Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Being silly doesn’t count in January

‘    Crazy gets people’s attention. On this past Monday, if you’d googled “moderate” and “crazy” presidential candidates, you would have seen some 1.8-million searches for the moderates against some 34.3-million for the crazies. And that’s after a weekend of national speculation about Michael Bloomberg, a moderate as cool in power as Barack Obama.

     Reporters from Canada, Western Europe and Washington go forth carrying two big-league hooks in their heads. First, that that other network’s base is crazy and, second, even mature candidates must be liked by the crazies to win.

     W.B. Yeats’s “The Second Coming” and Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail” juice up what they write. They see volcanic forces in church basements. After so many false starts, that crazy Dark Age is finally coming.

    Essentially, however, nothing is actually happening.

    Terrible scenarios are only scenarios. By and large, partisan audiences in Iowa don’t know what xenophobia means nor do they understand the ideological distinction between Donald Trump’s great wall and Barack Obama’s razor wire fences and his infinitesimal admittance of Syrian refugees verses Trump’s thunderous pause. At the same time, Senator Bernie Sanders’s passionate audiences don’t know how to be good “socialists” in the Democratic Party and don’t know whether Sanders knows how to be one either.

     Today’s favorables and rankings don’t tell us anything of lasting significance about today’s serious contenders or their audiences.

     In January, they twist what they think and pander to the wild eyes in the room. The Republicans simply offer a younger, wider selection. The gaucheness of the two top Republican candidates and the implausible Democrat from stolid Vermont mesmerize the media. But there’s zero evidence yet that a winning majority in either party has lost command of the distinction between entertainment and electing the next president. 

     If you’re thinking: now’s the time to emigrate to a quiet conservative place like Alberta or a quiet liberal place like Prince Edward Island, the following might settle you down.

     America’s most-liked politician is still boring Barack Obama. And he’s hardly suffering in silence. He still relishes being a target, coxing Republicans into sticky corners, and not being extreme.

     Overwhelmingly, the same Republicans and Democrats and Independents that will elect the next president have consistently elected self-proclaimed moderate presidents through the severe ups and downs since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

     It is impolite to say times are getting better—but for almost every single American who will turn up to vote in November, they are.

     Millenials are carrying amazingly optimistic levels of student and mortgage debt, as investors in the two quintessential elements of the American Dream.

     Whatever they wear on their heads or tell their grandchildren about Vietnam and the Detroit riots, the boomer voters own their homes and plenty of shares in nervous stocks.

      They drink, with a designated driver. They howl at the moon when it’s safebut not when they vote.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting point. It is certainly true that much of the hand wringing and white-eyed fear at the prospect of Trump (or whomever) is overdone If one examines each decade of America's existence after 1900 (or before, for that matter) it is easy to see that America is in a perpetual state of extreme polarization. The threats are always existential. Yet somehow the American juggernaut has driven forward mostly unabated. Yet...

    The risks of damaging choices at the ballot box are real. Just look at the 2000s. High deficits, economic malaise and ill thought out wars were a direct result of the choice of one "rational" politician over the other.