January 20, 2008

INDEED: “You fight an election with the politicians you have.”

UPDATE: Bill Quick emails: “No, you fight elections for the principles you have. When you are reduced to merely fighting an election with whatever politicians are available, you are conceding that you have no principles for which to fight, and are now merely concerned with a squabble over power.”

Hmm. I’m sympathetic to this in the abstract, but by the time we get to an election those principles are embodied — however imperfectly — by the politicians who are actually running.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bill responds further on his blog. Ultimate problem — you don’t want the better to be the enemy of the good, but you don’t want the perhaps-barely-tolerable to be the enemy of making things better. Some more background on Bill’s rather sour take here. I’d certainly be the last to argue that the GOP hasn’t been blowing it for years.

In response to some of Bill’s commenters, let me note a couple of less-sour things. First, people have been predicting America’s imminent decline into fascism for my entire lifetime, and so far it hasn’t happened. Second, if you want to make things better, party politics is probably not your best focus. Politicians are weathervanes, and the winds they respond to come mostly from forces in the culture and the media. If you want to turn them around, work on that. Change the culture and the politics will follow. Leave the culture to Oprah, Olbermann, and worse, and you won’t accomplish much through politics over the long run.

My thoughts, anyway.

MORE: A troubling post from Philo of Alexandria includes this:

I do worry, however, about the short-term perspective that democracy encourages, especially when voters have little historical perspective. I’m starting to think there’s something to Arthur Schlesinger Jr.’s 30-year cycle theory, simply because each generation has to relearn the same hard lessons. I see echoes of the 1970s all around me, and so far it looks as if those who are succeeding in this campaign are those most likely to repeat its mistakes.

Ugh.

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