“Do my crying and my sighing
Laugh at yesterday?” — Brian Wilson
I was having one of those discussions with my daughter. She is at the age where I’m trying to teach her some more complex concepts. A part of it is preparing her for a complex and sometimes frightening world. Another part is simply building her vocabulary. So, I had her look up “nihilism” on her phone.
Nihilism is “the belief that all values are baseless and that nothing can be known or communicated.” So, in other words there is no objective truth. There really is nothing of value and there are no moral absolutes. Dealing with people that truly believe this is a lonely and frightening existence. Leadership based on this isn’t really leadership at all. Yet, this is where we are.
The new Congress is trying to elect the new Speaker of the House. Candidates have to have 218 votes in order to be Speaker. Technically speaking it doesn’t even have to be a member of Congress. I suppose it could be a member of the minority party, but that would be theoretical at this point. In simplest terms, you simply keep voting until you find one.
Kevin McCarthy is supposed to be the new Speaker of the House. He has gotten as many as 201 votes in the elections from the past two days. As I write this, there have been four separate ballots and there is no speaker. This is the first time this has happened since 1923 when it took nine ballots to elect a new speaker.
Watching the modern Republican party is a real life lesson in governing philosophy. Traditional conservatives decried what became known as moral relativism. As best explained, that would be the concept that no one person’s moral compass would be superior to someone else’s. However, that is still far different than nihilism.
McCarthy’s behavior over the last few years is a perfect example. He decried the January 6th attacks until he didn’t. He opposed extremism in his own party until he didn’t. He has tried to be all things for all people and is discovering that you really can’t. Someone that will stand for nothing will fall for everything. I’m quite certain that I read that somewhere.
Ultimately there is a difference between believing there is one objective truth and believing there is one objective truth for you. There is a difference between allowing new information and life experience to change your moral compass and never having one in the first place. There is a difference between engaging other people with a different moral compass than your own and engaging someone that believes nothing.
I have said this before and I’ll say it again. This is why the Republican party is dying. Conservatism isn’t dying. Major philosophical planks can’t really die. Parties die when they have nothing at their core. Power is not a core belief. Attention is not a central tenet of any governing philosophy. Politics cannot be transactional for very long. If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. Grab the remote and pop some popcorn. The death of a major political party is something to behold.