation of the issue, not Ronald Reagan’s decision.

        Reagan believed, with the advice of some of his most trusted advisers, that most abortions would remain illegal, but, with the help of judicial rulings, this belief proved to be false.

    • Diane

      JFK was a terrible womanizer and he denounced his Catholic Religion when asked. I don’t ever want to see another Kennedy or Clinton in the Oval Office ever again.

    • Sheila

      JFK? He was an immoral man. I do not want an immoral man or woman in the WH. We have had enough of them like B.C. As for the one we have now, he sure has made some bad decisions and continues to stir up evil divisions everywhere he goes. That’s immoral. More babies are being aborted and parts sold now more than ever. That’s really immoral. God’s littlest ones are paying the biggest price.
      Look at candidate’s record and have they consistently lived out the faith. Do they speak bad about others to win. Or is this a recent change to look Christian for the election. Let’s not be bamboozled. It’s not rocket science folks. We’ve been hurt big time by this inexperienced man in the oval office right now and his chickens are coming home to roost. At our expense. Christians have been (and still are) terribly hurt by him and his lack of Christian judgment. Let’s not repeat the same mistake again. Trust is so important. Folks you will know them by their fruits. That never changes. The future of our abilithy to live out our faith in our very own country is at stake. How can we help others
      here in USA and in other countries if our hands are tied and our voices silenced.

  • Michael DeLorme

    It was William Buckley who once described a state dinner at which Lady Astor turned to Josef Stalin and asked him, point blank: “So when are you going to stop killing people?”

    I like the direct approach. As when Ted Cruz addressed the Senate floor and told them that Mitch McConnell lied to him. Donald Trump may not like it but, for my money, on an interpersonal level, it was Ted’s finest moment; so far. I look forward to many more.

  • VP Mary

    The suggestion in this article that we should all just try and get along is not useful in this situation. The progressives use street fighting tactics, and we’re all about manners. It reminds me of a quote attributed to Mark Twain I believe, “Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience.”

  • Cheryl Jefferies

    I’m Catholic and made up my mind to vote for Ted Cruz three years ago. I’m in OH (a more-than usual critical state) and the first time I heard him speak on the Senate floor in March 2013, I was fired up, blown away and inspired. I did my research and discovered that he was a committed Christian, a solid conservative and had adhered to the Constitution, and, therefore Judeo-Christian principles, all his life. I decided I would vote for him in 2016 whether he ran or not. I still intend to vote for him, even if the GOP is foolish enough to continue on their way to trying to bring him down (which they’ve been trying to do for three years now). And, I’m registered GOP, too. Now, I would offer apologies for being so directly “political” here, but, it is time for Christians to decide whether they’re going to be PC or stand for religious freedom, true justice and a restoration of our lives, in all aspects. I would never have done it, Prof. Beckwith, but, you did mention my choice for president in a less than positive light. So, I figured it was o.k. to stand up and speak out on a very personal, and a very political, level.

    • Sheila

      My opinion of Ted Cruz was similar to yours. He has been a Christian man all his life. He is smart. He is a constitutional lawyer. He is a fighter who tries not to attack. Good traits he needs to keep. So let’s pray for his protection (and all candidates) from evil so we can all have a chance to restore this country’s faith and life again. Dear Lady of Guadalupe please intercede and help our country return to its founding principles. Please intercede for the best candidate who can and will do just that. And so we can see clearly who that is. All to God’s glory. Amen.

  • ChevalierdeJohnstone

    Why does the author assume that what he calls “great statesmanship”, which practice the author does not define, is possible within the confines of the present political system? Furthermore why does he assume that any form of statesmanship has anything to do with faithful discipleship? He seems to be committing a problematic fallacy of blurring the lines between politics and religion: rendering to Caesar that which is God’s. I also don’t see any reference to any saints in the above. Surely we might find some example to follow in the response of certain saints to anti-Catholic political powers? If there is anything “great” about statesmanship, surely it can be found among the saints. And if it isn’t saintly, why ought we to care about it?
    Furthermore, and without making any personal judgment as to the author’s behavior besides what is written in the above, he certainly seems to display an egocentrism which is all too common among the intellectual class of the modern Church. There is a shockingly myopic focus on the effects of the individual’s actions on that individual: the focus is on achieving what the author presumes to be goals of the hypothetical “religious conservative”. Whatever that label is supposed to mean. The author dangles the prospect of “being good” at the end of the piece, without ever referencing those virtues the cultivation of which defines the nature of “being good”. The piece focuses on a false dichotomy: eschew using that rhetoric to gain political power in favor of this rhetoric to achieve some other worldly goal. It ought to be particularly disturbing to any reader with a concern for moral virtue that the author qualifies the effort to “do the most good” with reference to “the reality of the nation’s demography.” Surely no definition of “doing good” which is limited by something so mundane as demographics can possibly be taken seriously by anyone of serious moral intellect.
    I hesitate to draw any further conclusions without further knowledge of Professor Beckwith’s work, in which, based on this example, I have no interest. But based on this single data point it seems that Professor Beckwith subscribes to the very “progressivism” he thinks he is arguing against. This is evidenced by the clear focus on achieving goals and disregard of the essence of a life lived in discipleship to Christ. Again and again the author in the above piece ignores the simple, but admittedly hard, nature of the life lived for Christ and advocates turning toward a life lived to achieve that which the individual believes Christ ought to want the individual to want. This goal-oriented individualism is the essence of progressivism.
    The scripture passage which concludes the piece is particularly out-of-place. For what possible purpose could it serve as the end note to a piece filled with advice on how to achieve worldly goals and worldly influence through the preference for one set of worldly methods over another?

  • Margaret

    The principles of civility that Prof. Beckwith rightfully claims a candidate should have are or once were present in many Republican presidential candidates. The trouble is that too many voters are not rational enough thinkers to appreciate these principles. These voters gravitate toward the more boisterous candidate/s who engage in bombastic rhetoric and personal attacks. Seeing that this is necessary to get voters’ attention, the other candidates feel they have no choice but to join the incivility bandwagon.

    Catholic leaders could help educate voters with more critical thinking skills if they courageously came out more forcefully from the pulpit and defined the most important moral issues that voters should consider like the right to life, the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman, and religious liberty. There can be no difference of opinion among Catholics on these issues. Instead, too many bishops and priests concentrate on other, less
    important issues of prudential judgment like immigration and gun ownership that Catholics can legitimately have differing opinions about how best to handle.

    These misguided priorities confuse Catholic voters, give tacit approval
    to Democrats, help keep this party of death in power, enable them to facilitate
    abortion and gay “marriage” and threaten the religious liberty of the Church.

    Voters educated about the most important moral issues will more likely be swayed by the right issues rather than the most boisterous candidate

  • Dennis Larkin

    I think that Professor Beckwith, sadly, here confuses manners with ethics. We are need of ethical politicians much more than mannerly politicians. We have mannerly politicians a-plenty, who do the Devil’s work.
    As Belloc said, “In battle, you must be fierce.” We are in battle. We need warriors in office.

    • Sheila

      But not ones like Donald Trump. He has no solid character. He is like Omama…but on steroids.

  • Orwell’s Oracle

    Dear Professor Beckwith… best stick with philosophy and forget political science. Anyone who conflates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in terms of political style or substance is either not really paying attention, or has a discernment problem. Trump is an unprincipled fraud, the embodiment of a cultural narcissism that has probably damaged the country beyond repair. Cruz clearly has principles… they may not be your principles… and you may not like his “style”, but he is the antithesis to the thesis of a Trump – populist utilitarianism untethered to any principle or belief system. In short, Dr. Beckwith has written a fine article regarding the general state of political affairs, but fails in the most important aspect, relating the general and theoretical to our current reality. There are very real differences in the candidates who remain, and failure to discern the differences would be a contribution to the problem, not the solution.

    • Sheila

      Trump acted like a whiney spoiled brat the day after he lost to Cruz in the Caucus. Initially his response was good, but after he had a bad night’s sleep on it, he went off the deep end and lashed out in a big way. This is not what we need – ever. We need to get back to obeying the constitutional laws of our country. Just like the Church in regard to the Bible and our Catechism. In both we stray off.

  • Veritas

    Churchill was a great statesman but he was also willing to tell it like it is. Sometimes this takes a rough edge and a sharp wit

  • Quo Vadis

    “For, at the end of the day, it is more important to be good than it is to be elected.”

    And then what do we get but evil thrust upon us . Jesus will not be running for president. Neither will Blessed Mother Teresa. The question then becomes can you run a tough and difficult race, hard and fast, “stretching” the truth at times perhaps, and still be a moral individual ? Do you have to be a church going, God fearing, acceptable Christian, to be a solid good moral individual who will do his best for the people and the country ?

    Based on what we have had the last seven years, I would rather have a tough, sometimes, gruff and outrageous businessman in the oval office who will take this country in a different direction than ANY democrat alive. ( And most weak republicans).

  • accelerator

    All the candidates have good and bad things to offer, so I am at a loss as to just what Dr. Beckwith is saying. “…True statesmanship… is about offering a vision that is attractive and intelligent, and can unite a wide coalition of citizens around a candidate who can do the most good given the reality of the nation’s demography.” I think we all agree with that one, even Donald Trump.