GARLINGTON: What Can We Learn From Mike Johnson’s Troubles?

Conservatives are equal parts incensed and mystified by the changes in Rep. Mike Johnson’s policy positions since he became Speaker of the US House.  There are some plausible explanations out there, like this one from Revolver:

Speaker Johnson might as well go by “Flip Flop,” given his recent track record. He’s been switching his positions on major issues, directly going against what his base stands for. First, it was the funding for Ukraine; now, he’s in the thick of the FISA 702 battle and taking the wrong side yet again. What gives? Johnson’s speakership is becoming a series of flip-flops that’s leaving everyone wondering if he’s been bribed, blackmailed, or both.

. . . Edward Snowden thinks he’s figured out what’s really going on with Speaker Johnson. It’s a “textbook case” of “Congressional capture.”

. . . So, what exactly is “Congressional capture” that Snowden speaks of, and how does it work? Well, it’s simple in theory but can be quite complex in practice, shaping itself around each politician.

In short, “Congressional capture” is when lawmakers or legislative bodies fall under the heavy influence of outside interests, like big corporations, special interest groups, or US intel. These influences ensure that their agendas take precedence over the public’s needs. In simple terms, this means certain policies or laws that favor these groups are advanced, while criticism or resistance is quietly suppressed. Suddenly, their most ferocious critics become their biggest cheerleaders [To see some of the frightening consequences of the Speaker’s sellout on FISA, read this—W.G.].

Because of the continual failure of conservatives in DC to break the power of the Deep State (from the Reagan Revolution to the Gingrich Revolution; from the Tea Party to Trump), conservatives/revivalists need to make a deeper examination of the US political system to see why this has come about, and to figure out how the oppressive oligarchs can be dislodged from their perches of power.

Theological Aspects

Since theology is at the heart of any issue that man may consider, it is best to begin our examination here.  The Spanish arch-conservative, Juan Donoso Cortes (1809-53), is a helpful friend in this, he who fought so heroically to save Spain from her disastrous fall away from Christianity into Revolution.  He observes that political systems correspond to people’s religious beliefs:  democracy/socialism to atheism, republics to pantheism, and monarchy with monotheism (‘Discourse on the General Situation of Europe,’ in Donoso Cortes: Readings in Political Theory, Herrera, editor, McNamara & Schwartz, translators, Sapientia Press, Ave Maria, Fl., 2007, pgs. 74-5).

That is something quite profound to dwell upon, and St. Seraphim Rose (+1982) helps us to do so by taking us deeper into the ocean of theology.  He quotes Donoso Cortes in his Orthodox Survival Course (‘Lecture 8: Meaning of Revolution’), showing us how classical liberalism (i.e., the system we currently live under, in which rulers are chosen by elections, a sort of middle ground between democracy and monarchy) does not rest on firm, stable ground:

“The liberal school,” he said, “…is placed between two seas, whose constantly advancing waves will finally overwhelm it, between socialism and Catholicism…. It cannot admit the constituent sovereignty of the people without becoming democratic, socialistic, and atheistic, nor admit the actual sovereignty of God without becoming monarchical and Catholic….”xxxix

“This school is only dominant when society is threatened with dissolution, and the moment of its authority is that transitory and fugitive one, in which the world stands doubting between Barabbas and Jesus, and hesitates between a dogmatical affirmation and a supreme negation. At such a time society willingly allows itself to be governed by a school which never affirms nor denies, [italics in original] but is always making distinctions…. xl“Such periods of agonizing doubt can never last any great length of time. Man was born to act, and will resolutely declare either for Barabbas or Jesus and overturn all that the sophists have attempted to establish….”

Republics, warns Cortes, will either fall into atheism and democratic socialism (i.e., communism) or they will rise to Christian belief and monarchy.

There are a bevy of verses in the Bible that confirm what Donoso Cortes and St. Seraphim have said above, as well as many statements by writers and saints of the Church.  Here are a couple from a long list compiled by a Christian who has lived in the chief swamp city itself:

St Gregory the Theologian [+4th century] says in his Third Theological Oration:

“The three most ancient opinions concerning God are Anarchia, Polyarchia, and Monarchia. The first two are the sport of the children of Hellas, and may they continue to be so. For Anarchy is a thing without order; and the Rule of Many is factious, and thus anarchical, and thus disorderly. For both these tend to the same thing, namely disorder; and this to dissolution, for disorder is the first step to dissolution. But Monarchy is that which we hold in honour.”

“A priest who is not a monarchist is not worthy to stand at the altar table. The priest who is a republican is always a man of poor faith. God himself anoints the monarch to be head of the kingdom, while the president is elected by the pride of the people. The king stays in power by implementing God’s commandments, while the president does so by pleasing those who rule. The king brings his faithful subjects to God, while the president takes them away from God.” –Metropolitan and New-Martyr St. Vladimir of Kiev (+1918)

In summary, the weak, wandering religious faith and the clashing wills of the multitudes of republics and democracies make such people much less likely to organize and overcome the machinations of a focused, powerful oligarchy.  A country united in the Christian Faith, and united even further under the leadership of a Christian monarch, stand a much greater chance of thwarting a Deep State like the one in the US.

Mundane Aspects

We are now ready to take a closer look at how the ‘American experiment’ has unfolded in history.  Rugged individualism has been a central tenet of life in the US.  In one sense, it is a virtue, as every person needs a certain amount of toughness to survive and flourish in a fallen world.  On the other hand, this principle has also been key to the ascent of the Deep State oligarchy over the plain folk of the States.

The classical liberal notion of the free individual, that all his associations and relations should be contractual and not forced upon him, undermines the institutions that would protect the individual from an oppressive government under the dominion of an oligarchy and that would likewise furnish a base from which to counter-attack:  a large extended family; a church parish, diocese, or monastery; an occupational association; a political unit like a neighborhood, town, county, or State with a vibrant, living historical and cultural identity; even something as simple and lowly as a school alumni association – all of these decay rapidly when there is too much focus on the individual and his wants and not enough on his duties towards others and his true needs.


The evidence of their decay is all around us.  Books like Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam and Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen show how the typical overemphasis on the individual in the US has eviscerated community.  Loneliness is now an epidemic.

What results from the classical liberalism/individualism of the US is thus not a society of well-developed people flourishing in freedom but rather despairing, naked individuals:  many little insignificant specks that are easily overwhelmed by the machinery of the Leviathan system controlled by the oligarchy.

The 20th-century German political writer Carl Schmitt shows other, related flaws:

The liberal’s faith in the parliamentary model, based on the ideal of a “discussing public” that is both eager and qualified to make political decisions, he regarded as a sentimental illusion. In practice, this discussing public, insofar as it even exists, is bound to have its preferences distorted by a smaller set of oligarchic interests. Well-organised minorities will always command an outsized influence over what goes on in centres of alleged people-power. “Small and exclusive committees of parties or of party coalitions,” Schmitt observes in The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, “make their decisions behind closed doors, and what representatives of the big capitalist interest groups agree to in the smallest committees is more important for the fate of millions of people, perhaps, than any political decision.”

. . . Precisely because talking shops yield minimal results and decision-making is essential to politics, there is a tendency under regimes that call themselves liberal and democratic for power to be outsourced to bureaucracies stuffed with every species of technical specialist. An anti-political cult of expertise replaces the old-fashioned virtues of moral conviction and personal leadership.

. . . In Political Theology (1922), he praises Juan Donoso Cortés, the Spanish counter-revolutionary thinker, in defence of this judgement. Cortés, he claims, was rightly hostile to la clasa discutidora, the liberal discussing class, viewing their relentless chatter and their claim to neutrality as

a method of circumventing responsibility and of ascribing to freedom of speech and of the press an excessive importance that in the final analysis permits the decision to be evaded. Just as liberalism discussed and negotiated every political detail, so it also wants to dissolve metaphysical truth in a discussion. The essence of liberalism is negotiation, a cautious half measure, in the hope that the definitive dispute, the bloody decisive battle, can be transformed into a parliamentary debate and permit the decision to be suspended in an everlasting discussion.

There is the further point, as we have already seen, that such deferral cannot go on forever. The essence of politics is decision-making. Those who seek to avoid it, whether by taking refuge in never-ending debate or off-grid quietism, will have the most important decisions made for them. Entrusting supposedly neutral, “technical-rational” bureaucracies with the power of decision-making is one possible outcome, but there is also the ever-present danger that a more fervent ideological agenda, less afraid of “the decision,” will either assert itself within the talking shop or capture the very bureaucracies to which nervous liberals have surrendered power.

Voila!  We have arrived again at our present condition, where ‘conservatives’ like the classical liberal Speaker Johnson – ever loyal to negotiations and half-measures rather than decisive political battle – abdicate their duty to make difficult decisions to the undying, zombie bureaucracies that are allied to the Deep State oligarchs.

Changes to the political system in the States and the societies underlying that system are sorely needed:  A stronger Christian faith, stronger communal bonds, braver, more decisive leaders, executives more in the mold of a Christian hereditary monarch.

We must wait and see, though, if the peoples of the States are able to face reality with courage and make those necessary changes, or if ideological fantasies will keep them trapped in the failing status quo that allows the Deep State to repeatedly punch them in the face with impunity.



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