Sunday, June 4, 2023

Who is the Communitarian Candidate?

Of the dozen or so Republican and Democratic candidates who have announced White House bids so far, who among them are talking about the revitalization of America's civic culture and communitarian spirit? The answer: few, if any. Outside of the occasional "we are stronger together" platitude, both parties seem to care little about restoring a Tocquevillian America. 

The progressive left and the National Conservative right both seem to be accepting, if not blatantly supportive, of the burgeoning role of the State in American affairs. And, as Tocquevillians posit, an encroaching State diminishes the robustness of community life, made up of families and small localities. In fact, in many ways, these two factions, who claim to despise one another, are actually very much alike. 

Will Hoyt eloquently describes this kind of horseshoe theory in a recent article for Front Porch Republic:

Current-day iterations of progressive and conservative positions tend to generate excitement because they are billed as new, be that iteration the current New Left critique of FDR's reliance on southern Democratic Jim Crow-oriented political machines to secure a New Deal, or the current New Right "common good" critique of neo-con belief that Catholic social teaching and American founding principles are compatible, or the Trump-inspired critique of "theocon" agendas and Reaganite economics. Ultimately, though, each of these ascendent political ideologies privileges a strong, massively centralized state...

So back to the candidates...

Who are the ones that are falling into the right/left political horseshoe, and who are rising above and promoting a communitarian image of America? Again, we are looking at slim pickings here. But, there is one candidate in particular that stands out to me...

Marianne Williamson

I know, I know. You're thinking I've lost my mind. But the fact of the matter is that Marianne Williamson is, at least rhetorically, the most communitarian candidate in the pack. Though she is often brushed away as some sort of tarot card-reading loon, she offers incredibly thoughtful and intelligent insights about the state of American society. 

I often think about this moment in the 2020 Democratic primary debates:

Williamson, instead of opining on what kind of healthcare policy we should adopt, dared to question why so many Americans get sick in the first place. And it's undoubtedly true that a healthy community life is contingent on a healthy citizenry. Policy prescription, though, falls short. Williamson understands that what is needed is an ethos change. Or rather, a spiritual reawakening. 

Or better yet, check out this exchange she had with Sean Hannity last month (skip to 6:00):

Here, Williamson suggests that we combat the inevitable human feeling of alienation with love and community. "We are here to love one another", she says, "We do not feel deeply at home on a spiritual level on this planet because this world is not based on love the way it should be." It doesn't get more communitarian than that...

Now, I also understand that Williamson is obviously a progressive. She does not necessarily see an expanding federal government as a bad thing. That's not very Tocquevillian. But, no one is perfect!

Do yourself a favor and watch this 1997 talk from Williamson on volunteerism and the civil sector. What you'll hear is someone who embodies small-c conservatism and civic life. 




  1. JerseyPatriot1776June 5, 2023 at 6:18 PM

    You are probably right about that broad. The historic American community is largely dead. The only way to bring it back is in an organic fashion, unrelated to any legislative or gubernatorial action. It would have to come from the masses themselves. Unfortunately, due to the fact that immigration from the third world has horribly heterogenized American society in many parts of the country, paired with the already poor state of the social fabric and community identity of native Americans, I do not see this restoration as a possibility on any major scale. Instead, my prediction is that as time continues, should the American Nation exist in some form, there will exist many different enclaves of community at a micro level. Meaning; from town to town or state to state or even Street to Street, small groups of people will carry on an ideology or tradition befitting to them. We will have areas of the country where only very traditional and conservative Americans will exist together, and others where ideologies and cultures that are not American at all will expand thrive and encapsulate. It is a very sad thing because I do not believe a nation can exist at this level of incoherence.

    1. Your reasoning seems mostly sound, but I would not blame immigrants for the collapse of community. Even in countries that have not engaged in mass immigration, like Japan and Korea, people feel alienated, the young aren't having enough kids, suicide rates are high, and economic growth is anemic. Multicultural Canada ranks higher in social trust than either of those two "homogeneous" countries.

      It is not true, therefore, that if only immigrants had been kept out, that Americans would have held on to community. The disintegration seems to be happening regardless, and appears to be a symptom of the modern era at large.