Not My President!

Karl Keating, the wise founder of Catholic Answers, has put up a post saying it is time for Trump supporters to wise up, take their medicine, and acknowledge Biden  as "my President." His argument, as one would expect from such a man, makes good sense. Of course the Democrats cheated, just as the Republicans cheated. Both sides always cheat, and they have rigged the system to be a strictly two-party system in which the two gangs of scoundrels will take turns grabbing the boodle.

I am not happy with the outcome, but if the Democrats are better at playing the game, crying "Not Fair" like children in the play-yard gets us nowhere. The only point I would take issue with is a linguistic one. I have never understood what is meant by "my President." Neither Trump nor Biden are "mine" in the sense that I own them, like the books in my library, nor in the sense that I say "mine" in reference to wife, children, relatives, and close friends. I am not in the military so he is not "my commander-chief" as people like to say, imagining our President is invested with dictatorial powers--though since Lincoln, they have tried to make us think they are.

I am not a monarchist, but I understand how patriotic Brits can say "my Queen," because her relationship to the peoples of Britain is not that of a politician competing for wealth and power but of a parent who has inherited a position she will pass on to her heirs. I am perfectly willing to say people like Trump and Biden--both of them odious enough to justify the hatred and contempt of their opponents--are THE President and leave it at that in the same way that I obey speed limits and seatbelt laws, even if I think they are unnecessary. Clinging to the fiction that America is a republic, I can be a model citizen in my behavior. All I ask is not to be required to respect, much less admire the political class that has made a mockery of American political traditions.

At least in a monarchy or Empire or dictatorship, we don't have to pretend we had something to do with choosing our oppressors, and a Roman military officer could go about his duty without worrying his head about whether the Emperor was Caracalla or Macrinus the Usurper. The cruelty of the American system lies in the fiction that the ultimate source of authority is "we the people," which means it's my fault when we murder people around the globe or pay for a soldier's or criminals trans-gender operation. No, we live in a Party State.

The fact that the party of the Clintons and Obamas contends for power with the party of the Bushes only means it is a two-party state instead of a one-party state. I vote and pay my taxes, just as I would, as a Roman citizen, pay my taxes and shoulder whatever civic responsibilities were incumbent upon a man of my station. But just like the Roman or the Byzantine subject, I should never be foolish enough to think my opinion on the choice of rulers counts for anything. Evelyn Waugh, when asked how he was going to vote in an upcoming election, replied that he would not presume to advise the sovereign on the choice of ministers. How I envy his clarity.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

28 Responses

  1. theAlabamian says:

    Wow, this article puts things in perspective, especially about how the national politicians are not servants of the people, but rather competitors on a two party ruling class. Makes me think that I shouldn’t cry over a whiny aristocrats not getting their way when my (our people’s) best interest was never considered in the first place.

  2. Vince Cornell says:

    As a good citizen, to what degree am I required to submit? I don’t have any personal affection for Trump, nor do I have any regard whatsoever for the doddering senile about to occupy the White House (barring a fatal encounter with another puppy dog), but I know I’m soon going to come face-to-face with national face mask mandates, mandatory vaccines, and other such nonsense. Am I being a bad citizen if I do my absolute best to avoid, ignore, or abuse the pointless mask mandate (a requirement which I feel is demeaning and impugns the dignity of men and women – I’m sadly going to attend a wedding where the whole wedding party will be required to wear masks throughout the entire ceremony – I wonder what happens when it comes time to kiss the bride?) To what degree can we exercise a so-called right to not be forced to take a dubious vaccine for a mostly harmless disease that can be easily treated with existing generic drugs?
    Part of me would find it very easy to just resign myself to the absolute will of the State, but another part of me, filled with more vinegar and other-such-stuff than is probably necessary, thinks to be completely and passively resigned in the face of such absurdities is to lose an important part of my manhood. I’m not losing any sleep over any of this, one way or the other, but I see dark clouds on the horizon and am pondering the best course to make it through the coming storm.

  3. James D. says:

    “To what degree can we exercise a so-called right to not be forced to take a dubious vaccine for a mostly harmless disease that can be easily treated with existing generic drugs?”

    Much to my astonishment ( I don’t go to the doctor) after my wife and I were blessed with our first child, I learned that they were required to have a chicken pox vaccination. Why? In my youth, when the neighbor children got chicken pox, my mother sent us over to play with them, where we, quickly, also got chicken pox, became itchy for a week, and were subsequently immune. Is there a more ridiculous hand-out to big pharma than a chicken pox “vaccine?” Well, maybe. A Chinese Flue vaccine seems to be of the same type. I learned, working in commercial real estate, that an annuity is far more desirable than a one time payment. As it relates to “medicine” a treatment or a vaccine is far better than a cure. Better to keep the money coming in year after year, into “perpetuity.”

  4. James D. says:

    Just add the Chinese Flu vaccine to the ever-increasing list of vaccines required by the empire. Its “free” to you, but it means millions/billions per year to the drug companies.

  5. Robert Geraci says:

    How much to be engaged or where to draw the line in the politics of the world, in this case the U.S. as this thread is about, I understand is the question. And it can be argued that “they all do it (cheat)” and therefore let them go at it, the chips falling where they may as is said. Neither Trump nor Biden can be positioned as exemplary statesmen as compared to any number of historical figures . But I would submit that this election is different than all those in recent history not because of the allegiance to either particular man but to the clarity of the gulf that has been exposed between two types of Americans or citizens or however you want to describe those who live and benefit from living in this country. These candidates are clear symbols of how Americans define themselves, and while not perhaps in a sophisticated way, in ways that are clear as a bell in terms of what people desire. This election was not the difference between a Bush or Gore, a Romney or Obama or any number of contests between people who were basically clones of one another. However flawed the current candidates are as people they represent what the Trump side sees as horror if the other side were to win. In my lifetime I have not seen this before and I would ask those with more knowledge than me to show when else or if this has occurred before. The Covid crisis couldn’t have come at a better time than to serve as an exemplary example for how the other side wants us to live and all those with a brain reel back in horror at how the medical profession was used to further the State cause and how seemingly flippantly businesses and lives were destroyed. The Biden side is salivating at their chance for doubling down on all that can be done to control our lives directly or indirectly from taxes, regulations, guns, reparations, Supreme Court, additional States, health care, etc, all leading to an unsustainable economy and way of life. I am not certain that it is time to throw in the towel because it seems to me that something much greater is at stake in this election.

  6. Robert Geraci says:

    One more thing. This will not likely end well at all. It is almost worth conceding the election to Biden to avoid what might be a level of violence not desired by anyone. And it is not just any specific violence but the tendency for things to get out of control when mobs are controlling the action. The Democrats ought not to have pushed things as they have with BLM, Covid and their obvious hatred of Western civilization (cancel culture) and their promulgation of all sorts of bizarre and immoral things such as gender being a choice, etc. But they did do this. Is not taking this “choice” akin to cutting off our noses to spite our faces in terms of the calamity that may occur by rebelling? I don’t know.

  7. Dominick D says:

    The violence will come regardless the outcome of the election. Concessions mean nothing to revolutionaries.

  8. Robert Reavis says:

    “Concessions mean nothing to revolutionaries.”
    So true and these folks have had a good taste of the destructive fever without consequences. The proud boys and antifa were stabbing and fighting on the streets of DC yesterday. Yet when people watch senators, women and children attacked with impunity while law enforcement is told to stand aside and some portions of the national media report it as to encourage it, just what can be expected?

  9. Dot says:

    I agree with Robert Geraci, and the violence is coming as the demonstrations in Washington show. I wish I were their as one of the demonstrators.
    It is not a matter of my president. It is the thought that Black Lives Matter; that freedom of speech and press applies to the radical left and there is little balance of this freedom in the media; that a male who feels like a female thinks he can walk into a female restroom is justified; that people who think they have the wrong body, in other words are really male or female and change their sex to who they think they are is laudable; that more control will come out of the Federal government including everybody will have to wear masks; and that more control at the top will cost the people more in taxes is all anathema to me.
    Black lives don’t matter any more that white lives, yellow lives, brown lives or red lives who are our first nation people. Yes, I would like to have been in Washington for this demonstration. I don’t want this president-elect , who has a questionable history to occupy the White house. There is no pure person who has ever occupied the white house.
    I don’t envy the subjects of England but they really like their royalties. Too bad really. The subjects don’t have to think. We here in the US have our differences and we are free to express those as long as it doesn’t lead to violence, looting, robbery and damage to property.

  10. Frank Brownlow says:

    It’s over four years since I wrote a piece for this website musing on the likelihood that the unique constitution of the United States, like its statute-book English predecessor, seemed likely to fail sometime in its third century, and for the same reasons: greed for money and power, and the failure of the people pledged under oath to protect it. In a word, crime.
    Well. Over these same four years we’ve been watching evidence appear of an actual descent into open criminality culminating in massive corruption of the electoral process itself, as the Democratic party, taking advantage of disruptions caused by the Covid outbreak, and acting as if it were a rival branch in a quarreling dynasty, has finally succeeded in bringing off the coup it has been working on since Trump was elected.
    Since their motivation was the age-old lust for power and wealth, one might be tempted to write their activities off as business as usual except for one major change. Whereas Democrats in particular used to boast of serving the interests of their electorate, during this recent election they made no secret of despising the electorate and its whole way of life in favor their new masters, the techno-billionaires, the global corporations, the international bankers, and certain foreign powers, China among them. This is why, if the 2020 election becomes the model for the future, The United States is finished as a constitutional republic—and that is not business as usual.

  11. Gary Arnett says:

    Here in Canada I have never heard anyone use the term “my Queen”. It is always “our Queen”or “the Queen” as in “God save the Queen”. In the good old days when the prince and princess were still young and married, they were most often referred to as “the prince” or “the princess”. I had an old British friend who served in the British merchant marines. During the Second World War his ship was torpedoed by the Germans off the coast of South Africa. He related how, as they abandoned ship and jumped into the ocean, they would yell out “for God and the King”. Afterwards I wondered what my father, who was a US Naval officer during the same war, and his crew would have yelled as they jumped overboard? For “God and the Constitution”? Or maybe “for FDR and the unions”. Americans wonder why countries like Canada and Britain remain as Constitutional Monarchies might keep this anecdote in mind.
    It is easier for a sailor to risk his life for a King than to risk it for a politician or a legal document.
    The exception to this is in the modern state where the citizens have adopted an ideology that has replaced both the politician and the king. As Robert Geraci suggests, the American left (which in many ways is synonymous with the American elite) has moved closer to the ideological camp. I do not know if it is accurate to say that America is now where Russia was in 1890 or Spain in 1933 but one thing is for sure, the political and social landscape is no longer the same as it was in the era of Nixon, Kennedy and Mayor Daley’s vote rigging.
    One night, about a year ago, I was traveling down a somewhat isolated stretch of highway. I clicked on the truck radio, which has a satellite hook up. The EWTN station with the Catholic Answers show was on. Much to my surprise the easily recognizable voice of Father Hugh Barbour was on my radio. Karl Keating’s current thoughts on
    American politics may be a little out dated, but as far as his legacy goes, that of Catholic Answers, he is in good standing. Any organization that is able to send Father Barbour’s thoughts and answers via satellite and internet throughout the world has accomplished a great deed.

  12. Vince Cornell says:

    I know conservative, Pro-Life, Republican Christians who refused to support Trump in 2016, despised him for his entire Presidency regardless of what he did, and refused to vote for him again in 2020 because he’s “not a moral leader.” They wondered aloud how they could face their children if they showed their support for such a “disgusting human being.” I attempted to explain that most of our Presidents have been immoral human beings and that one can practically support a scoundrel without personally associating one’s self with that scoundrel’s questionable choices in his personal life. Of course I convinced nobody. It’s the other side to this “My President” coin. Or maybe it’s the same side. It’s ridiculous either way.

  13. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Gary Arnett is right, the American moral and social landscape has changed, but the transformation is not so much due to ideological shifts–a serious ideology like Marxism requires a certain mental discipline few Americans on left or right are capable of. Erik v. Kuehneldt-Leddihn used to tell me that when American conservatives (he mentioned Russel Kirk) expressed distaste for ideology, they were really displaying their incapacity for philosophy. Of course things are getting worse. To quote the king of beat poets, “The loonies are loose, and it’s a lot later and lousier than anybody thinks.” But–and you must be as tired of reading this as I am of writing it–when Americans signed on to such ridiculous propositions as human equality, the rights of man, the need to liberate individuals, obligatory sympathy for downtrodden minorities, the glorious destinies of a nation set apart by God and Nature to be the exceptional case of a virtuous republic, they doomed their descendants. Find me a conservative leader who does not pay lip-service to the brilliance and holy mission of the martyred Dr. King, for example, or who cannot frame every opposition to some more extreme policy to give special rights to females, homosexuals, racial minorities, et al, without saying, “It goes without saying that I support equal rights for….”, then I’ll begin to deceive myself that there might be a faint glimmer of hope for a political restoration. Of course, at that point, Americans will topple the statues of the oppressor Lincoln and undue all the special-rights legislation that Tacitus so long ago stigmatized as inherently unjust.

  14. Robert Reavis says:

    “Erik v. Kuehneldt-Leddihn used to tell me that when American conservatives (he mentioned Russel Kirk) expressed distaste for ideology, they were really displaying their incapacity for philosophy”

    He was a real aristocrat too and genuinely warm to his American hosts regardless of his contempt for their “free thinking” idols. I remember his wonder and interest in so many subjects from poetry to flintlock rifles that it is rather peculiar to hear his name so rarely mentioned today. But then again maybe its not given the times.

  15. theAlabamian says:

    Dr. Fleming mentioned the “conservative” admiration and praise of MLK, and I have said this before that the way we write, talk, and teach the civil rights Era has to change. As long as the Civil Rights Era is seen as the very expression of the best of America and MLK is seen as the ultimate American hero we cannot win the culture war. Republicans are afraid to celebrate Confederate holidays but religiously post in honor of MLK. Note, it is nearly Noon central time and in randomly checking Alabama state politicians pages I have yet to find a post for Alabama’s statehood birthday! Everyone !

    Today is the 201st Anniversary of THE GREAT STATE OF ALABAMA being admitted into the Union ! I love my state, it’s heritage, and people !
    Our politicians do not have their priorities straight and do not care for anything but progressive culture, and the hero of that culture is MLK.

  16. Dominick D says:

    Dr Fleming,
    You may be tired of writing it, but really that is the heart of the matter. I have found, in conversations or even in my own musings, that framing thoughts without using word “right” is a rewarding exercise. If one asks an interlocutor to do the same the quality of the conversation quickly improves. But old habits die hard, especially when we are hit over the head by that abused word every minute of every day.

    MLK references are particularly aggravating when they come from the pulpit. Have we no Saints or Fathers that have already taught anything good he ever said, and better? The only reasonable conclusion is that “Martin Luther King” is some ecclesiastical phrase meaning “Please disregard what I am about to say.”

  17. Dominick D says:

    Actually it is a reasonable guess rather than a reasonable conclusion. . . I cannot find it anywhere in my Lewis&Short. . .

  18. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Erik had a prodigious memory and beautiful manners, but like most European conservatives, he tended to be a bit dismissive toward colonials. I first met him at Hillsdale–imagine, a monarchist at Hillsdale!–and we were sitting, somewhat wearily outside a conference hall where the usual gabble was going on. He started to lecture me on the true meaning of American history, how Jackson was a Jacobin whose extreme leveling ideas had corrupted our political culture. He was completely polite if a bit professorial, and as a young man I thought it necessary to stand up for my country. I gave him a brief biography of the general, explained his background, emphasized his Elizabethan-era country gentleman ways and switched the topic to safer ground. We talked about everything and became friends.

  19. Robert Reavis says:

    That’s exactly how I remember him. He visited campus a few times and I drove him around in Kansas and Oklahoma to various places and museums he wanted to see. His presence on campus created interests from some departments usually subdued but he was too much of a scholar and gentleman to be banned in those days although I doubt in today’s campus climate if he could still visit and lecture as a guest at a public university . He saw it coming of course and all under the cloak of academic freedom. Freedom to destroy a tradition but not to understand one.

  20. Dot says:

    Well? Today is the day members of the electoral college will cast their ballots for president and V.P.

    I bought myself a pair of figure skates!! What nonsense it this? I live in the South. But so what. I used to glide on the ice very well, did some twirls, played snap the whip, skated backward. Makes no sense but it makes sense to me in a world that has gone mad.

    With COVID, the lockdowns, the masks that will continue to be necessary into July, Christmas that will be lonely, the election, MLK birthday in January, celebration of Black History the whole month of February, June 14th the latest Federal holiday for blacks and Kwanza the whole week beginning Dec.26, the constant reminder that whites are racists, something is wrong with this picture. How much does one have to keep giving to the other when I also am an other? I want to say something but hold the resentment.

    So my skates will be a good respite and will be joyful. I still have that child in me and I want to express a part of it by getting on the ice.

    Thank you for letting me express how I feel at this dark time of year when we will celebrate the coming of the Light.

  21. theAlabamian says:

    I agree about the holidays, that’s why we need to hold our local legislators accountable for not expressing pride in Southern culture the way they do progressive holidays. Evenly more importantly we need to post about the important holidays ourselves and share with our families. December is Alabama’s birthday month, then Christmas, New Year’s, the Secession Month ! January 11th, 1861 the sovereign state of Alabama seceded, and was an independent republic. Also the Lee-Jackson holidays across the South are fun with the SCV Lee-Jackson Dinners. The State of Alabama has a holiday honoring Jefferson Davis in June as he was born June 3rd, however, no politician in Alabama seems to remember it or want to be associated with it, the Republicans are just as bad as the Democrats.

  22. Gregory Fogg says:

    I was always an admirer of Erik v. Kuehneldt-Leddihn. Many years ago he wrote a short article in Buckley’s magazine that mentioned a magazine I’d never heard of. I found and purchased a copy of that magazine and read it cover to cover. I’ve been reading that magazine’s editor, Dr. Fleming, ever since

  23. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    It’s funny, but I don’t remember him doing that, though, I must confess, I was not an assiduous reader of NR, even though I wrote for it more than a few times. As NR made its sharp left turn, a number of exiles took refuge with us, including Joe Sobran and Thomas Molnar, though even some continuing regulars like E v.K-L and Ernest van den Haag started writing for us. The former even provided one of his paintings for a cover. Although Van den Haag thought of himself as a neoconservative–he told me he basically adhered to their anti-communist but otherwise progressive views even before Kristol and the others had come up with the label–was actually a right-wing Machiavellian. I had not much admired some things he had written, but we got to be friends at a very boring and unpleasant conference at Claremont. The whole thing deserves a full narrative if only for cheap entertainment, since players included Harry Jaffa and his chirping sectaries, Ernest v.d.H, the philosopher John Gray, Bill Russher (publisher of NR), and my dear old colleague Richard John Neuhaus.

  24. Dot says:

    A top priority for those who voted for Biden was his and Kamala Harris’s support for the right to choose abortion. Times have really changed. With a birth rate of only 1.7 per family, people of European ancestry are committing cultural suicide.

  25. Gregory Fogg says:

    Dr. Fleming, it’s possible that my memory was faulty and it was Van den Haag that wrote the article I recalled, as both contributed occasionally at that time. The magazine was still so-so under Brimelow and O’Sullivan. I was miffed when they fired Sobran on the demand of the editor of Commentary and disgusted by WFB’s snotty Murray Rothbard obituary. The last straw was the firing of Derbyshire over an article he wrote for Takimag. They published two more of his columns after the firing. I haven’t purchased a copy since.

  26. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    The dismissal of Derbyshire was a feeble aftershock after what they did to Joe, O’Sullivan, Peter Brimelow. In fact after the nasty little worm from Canada was commissioned–and here I know what I’m talking about–to write the entirely dishonest hit-job on UnAmerican conservatives (they did me the honor of leading with me), they had completely disgraced themselves. O’Sullivan was a competent and honest man, a better editor than WFB but without his contacts. When WFB out of envy for John’s popularity canned him, in a letter sent to arrive after Bill was at sea and out of reach, he showed the cowardice I always knew was his true character. Fortunately JO’S was not a man to be trifled with….But I shouldn’t tell tales out of school.

  27. Gregory Fogg says:

    I had forgotten the Unpatriotic Conservatives outrage. I held on a lot longer than I should have.

  28. Robert Reavis says:

    Was the little worm from Canada really paid for the contract hit in small pieces of silver or is that just a story from the deplorables clinging to their guns and household gods?