The linked article here is of considerable interest, and I so recommend a careful reading of it to you. The article concerns the decline of the trained gatekeepers, and the rise of an untutored hoi polloi who do things like promote celebrity evangelicaladies like Jen Hatmaker on the one hand, and elect Donald Trump to the highest office in the land on the other. The current and most pressing problem appears to be that no one is holding the rubes accountable.
Not surprisingly, I read the circus maximus that was 2017 a little bit differently. In fact, in some ways I would say that my reading is kind of a photo negative reading. I don’t think the actual problem is the one that Dreher identifies at all—although I believe some of the things he points out really are symptoms.
Where the Accountability Was Really Needed
The problem as I see it is that the official certified gatekeepers, long established, and educated far past their intelligence, have not been held accountable in living memory. So “lack of accountability” is not a brand new problem. It has been with us for some time—if lack of accountability troubled us, it should have troubled us long before now. It makes little sense—when the peasants are outside the palace with pitchforks and torches—to argue that we are now “deeply troubled” by the lack of accountability displayed in how they chose their leader. Their leader is that gent out in front of them currently attempting to throw a half brick at the workmen removing the leaded windows over the main entrance.
But the reason the king and his council can’t really complain about the riot is that the whole thing started because the court philosophers one day decided to declare that leaded windows are a form of discrimination against the blind, and so the windows were ordered removed in a show of solidarity with the blind. Which was really fitting if you think about it for a minute.
A great example of this is the way Dreher cites “a prominent Anglican priest, Tish Harrison Warren,” who in a famous essay of recent vintage lamented the loss of cultural gatekeepers, along with a decline in popular respect for the important function of gatekeeping. Yeah, but if the gatekeepers had been on their game, we wouldn’t be reading anything by female Anglican priests. Warren reminds me of our Idaho definition of an anti-growth environmentalist—that being a Californian who bought his lake cabin here in Idaho last year, and is now concerned to head off anybody else being able to do that. That might result in, you know, neighbors. Since the gatekeepers were asleep at the switch when Warren got herself ordained, we had better wake them up before some Trump voters get in here.
So the real problem is not lack of accountability on the part of the upstarts. The problem is that, ensconced as they have been, beyond the reach of common sense, the ruling elites have gotten about as out of touch as it is possible for ruling elites to get. For those just joining us, that is pretty far out of touch. Denethor has gotten cozy in his position and will not make way for the heir of Isildur, coming as he does from a “ragged house long bereft of lordship and dignity.”
There Has Been a Revolt
They, the approved ones, made a hash out of pretty nearly everything. There has been a populist revolt over their incompetence, and some of it really has been pretty gaudy. Sectors of that populist revolt are not displaying the highest levels of competence themselves. I happily grant it. But what do you expect from a cafeteria food fight? And if we are to find fault with anyone, it should be with our overlords, those who reduced all options to one, which was, not surprisingly, a cafeteria food fight.
And the populist revolt hasn’t been anywhere near as garish as the antecedent follies of the Accredited Ones have been. This really stands out when you compare resources— remember that the populist revolt is a rag tag militia and the ruling elites are a standing army, staffed by graduates of service academies with ivy on brick.
The difference is that when an unwashed populist does something ridiculous the whole world hoots. We all are required to Notice It. Sitcoms are not the only form of entertainment that comes with a laugh track, that great comedic cattle prod to tell us what we must find risible. But then, when our advanced and enlightened solons declare—all of a sudden like—that boys can be girls if they want, we are all required to sit there, somber and earnest. No sniggering. Snorts are absolutely not permitted.
If some corn farmer from Nebraska tells a reporter that we need to build a wall to help cut down on illegal immigration—hahahahahahahahahaha! If some Gender Studies major tells the same reporter that binary choices with regard to sexuality are limiting and fluidity-hostile, and that zheir identifies as an unopened can of pork & beans—trapped, as it were, in the metallic expectations of a cis-oppressive, tin-centric society, that reporter writes it all down, solemn as a judge.
And the worst of it is that nobody reading the previous paragraph knows whether I made up that last example, or if somebody really is out there doing that. These are hard times for satirists.
Who Doesn’t Care Anymore?
I have noticed various chin-stroking pieces about the “demise of evangelicals,” which warn us solemnly that millennials find that the older generation of (Trump-supporting) evangelicals have thereby lost their authenticity, and that if this keeps up, they won’t care to be associated with evangelicals anymore.
But what this does is misread the moment radically. It would be the red-state Trump-voting electorate that doesn’t care whether or not they are known as evangelicals anymore. Who exactly has had it, and who exactly is walking away from the established way of doing things? The received wisdom is that the rebels are the younger set, but this is the reverse of the truth. The actual rebels are all in their fifties, live in a double-wide, attend the local Southern Baptist church that no longer has Southern Baptist on the sign, and voted in a way contrary to how their establishment earnestly instructed them. The younger generation is pretty docile, and are still vulnerable to whatever game Anthony Bradley thinks he is playing.
Now I write all this as a political observer, and would remind all my readers that I opposed Donald Trump all through the primaries, and that I did not vote for him in the general. Below is a blast from the past, consisting of me being wrong about Trump’s viability, but demonstrating that I saw what was actually happening with a clear eye.
So the hands that hover over this keyboard are unsullied, and so you can cool your baby jets. Don’t get indignant with me, especially when you read the next section. I am just observing and reporting.
So I Have a Theory . . .
I have a theory about Donald Trump. Share I share it with you?
As I said earlier, I did not support Trump, and did not vote for him once. I actively wrote against him, and was as critical as I know how to be. Which is pretty critical.
At the same time, after the election I was surprised at how relieved I was at the prospect of having the Clintons out of our hair, and from the beginning of this administration I was also surprised at how much Trump was like the son in the parable.
Remember the two sons? One said that he stood firmly on the Republican Party platform, in all its particulars, and then didn’t do much of anything? Once elected, that boy was confronted with Washington realities, and went sort of native, and grew into a strange new respectability. And the other son said that he was too busy sleeping with some of the top women in the world to bother about any of that stuff, but who then in one year has accomplished more than I would have hoped for from a true blue conservative with impeccable credentials and sterling character. I mean things like conservative judges getting appointed at a record clip, an investigation of Planned Parenthood opened, a massive tax cut signed into law, regulations being deep-sixed like nobody’s business, the EPA being radically restrained, the UN getting its ears pinned back, the US moving its embassy to Jerusalem, and I could go on.
And so here is my theory. It is not that Donald Trump is a conservative, but rather that God is giving us a bunch of conservative outcomes that we manifestly do not deserve. And He is doing it in such a way as to make it apparent that it is all sheer grace, and this is being done in a manner such that no one can boast. If a principled conservative had done all these things, we would have been elbowing our way to the front in order to take credit for it. We would have been clamoring to be associated with it. But as it is, we are simply receiving the gift, and none of those who would normally be tempted by such a spotlight want to get into that spotlight with him. And so it is a double score—wonderful policy accomplishments and a minimal amount of glory hounds.
I say nothing about Trump’s personal intentions in this, because I do not know. Some deep state conservatives are just slinking back into the swamp. Some real conservatives might want to acknowledge all of this, but say that Trump is just uncommonly lucky. According to them, he is just Inspector Clouseau cracking another case, a bumbling Pink Panther President. But others are starting to wonder if he really is playing chess in four dimensions, and everything is unfolding according to his plan. What that plan might be is anybody’s guess. We should be more interested in what God appears to be giving us. And we need to remember that God knows how to draw straight with crooked lines.
It is time to acknowledge that more actual damage has been done to the agenda of the socialist progs in the last twelve months than in the decades preceding.So in the meantime, it is time to acknowledge that more actual damage has been done to the agenda of the socialist progs in the last twelve months than in the decades preceding. It will be the work of two minutes to twist what I am saying, for people to say that I am clambering onto the Trump Train, so I would simply ask all people of good will to discount for that, and make the basic distinction I am seeking to make.