Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elections Do Have Consequences

Perhaps it was little more than just another thowaway line in the new (and very good) political-campaign movie, The Ides of March - the observation that modern Americans seem disposed to choose relaitvleu inexperienced candidates over the more experienced, e.g., Kennedy over Nixon in 1960, Carter over Ford in 1980, George W. Bush over Gove in 2000. To these one could easliy add Clinton over George H. W. Bush in 1992, and Obama over McCain in 2008. The case is actually renedered even stronger when one considers how in each instance the relatively inexperienced future President had also beaten more experienced rivals for his party's nomination - beginning with JFK's primary and convention victories over Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson in 1960 and right up to Barack Obama's win over the obviously more experienced and manifestly more qualified Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Interestingly, all these examples occurred in the Democratic Party. One would have to go back to Wendell Wilkie in 1940 to find something comparable among the Republicans. (Of course, McCain was the more experienced and qualified candidate for the 2000 Republican nomination. In our officially republican but unofficially actually quite aristocratic and monarchical politics, however, George W. Bush qualified by being the heir apparent of a previously reigning political dynasty.) The much remarked current malaise among Republicans right now in part stems from the dissatisfaciton of some in that party with the implications for this election of their tradition of choosing the more experienced (or at least longest standing) candidate as their nominee. But that is another discussion.

What all this does seemt o confirm, however, is the long-standing problematic of politics in an Americna society that seems to distruct politics (which then translates in to the even more serious problematic of government in a a country with a certain antipathy to being governed). This has long been institutionally evident in such constitutional anomalies as initiative/referendum/recall politics (whihc have helped make California, for example, so ungovernable) and the more recent craze for term limits (whihc will make states and localities less and less governable - unless they are lucky enough to have apopular and powerful Mayor who can brazenly create an exception for himself as happened in NYC just a couple of years ago).

As Americna society settles into a pattern of prolonged decline and the need for serious politics and energetic government correspondingly increases, we seem to persist in seeking solution which will only further trivialize our politics and so diminish our abilty to govern ourselves wisely and well.

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