It has been pointed out by historians and journalists that political campaigns have always been a little bit or a lot vicious, with a good deal of “over the top” rhetoric. Witness the Adams-Jefferson campaign of 1800. It was pretty overheated on both sides. But I see something different at work now among liberals, or, I should say, more strident liberals. I am not necessarily painting all Democrats as liberals of that sort, though I do perceive a general drift among all parties to the Left over the last 50 years. This means that Democrats are being pushed quite far to that Left political spectrum in their views. But I am concerned about more than merely their policy views. I am concerned here about their increasingly radical language and what it appears to imply about their basic moral dispositions.
Let’s begin with Hillary Clinton’s statement about the “deplorable,” “irredeemable” half of citizens of the United States. But let’s not end there. Clinton supporters have gone even further on the average citizen. And others have been critical of evangelical Christians, traditional values in general, most all Republican candidates, conservative talk show hosts, people who claim religious liberty, those who believe markets actually serve the public good, and many other groups. Some have said that the Left occasionally rips off its mask to reveal its true face—as it exists in the present (old Liberals were far more tolerant and reasonable in my experience). I am inclined to think that this statement may well represent reality.
The radical rhetoric I am hearing against especially those who hold traditional ethical views seems to reveal the actual ethical ideas held by the “cultural elite.” This class of people includes journalists, politicians, public officials, academics, actors, sports stars, musical performers, and some religious leaders. They have somehow been corrupted in their ethical views to the point that they are willing to label everyone who disagrees with them as “deplorables” or “disposables.”
So then, what might be the general ethical disposition of liberal cultural elites? That is difficult to classify. But from my reading of and listening to their ideas, it seems to vary between ethical relativism to Nietzschean nihilism, with a touch of egoism philosophical pragmatism thrown in. What’s missing? Well, any reference to Biblical ethics, classical natural law tied to Christian theology, or even duty ethics. In other words, what modern cultural elites seem to believe is that humans are to be consigned to the dustbin of irrelevancy and value if they do not believe, as radical liberals do, that gender is merely a construct, that unborn babies are masses of tissue, that everyone is a racist, that anyone who opposes homosexuality on the grounds of religious convictions is a homophobe or worse, unworthy of dignity, and that only those who agree with the elites are really and effectively human.
At the heart of this is first a seeming belief that right is only what the individual believes it is, with no reference to any external or metaphysical source—no Christian faith or Bible allowed for the elites (though if they were traditional relativists they would allow those who do believe in those Biblical ethics). The current crop or relativists does not even want to recognize the legitimacy of non-relativists. Other elites take it one step further, into Nietzschean nihilism. These people, much like Nitezsche’s own writing, believe not only in relativism but that the “Master Class” (the elites) ought to seize the opportunity to rule the “slave class” (that is us). Power becomes the be-all. The collective “ubermenschen” claim that power over us. Combine this with a strong dash of Progressivism and the elites believe that “experts” only are able to know what is best for the rest of us. Combine this with a lack of any mooring in traditional ethics and what the expert master class believes is best is a hodgepodge of varied ideas about human nature that justifies policy to “keep the masses in line.” Nihilism enables the toxic ethical brew to come into play as the “foundation” for the elites’ ideas.
Of course I could have added both American pragmatism and utilitarianism as two other ethical foundations for the liberal elite. The American version of pragmatism is predicated on a practical view of “what works.” What works for what, you may ask? Whatever goal the pragmatist may have, including unethical goals. Note: Yes, this is not philosophical pragmatism, but I said “American” and non-philosophical pragmatism. Alternatively, elites may be utilitarian in their ethics, valuing the outcomes of policies that produce the greatest collective (in political sense) benefits—with benefits determined by those same elites without reference to objective values. Yes, many of our cultural elites can also combine the various ethical beliefs, for example, utilitarianism combined with pragmatism or with ethical relativism. But again, what is missing are traditional and objective or Christian values or ethical views.
At this point I am supposed to soften my tone a bit by saying that I am not including all liberals or Democrats. That is true. I am not. But the liberals who actually exert influence are by and large devoid of any traditional Christian ethical values and whether they know it or not, are slaves to those ethical ideas I mentioned above. What about conservatives? Yes, there are conservatives who are effectively social Darwinists, but that is not the same thing as advocating for markets. That I argue shows real concern for people. There are conservatives whose ethical beliefs leave much to be desired in their personal lives. But most would not advocate their personal ethics in public. Nor do they advocate policies that dehumanize people. They generally wish to empower people. Of course there are exceptions to the generalization. But the exceptions are relatively few and when they arise the rest of the conservatives are quick to condemn (real racism for example, as opposed to the fake racism if claimed by the conservative elites).
It has been a long, sad road from objective and traditional (Christian-inspired at least) ethics for our liberal cultural elite. They are now apparently so desperate that they are willing to take the disguises off and reveal what they really believe. I suppose we can thank them for that. But we should also pray that God turns their hearts, for their own sakes as well as for ours and our children. Let me end by saying that this current situation was perfectly predictable and was in fact predicted by a good many conservatives, especially Christian conservatives, as far back as the nineteenth century. But that is another story.