A Plumbline in the Wind

The world is going to the dogs, but I refuse to learn to bark

A Plumbline in the Wind Near Lauder, Scotland: Sheep on a hillside

Messianic politics

27 June 2008 · 1 Comment

The other day I heard a story on NPR (a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Democratic Party) in which the reporter interviewed a number of college students at some sort of convention or conference in Virginia. The topic was the presidential election, and all but one of the young people interviewed favored Sen. Obama. In explaining their preference, not one of them mentioned Sen. Obama’s principles, or programs, or stands on the issues. They like him because he is exciting, he is young, he is new. He appeals to young people, one young woman said, because he goes beyond the old political debates, which are now irrelevant to the new generation. One young man, who attends a “historically black” college, favors him because, if he is elected President, he will, by some means not disclosed, raise him (the student) to a position of greater importance. Another young man’s loyalty to Sen. Obama was cemented when, at a campaign rally, the Senator descended into the crowd, and a young woman standing near him fainted.

This is truly scary. Which old political debates are irrelevant to young people? Have war and peace, taxes, immigration policy, or drilling for oil on federal land suddenly become unimportant? Or is it the case that these young people consider all these questions settled, so that there is no longer room for debate, but only for concerted, unified action? Indeed, the fainting girl is a metaphor for the whole approach: Sen. Obama’s followers (supporters is too weak a word) are so excited about him they lose consciousness. They don’t want a politician; they want a Messiah. The belief that a nation should move beyond politics to follow a charismatic leader who will unite the people about his personality has been tried before. In the history business, we call it Fascism.

I don’t want a President I’m excited about. I want a President who has sound political principles, whose character I can trust, and whose political goals are–at least in the main–ones with which I agree. That sounds rather boring. Boring is good. Boring means you can disagree with him in some ways even while supporting his candidacy; exciting means you support his policies because they are his. Exciting means you consider discussion of the issues a distraction from the real business of bringing us together for change. Boring means that decisions are made by rational discussion, weighing the pro and contra, and compromising when necessary. Exciting means that compromise is bad; only whole-hearted devotion to the point of fainting will do.

I fear for our country. I fear for liberty. I fear for the republican form of government.

Tags: Politics and society

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Roz // 28 Jun 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Perhaps the clearest explanation of the distinction I’ve run across. Thanks.

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