Thursday, October 23, 2008

I. Love. This.

From Leon Wieseltier, writing in The New Republic:

I have not yet been asked for my vote by a candidate who represents the entirety of my convictions. I am not dismayed by this. Politics should not provide the most complete or the most profound of life's satisfactions. Voting is not an expression of the soul. Anyway, my convictions do not add up. I like taxes and I like the military. (The only thing Obama said in any of those dreary debates that delighted me was his muffled admission the other night that "I don't mind paying a little more" taxes. Taxation is a strong sign of membership in a polity; and the many calamities of recent years have confirmed to me that the government needs my money, because there are emergencies, within and beyond our borders, with which only it can deal.) I want universal health care and I want an interventionist foreign policy. I believe that the American president should help people in distress, at home and abroad--not all of them, but a lot of them. I like capitalism, but not religiously, and I feel the same way about diplomacy. I do not trust bankers to understand American values and poets to understand American interests. Taken together, these are political inconsistencies, but they are not intellectual inconsistencies. It is not my problem that the political culture of this country has made the liberalism that I inherited, and of which I was honored to become an heir, seem incoherent. Or maybe it is my problem: after all, I have to vote.

I wouldn’t have picked all of the same examples of "inconsistencies" which he does...but I would have picked more than a few of them. More importantly, I probably would have used different language than he does in regards to voting; as I've argued before, I actually do think voting is at least as much an "expressive" act as anything else, though I suppose I would agree that whatever is being expressed through one’s choice isn’t necessarily one’s "soul." But in any case, this is a great paragraph, one which sums up my general feelings when I approach the voting booth more succinctly and accurately than most anything I’ve ever read, not to mention anything I’ve ever written.

Well, twelve days until the election. I suppose if I have anything relevant left to say about the contest at hand, I'd better say it quick. I do have at least one more post about both Obama and McCain in the works; I'll try to get them done soon. In the meantime, as the saying goes, read the whole thing; even if you're not a likely Obama voter (which Wieseltier is), I think you'll find that it's pretty darn good.


Withywindle said...

It has good points. And then, this: "But McCain is looking more and more like his America, which is Bush's America: a country of capitalists and Christians." So, Wieseltier is against two of the glories of America, what make it wonderful, special, blessed. And I realize how tiny and cankered his soul is, and I want to vote for McCain that much more.

Justin said...

I have to disagree about the quality of the article. Within the first sentence, we have a prime example of why everyone mocks Wieseltier, as he "groans beneath his philosophical complexity" in voting for Reagan (guess it wasn't enough to dislike the guy or his policies).

More importantly, the second paragraph reads like an extremely eloquent eight year old's conception of politics. He wants to vote on character, which is good, but I'm not sure he knows what the word means. McCain has enemies, which is good because we have enemies. But sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. Sometimes our having enemies is a sign of virtue, sometimes a sign of vice. I think Wieseltier confuses character, in the sense of virtue, with character in the sense of "guy you could write a story about." How else to explain the fact that Obama's coolness makes Wieseltier think he lacks character?

Lastly, let's not get started on the idea that the problem with Obama is that he wouldn't put Grand Proposals before Congress in the first three months.

Sorry to be so abrasive, but other than the nod towards the fact that we are rarely wholehearted in politics, I can't see what there is to recommend this article.