Lauren Boebert and the Rules

Lauren Boebert and the Rules

Bright and early, at 8:00 AM on the first day of high school, while the rest of the grades were busy getting started in their classes, we 9th graders gathered in the LPAC (the Learning and Performing Arts Center) for our Freshman Orientation.  Our guide in this exercise in acclimation was Fr. Michael Christiansen, the school’s director of religious education.  He would go on to issue to us the usual caveats: there is no third floor; there is no pool; and regardless of how sincere the senior trying to sell you the elevator pass may seem, there is no elevator.  Before he got to these survival necessities, however, he began his lecture as follows: “You’re in high school now, so you probably ought to know this, and besides, if I don’t tell you now, you’ll each ask me individually at some point over the next four years.  Anything above the waist is venial.  Anything below the waist is mortal.”

We can’t say with any certainty what Fr. Christiansen would think of Congresswoman Lauren Boebert and her behavior with her date at a theater production of Beetlejuice in Denver last week, but we imagine he would roll his eyes and refuse to comment.  That, he would say, is between them and their confessor, or, since Boebert is a “born-again Christian” of indeterminate denomination, between her and God.

We also imagine that he’d say that there are rules (which was the entire point of his freshman admonition), that the rules exist for a reason, and that those who break the rules should have to deal with the consequences, regardless of their status or place in society.

Over the weekend, Joshua Abbotoy – who is a managing director at a venture capital firm called New Founding; the executive director of American Reformer, a publication/website whose “mission is to promote a vigorous Christian approach to the cultural challenges of our day, rooted in the rich tradition of Protestant social and political thought;” and a Claremont Institute Lincoln Fellow – posted a tweet about Congresswoman Boebert and her behavior, essentially telling people to get over it:

Of course, Lauren’s slutty behavior is shameful.

I’d still much rather have her than someone who’s gonna advocate for minor gender transitions, late term abortions, soft on crime policies, open borders, etc. and it’s not even close.

People’s moral compasses are totally skewed. They don’t seem to grasp the magnitude of the moral issues that our partisan politics divide over in 2023. Sheep who obediently perform for the outrage manufacturers deserve what they get.

But we have to be the sober minded ones, and keep our eyes on the ball. If someone can be more effective that Lauren for our ends, great, let’s try to get them elected. If not, grow up, stop pearl clutching and keep working for substantive justice in our national laws.

Now, on the one hand, we agree that the public outrage here is mostly over the top.  Members of Congress have done as much and far worse for…well…ever.  She should have had more sense and self-respect than to have behaved like a hormonal teenager in front of a packed theater with kids presumably in attendance, but it’s not as if she lied under oath about it to a federal grand jury or anything.

On the other hand, of course, there are rules.  The rules exist for a reason.  And those who break the rules should have to deal with the consequences, regardless of their status or place in society.

To put it less obliquely, Lauren Boebert is not the problem here.  When confronted with the video of her behavior, she apologized and accepted blame for her errors in judgment.  And she will be judged for those errors – by voters of Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District (as well as by a higher power).  The problem, rather, is those who would excuse the Congresswoman’s personal behavior specifically because she happens to be on “our side,” because she happens to profess to “share our values.”  As we have argued for years now, “values” are a rather imprecise and imperfect means by which to assess a person’s character.  Values are vague, manipulable, communal, and often not confirmable, which is to say that anyone can say they agree with certain values, but in most cases at most times, it’s awfully hard to prove it.

We don’t want to pick on Joshua Abbotoy, whom we don’t know and who appears to be dedicated to many of the same causes we are.  Nevertheless, his defense of Lauren Boebert is remarkably reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s defense of himself against the charge that he is a low-rent philandering dirtbag.  As we have noted countless times over the years, Clinton demonstrated the pervasiveness and expressed the emptiness of purely values-based morality when he told Tom Brokaw, during his 1996 reelection campaign, that it didn’t matter how many barely-old-enough-to-drink interns he did not have sexual relations with, the real measure of a man’s moral worth is “who he fights for” and whose causes he supports.  Behaviors don’t denote morality; feelings do.  Intentions do.

The rejection of virtue-based ethics for a values-based variety has two primary consequences, about which we have spent the last several years warning.  First, it essentially concedes that “character” does not count, that personal behavior is irrelevant to the overall moral condition of society.  This is, we note, an idea that sits in contrast to the ideas and the justifications employed by the American Founders, in contrast to some four-thousand-plus years of Western religious and moral philosophy, and in contrast to observable reality.  The rules are the rules, and they are so for a reason.

The second consequence of a purely values-based approach to morality is that it encourages people to differentiate themselves based exclusively on the values they purport to embrace, which, as Carl Schmitt rightly noted, is the precondition to differentiating ourselves from one another based on “friend” and “enemy” categorizations.  And that, in turn, is the precondition to the Total State, Total War within the Total State, and, eventually, the retreat to “order.”

To be honest, this is one of the things that has always given us pause regarding Donald Trump and some of his most ardent supporters.  It is one thing to look past or to forgive his manifest character flaws or even to judge that his manifold vices are outweighed by his virtues.  That’s simply the way we, as fallen creatures, must evaluate everyone and everything in our lives.  Nihil est omnino beatum, after all.  But it is something else altogether, something unnerving and discomfiting, to declare that Trump’s faults simply don’t matter at all or that they are purely the creation of a fanatical deep state and its media allies or that he’s “for the common man” so who cares what he does or what he’s done.  Not only is that recipe for disastrous disappointment, but it is also thoroughly irrational in that it asserts that character doesn’t matter and yet relies on presumed character to prevent abuses of power.  “Why, he’d never do that!“  It should go without saying that the contradiction here is glaring.

In any case, we agree that it is more than OK to conclude that what Congresswoman Lauren Boebert did is, in the grand scheme of things, not important enough to necessitate removing her from office or whatever else people want to do to punish her.  At the same time, however, dismissing her actions as completely inconsequential because she is on our “team” is a mistake, one that could, if applied more generally, have very severe and unfortunate consequences.

There are rules for a reason.  Ignore them at your own peril.

Stephen Soukup
Stephen Soukup
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Steve Soukup is the Vice President and Publisher of The Political Forum, an “independent research provider” that delivers research and consulting services to the institutional investment community, with an emphasis on economic, social, political, and geopolitical events that are likely to have an impact on the financial markets in the United States and abroad.