It has been said, with some merit perhaps, that the peculiar paradox of American politics is this: that one party embraces Darwinism but (ostensibly) eschews social Darwinism, while the other party rejects Darwinism proper, but effectively advocates social Darwinism.
This statement is an exaggeration, but cariacatures can help us to see more clearly. On the one hand, we have the Democrats. This once proud party has devolved into a loose band of sexual perverts and various groups who feel entitled to public money. For Will Rogers, the being a Democrat meant championing the "little guy." But the party that once advocated to make the weaker man stronger (at base a noble Christian impulse) has become the party that tries to make the weaker argument the stronger. Since freedom for them means independence, anything that is intrinsically attractive, wholesome, or good that would make a claim on 'freedom' must be destroyed.1 As long as a human institution strengthens human society and human life, they are against it. Any weak or unnatural institution should be protected and possibly funded by an omnipotent state, in their view.
The central issue for the Dems, the one sacred plank of their platform, is the so-called right of a mother to free her unborn child from the 'burden' of existence; and this issue above all shows how they have very literally abandoned the 'little guy.' The Dems' long slide into doublespeak seems to have begun when FDR, a rich guy who pretended to understand the poor, brought Marxists into government. Rejecting the good, Marxists and increasingly Democrats reject God, so that an atheistic, militantly anti-religious tone pervades the the Democratic party. In 1968 the Dems ejected religious believers who have slowly, ineluctibly migrated to the GOP. The members seem to find no intrinsic meaning in human life, and many parents should be denied the right to decide whether their children should be taught the shortcomings of Darwinism. (So Dems believe a mother should be able to decide to terminate her child, but not whether schools may teach him any religion but Darwinism.)
On the other hand are the Republicans, who traditionally have consisted of moneyed interests. Since religious believers can no longer find a home with the Democrats, they flee to the GOP. The Grand Old Party now consists of an uneasy alliance between business interests and social conservatives. It is predominantly the rich who advocate social Darwinism, as they resent the claims of the lower classes. The efforts of the GOP largely center around culling government regulation so that stronger businesses (and people), who 'naturally' thrive2, will triumph over weaker. On the other hand religious/social conservatives dislike Darwinism proper, but as Protestant individualism creates (in even non-Protestants) a strong affinity for libertarian economics, which, untempered by civil society, can easily slide into social Darwinism. Taken to its logical extreme, justice becomes the advantage of the strong, ala Thrasymachus in Plato's Republic.
Health care is one issue that may reveal the tension in the GOP. On the one hand, the Christian understanding of the intrinsic dignity of every human being demands equal protection for all. On the other hand, a strict capitalistism would demand a utilitarian valuation of lives, so that those who contribute less to society (reduced to its economic dimension) should receive less of its resources. This issue will certainly be the subject of serious discernment among thoughtful Republicans.
The Democrats, despite their pious protests, pay even more allegiance to social Darwinism than do the Republicans. In advocating "[abortion] rights," the Democrats wage a covert war of genocide: aborted children are disproportionately African-American. The practice is merely a continuation of Margaret Sanger's eugenics movement and its goal to "create a race of thoroughbreds." Recall that Sanger spawned Planned Parenthood; her ideas most fully flowered in Hilter's camps.
Inconsistency (or hypocrisy) is typical of social Darwinists. Even if Darwinism were true for all non-human creatures (a giant "if"), social Darwinism is intrinsically self-contradictory.
But what is it, then, that Hard Men [social Darwinists] in their extensive writings do say? Why, this. Instead of saying, what according to their own theory, they should say, that unemployment relief (for example) is impossible, they say it is deplorable. (Because it actually increases poverty both by rewarding economic dependence and by penalising independence.) Instead of saying, what their own theory implies, that a hospital among humans is inconceivable,like a hospital among flies, they say that hospitals are injurious to our species. (Because they enable unfit persons to survive and reproduce.) Instead of saying, what Darwinism really implies, that govemments and priesthoods are hallucinalions, they say that they are harmful. (Because they interfere with or negate the salutary processes of competition and natural selection.)
In this way a very curious historical fact has come about. Namely, that the writings of the Darwinian Hard Men make up, not at all what you would have expected, a literature of the biology and natural history of our species, but a literature of moral and political exhortation instead. Hard Men say that competition for survival and the natural selection which results from it, are processes just as inevitable among humans as they are among pines or flies. Yet every page they write is written in order to prevent those processes being interfered with or negated: that is, to prevent the inevitable being led astray!3
Social Darwinists have created an "ought" in a worldview that tolerates no obligation.
Beneath the Darwinian contradiction, the political system is itself built on a destabilizing anthropology. Our system of government and our civil society are founded on a conception of the human person inherited from the Enlightenment. Philosophers of that era, like Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and J-J Rouseau, positted a "state of nature" in which free men with no allegiances come together to form a state by surrendering some part of their 'freedom.' The problem with this vision is that human beings never start their existence as fully functioning adults, but are born into a community of love—the Family. The Family makes no sense in Enlightenment terms.
What, for example, is a Hobbesian savage, presumably an adult male, doing with a family at all, however 'limited and temporary'? In a 'continual free fight', any man who had on his mind, not only his own survival, but that of wife and child, would be no match for a man not so encumbered. Huxley's man, if he wanted to maximize his own chances of survival, and had even half a brain, would simply eat his wife and child before some other man did. They are first class protein, after all, and intraspecific Darwinian competition is principally competition for the means of subsistence, isn't it? Besides, wives and children are 'easy meat', compared with most of the protein that goes around even at the best of times.4
As the family is the basis of all other societies, natural bonds like community and government are artifacts according the conception of the human person implicit in our political system. It should then be no surprise that prevailing political forces act to break up the family and destroy communities.
My friend Dave Sloan was in town this weekend. He has a different scheme for delineating the tensions (what he calls "inconsistencies") within the parties' philosophies.
1. D.C. Schindler, "Freedom Beyond Our Choosing," Communio XXIX: 4 (Winter 2002), 623.
2. Since government is assumed 'unnatural.'
3, 4. David Stove, Darwinian Fairytales (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 1995), 6, 3.