Postmodern Buchanan

Deal W. Hudson

Two books read together can unexpectedly illuminate one another. That was my experience reading Pat Buchanan’s The Death of the West and a scholarly book written for public consumption-The Reckless Mind: Intellectuals in Politics, by Mark Lilla of the University of Chicago.

There’s much in the Buchanan book I agree with, especially the harrowing analysis of the impact of abortion and birth control on Western nations. But there was a bothersome undertone that I couldn’t quite figure out. Then I read Lilla’s chapter on the political philosopher Carl Schmitt. Schmitt (1888-1985) was one of the leading political and legal theorists of the Nazi Party in its early stages.

Rather than being treated like a leper for his Nazism, Schmitt and his books gained a following in the decades following World War II-including some ardent admirers among postmodern theorists.

Why would the most radically chic of leftwing thinkers, who pride themselves on obeying the canons of political correctness, admit to an appreciation for the “crown jurist” of the Nazi Party? It’s Schmitt’s understanding of politics that attracts them. His 1927 essay, “The Concept of the Political” states, “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” In other words, politics is about power, pure and simple…getting and maintaining power over those you consider enemies.

Postmodern thinkers with their rejection of rationality and objectivity, with their reduction of value to class, gender, and ethnic interests, treat politics as just the kind of battlefield that Schmitt describes. Politics is not a fundamentally humanistic enterprise where men and women, in spite of their own interests and passions, submit themselves to a democratic process in hopes of reaching a common good.

Now I am NOT calling Pat Buchanan a Nazi. Everyone knows Buchanan is a good and decent man, and he has done this country a service over the years by his vigorous defense of unpopular causes. But in The Death of the West, Buchanan has started to sound much like the revolutionary theorists he calls his enemies.

“Tell me who your enemy is, and I will tell you who you are,” Schmitt writes. Buchanan would agree. His book is a rallying cry to take up arms against the enemies of the West by learning from the enemy’s tactics. As Buchanan says, “Once an ideology takes hold of a society, only a superior force or superior ideology can exorcise it.”

The trouble is that the Christian faith Buchanan touts as a remedy is neither an ideology nor a force. I suspect Buchanan’s dilemma is that he wants his faith to provide both.

Those who see the opposition as “enemy” will join Buchanan’s army of right-minded, God-fearing defenders of the faith and the Western tradition. Those who don’t, well, they’re the enemy too.

What keeps me from joining his army is the belief that politics is not just an irrational struggle between people of bad will. I have had too many experiences with people of profoundly different values who have taught me much. My three most influential teachers were men who embraced the political left and were, or would be, dumbfounded by my adult choice of the Catholic faith.

All the battles that Buchanan describes are real and potentially decisive for our culture. But I don’t believe that adopting the political assumptions and tactics of the other side is going to redeem the day.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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