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Slouching Towards Gomorrah
Modern Liberalism and American Decline
by Robert Bork
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by Massscorecard.org:
Robert's book conservative classic is included in our 2009 book reviews because of Bork's connection with Vice President Joe Biden. Bork was nominated as a Supreme Court Justice by Pres. Reagan in 1987, when Biden was chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversaw Supreme Court nomination hearings. Bork's hearing is generally considered the hallmark of contentiously politicized Supreme Court nominations. It resulted in the coining of a new political term, "to bork," which means to oppose a political appointment on any grounds possible. Bork's qualifications were not at issue in the Supreme Court nomination; rather, Biden's opposition was based on Bork's politics, which are expressed clearly in this book.
Joe Biden's view prevailed, and Bork was rejected in his Supreme Court nomination. As a result of his political disenchantment based on that rejection, Bork resigned his appellate-court judgeship the next year. To some extent, this book is a result of that same disenchantment. While Bork does not explicitly discuss the nomination process, his disenchantment about America politics is the central theme of this book. Bork blamed the liberals for his failed nomination, and in this book he blames the liberals for all of the failings of America.
The title of this book indicates Bork's pessimism about America's future. "Gomorrah" is a Biblical reference: it was a city that was destroyed for its immorality. Bork's title means he thinks that America's level of immorality will destroy us. Bork's list of slouches focuses on universities, the Supreme Court, and media-based culture.
By "slouching," Bork means that America is already sliding down a "slippery slope" towards destruction by immorality. For example, Bork writes, "Despite assurances that abortion decisions did not start us down a slippery and very steep slope, that is clearly where we are, and gathering speed. The movement to make assisting suicide legal was made virtually inevitable by the Supreme Court's creation of a right to abortion" (pp. 185-6). Bork's argument is articulate but far-fetched. When I clip my fingernails, I don't worry much about clipping my fingers, then progressing down the slippery slope past my hand and wrists. Bork then extends the same argument to the inevitability of euthanasia -- that's equivalent to a nail-clipping slippery slope extending well beyond my elbow.
Bork's argument might be politically interesting if it were not so pessimistic. Bork is pessimistic even about Supreme Court appointments (perhaps some sour grapes that his being on the Supreme Court wouldn't have mattered?): "Republican presidents have appointed Justice after Justice with the avowed intention of changing Court's direction. That has not worked." (p. 114). This book is pessimism from the very beginning (p. 2): "This is a book about American decline"; to the very end (p. 334): "The best strategy for those of us who detest modern liberalism and all its works may be simply to seek sanctuary, to attempt to create small islands of decency and civility in the midst of a subpagan culture. Gated communities and the home-schooling movement are the beginning of such responses."
Most pessimistic books end with a prescription of action to give readers hope. This book's final paragraph includes this description of America: "As we approach its desolate and sordid precincts, the pessimism of the intellect tells us that Gomorrah is our probable destination." So no hope at the end; the prescription lay in exploring where the slouch Towards Gomorrah began.
Bork pinpoints the start of America's slouching morality to 1962, and specifically to a document called "The Port Huron Statement," produced by the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), an influential anti-war organization which was then just getting started. Bork cites one SDS advocate's description: "four-square against anti-Communism; eight-square against American culture; and 120-square against an interpretation of the Cold War that saw it as an American plot." I have long admired the SDS and hence I can confirm that that's indeed the SDS attitude -- but in the intervening 47 years, they have been proven right on all three points: anti-Communism was unmasked as Congressional bullying; even Bork admits that pre-1962 American culture was worse for blacks and women than today; and the CIA has long admitted that their estimates of Cold War-era Soviet strength were trumped up to facilitate the Vietnam War and a nuclear buildup. Bork's interpretation of the SDS statement, however, is that "in short, they rejected America" (p. 26). Yes, indeed, the SDS rejected a bullying, anti-black, anti-women, militaristically-misleading America -- they rejected those American POLICIES, without rejecting America. Bork disagrees, and implicitly supports those policies.
Bork's support of 1950s-based American policies and values is the reason he got "borked." Bork lays out his views on policies and values very clearly in this book. To put those views into Massscorecard terms, they focus on the first four questions in our VoteMatch quiz, to which Bork devotes an entire chapter to each one:
-- Jesse Gordon, editor-in-chief, Massscorecard.org, Nov. 2009
Modern Liberalism and American Decline
by Robert Bork.
Page last edited: Mar 03, 2013