In the politics of envy that permeated the Senate Judiciary hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s lament that “I might have thought someday I’d be sitting in that chair” was the most revealing of all. Spoken half in jest, Klobuchar’s musings exposed the malign envy that several of the female Democratic senators expressed toward Judge Barrett. Angry that a pro-choice progressive like herself would not be filling the vacancy left by the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Klobuchar and her progressive female colleagues on the Judiciary Committee showed themselves to be the same kind of envious harpies that Dante Alighieri warned us about in the Inferno, where they occupied the second terrace of hell.
Envy is often inextricably intertwined with pride. Often called the “sin of sins,” the sin of pride is — like the sin of envy — a narcissistic preoccupation with self.
Angry that they had “given up” so much to pursue their progressive politics — a politics that sacrificed unborn children in pursuit of power — the female senators showed themselves to be the most unhappy women of all. The bitterness in their voices and the angry expressions on their contorted faces tell the story of their rage that a woman like Judge Barrett could have attained so much without sacrificing her own soul to Planned Parenthood and its agenda of death. They have been telling us for years that women’s access to “reproductive health” was key to helping women attain their full potential. But the quiet confidence and faithful witness of the pro-life judicial candidate put the lie to all of that.
Envy derives from the Latin invidia, which means “non sight” — it creates a form of blindness or lack of perspective. In his magisterial work, Dante had the envious punished by having to wear penitential gray cloaks, their eyes sewn shut with iron wire because the truly envious are blind to the goodness, truth, and beauty around them. Dante warned us that the envious are blind to reason and love, spending their days tormented by resentment toward those who possess that which they covet. It is an enforced blindness so that the once-envious souls can no longer look at others with envy and hatred. Still, they can hear those who are envied. Comparing those who envy to dogs turned into wolves, Dante wrote that the savage nature of the envious can only be tamed through blindness, and once humbled, the afflicted finally learn to rely on each other in their suffering.
In The Politics of Envy, I suggest that as one of the Seven Deadly Sins, envy is a painful reminder that someone we know is enjoying something that we are not. Sometimes we hate them for the pleasure they seem to be getting from that something. Other times we may not even want what they have, but we know that we do not want them to have it. In its most virulent form, envy is characterized by a desire to take away the coveted object or advantage from the other — even when depriving them means losing something ourselves. For the truly resentful, it is a small price to pay.
The resentment that accompanies envy often erupts in anger and rage — much like the rage exhibited by the female Democratic senators this week. Sen. Mazie Hirono’s line of questioning on whether Judge Barrett had ever sexually harassed anyone on her staff is just one example of several questions designed to humiliate the judge. Hirono’s prideful attempt to chastise Judge Barrett on her use of the now politically incorrect phrase “sexual preference” when referring to sexual orientation was just one of many examples of the senator’s prideful display. Envy is often inextricably intertwined with pride. Often called the “sin of sins,” the sin of pride is — like the sin of envy — a narcissistic preoccupation with self. The truly envious are the truly prideful who believe that no one is more deserving of advantages and rewards than they. All of this was on display in the Senate chambers as the Democratic senators vented their resentful rage on Judge Barrett.
This envious display should not surprise anyone, since envy has played a prominent role throughout this entire presidential election cycle. Politics is always downstream from culture, and much of the culture has been flooded with pleas to envy as a political motivator. Social media — replete with reminders that so many have so much more than we do — has been a major culprit in helping to create a culture of envy. The guillotine, that horrifying symbol of envy from the French Revolution, is back and being used as a prop by progressives as a reminder to all that the rich can and should be eliminated. The move to socialism, the pernicious theory that is entirely based on envy, motivated many of the progressive politicians throughout the Democratic presidential primary season. Promising during the presidential primaries to redistribute the wealth, New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio assured us that “there is plenty of money in the country, and in the City — it is just in the wrong hands.” That rhetoric still seeps into the promises of the current Democratic candidate for president.
The fact that throughout history there has never been a socialist society that brought the promised utopian classless conditions is dismissed by today’s so-called “democratic socialists.” The new socialists claim that such examples of the failure of socialism have not gone far enough in redistributing the wealth equally. In 2019, as Venezuela’s socialist regime collapsed amid the starvation of the people in the once-rich nation, the apologists for socialism blamed corruption, cronyism, populism, authoritarianism, and even the corrupt capitalism of the United States and its punitive sanctions on the oil-rich country. In a fawning obituary published in 2013 for Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan dictator-president, Greg Grandin of the Nation wrote that “the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chavez was authoritarian, but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. It wasn’t too much control that was the problem but too little.”
The writers for the Nation know, as Marx predicted, a dictatorship of the proletariat is necessary to tamp down envy as residues of capitalist thought and envious desires would permeate the new socialist society in the early days. There was always the danger that self-interest, personal gain, and an envious desire for ownership of property could still seep into the socialist system. Therefore, under new socialist systems — including the proposed democratic socialist system here in the United States — a revolutionary vanguard of dedicated socialists would usher in the bright future of the new economic order.
What Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat would be appointed, and it would re-educate and monitor how the masses would think, act, and associate in the new socialist order that is in place. The family would be destroyed as a vestige of the past as women needed to be freed from the responsibilities of child care in the new democratic socialism of the future. The dictatorship of the political elite is necessary to suppress any attempt to even speak of the private property or the loving, large families of the past. The envious assault on Judge Amy Coney Barrett is just the latest attempt by progressive politicians to indoctrinate the masses to accept that true freedom and happiness involves ensuring that there is nothing left to envy.
Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology at Franciscan University of Steubenville and author of The Politics of Envy (Crisis Publications).