Recent events of national importance prompt us to reflect on postmodern politics. While postmodern thinking has been around for a number of years, we have now in the White House America’s first postmodern president.
America was founded by people deeply engrained in the modern mindset. Individualism, with both the protection and encouragement of the individual, is at the heart of the American political system. Our country was established upon “self-evident” truths, an acknowledgement of absolutes. Because so many of our founders were Christian (and I’ll use the term rather broadly here—some were faithful to their denomination, but may not have been true believers) and others were deists who believed that Christianity was the best form of religion, we find numerous Scripture references and allusions in the founding documents and in the writings of our early patriots.
America was founded as a democratic republic. It was democratic in that each citizen (individualism) received a vote. It was a republic (absolutism) in that the democratic vote could not override established laws. The result was our system of checks and balances, which provided the citizenry with protection from any one element of government going amuck. This system worked pretty well into the mid 20th century. Now we wonder what’s gone wrong.
Postmodern politics is based on two ideas: that there are no absolutes and that reality is socially constructed. Postmoderns believe that individuals are not free but are directed by their society or culture. As America becomes more of a collectivist society, claims of the individual are lost. As America becomes more pluralistic, reliance on an absolute standard, such as the Constitution or established law, is abandoned. A postmodern society is not subject to moral law; rather, it makes moral law. So we now are seeing that there is no longer a single legislative body. Activist judges make laws without the hindrance of legislators, overriding the Constitutional restrictions against such activity. Therefore, reformers now routinely skip the legislative process and take their issues directly to the courts. Likewise, the White House makes laws of their own via executive orders, chooses which laws to enforce and which laws to ignore, and rewrites laws (Congressional laws rarely have specific rules or instructions on how to carry out the law, so the making of the rules can radically change the impact or design of the actual law) to make them more palatable to their worldview. This is a violation of the Constitution, but in a postmodern world the Constitution is an evolving document meaning whatever the reader wants it to mean.
Postmodernism is also post-Marxist. One tenet of Marxism is that change is always good. The Hegelian dialectic required ongoing change, and change, by a Marxist definition, automatically results in something better than what existed in the past. Remember Nancy Pelosi’s declaration that we would have to pass the Affordable Health Care Act to see what was in it? No one had time to read the bill; no one really knew what was in the bill. But postmoderns don’t care, because it represented change and change is inherently good.
Another tenet of Marxism is that the worker is in constant revolt against the capitalist. In post-Marxism the “worker” has been replaced by the oppressed African American, the oppressed woman, the oppressed gay, and anyone else who is being oppressed by the establishment. Since these oppressed groups have a special status, free speech has to be restricted in the name of sensitivity (political correctness) to the oppressed group. In fact, in the Department of Justice today, free speech has not simply been restricted. Employees of that department of government must be active supporters of certain oppressed groups. Mere toleration is no longer tolerated.
Culture determines all values. Individuality is a myth (and thus the entrepreneur, who starts his own business for his own financial benefit must be punished—it’s not stupidity on the part of Washington that taxes businesses out of business, it’s philosophy). Alienation, guilt and instability come about as a result of “Jewish” (i.e. biblical) ideas; therefore, Christianity and any related religion must be relegated to the margins of society. National Socialism is prevalent in Europe; our President has declared that American needs to become like Europe, so the desire and design is for a state-controlled economy. Environmentalism is big with the postmoderns, and only in a state-controlled society will their goal of societal integration with nature be accomplished.
Relativism, the philosophical foundation of postmodernism, is well entrenched. More than two-thirds of Americans believe in relativism. Today, moral questions are resolved by opinion polls. Elections are driven by polls, not by issues. While democracy may be promoted, the republic is being destroyed. Constitutional authority is claimed when it’s convenient, but ignored when it is not. Congress struggles with the making of bills, because each side is absolutely convinced of the truth of its own position. Modern lawmakers were willing to compromise, for their desire was to see the final, ultimate truth. Postmodern lawmakers see no truth outside their own group, so there is no basis for compromise.
President Obama wrote his autobiography in 1995, Dreams of My Father. The book has numerous prevarications in it. Even his “girlfriend” in the book is not actually an individual woman, but a composite of multiple women. Events were moved out of chronological sequence to make the story more interesting. Events that never happened were invented to move the story line along. To promote the change in health care, Obama fabricated a story about his mother fighting with the insurance company over her health coverage, when in fact the insurance covered the vast majority of her health care expenses without any problem. For a postmodernist, this is “truth.” That is has no actual connection to reality is not a problem.
An interesting issue in the White House is the lack of people from a business background. For the past 100 years or so, the White House advisory staff and various Cabinet members have been about half business people and about half academics or career politicians. There is nothing like the reality of the business world to squeeze out postmodern fantasy. Making whatever I think into the truth might work in politics, but it’s hard to get a machine to produce parts merely because I think it should. You need someone with a good modern mindset to make the factory run. Less than 5% of President Obama’s staff and advisors have a business background; the vast majority are academics and politicians, who have never had to put their theories into practice in the real world. Larry Summers just withdrew from consideration for the position of Federal Reserve Chairman. This man would have run the finances of America. What was his experience? He helped deregulate the banks, leading to the bank failures, bailouts, and current recession (although he has “evolved” in his thinking about this). While president of Harvard, he overruled the men in charge of the Harvard endowment, leading to a loss in 2008 of 27% of the $37 billion dollar endowment and a $1.8 billion loss in operating cash. But to a postmodern, this is not a problem. Truth is whatever one desires, and Summers, to the postmoderns, was a perfectly good choice to run America’s finances. (Fortunately, there are enough moderns left, that even Democrats rejected this choice.) A postmodern President surrounded by inexperienced postmoderns is an ever-present danger.