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May 08, 2013

Does Sanford's Victory Bode Ill for the Culture?

Jonah Goldberg discusses this. His take is "Sure, I wish there were more of social penalty for immoral behavior, including a de facto bar from attaining high office, but that's not the world we live in.

Maggie Gallagher says differently. If I can parse her words -- "This was a bad election victory" -- she wishes he'd have lost.

I might be too libertarian on this point but I believe it's strange and harmful thing to believe politicians represent your personal values as if they were you spouse.

Your spouse does represent you. And your kids represent your values, ideally. And even, if you're lucky, your place of employment might represent your values.

And that's about it. The rest of the world are strangers to you.

I think it's a mistake to always confuse these highly impersonal, arms-length, stranger/transaction relationships with some kind of reflection of self.

I always hear this, for example, in justifying losing a senate seat to archliberal Coons -- "Well," people from other parts of the country, non-Delwarians, say, "I don't want Mike Castle to represent me. I don't want to be stained by his RINO-ish beliefs. I don't want to be called upon him to put my honor on the line to defend the likes of him."

With all due respect, who on earth imagines such a burden falls upon one's shoulders?

Do we routinely scrutinize those with whom we have an arms-length, transactional relationship -- a mechanic, a banker, a doctor -- for their sexual and ideological beliefs, in order to make certain that we aren't put in a position of "having to defend" their choices?

No, we don't.

I think most people are friends with someone who got divorced. I imagine few have written divorcees out of their lives entirely. Now, a friendship is a much more intimate relationship than that which exists between voter and elected politician. Chances are, the latter have never so much as met and never will meet.

And most divorces will include an element of infidelity, even if it never becomes publicly notorious.

But if a friend is not written off -- shunned, rejected, ostracized, turned away -- for divorce, why a politician? A friend does in fact "represent" you, to some extent. It's a familiar relationship.

It's a mistake to confuse a thing for that which it is not. A politician is no more an avatar of one's highest aspirations and deepest beliefs than one's baker. It is a transactional relationship only, not an intimate one, and not a personal one.

Politicians have never, as a group, been heroic or morally upright. Are we now pretending the last 2000 years of human society never happened, and that we don't know this?

These people are not heroes. They are instruments to be used by as, as is convenient and useful to us, just as one's baker is, in final analysis, a vehicle by which we attain pastries.

When they are useful, they are used.

When they are still marginally useful, but a better tool comes along -- a better politician, a better baker-- they are discarded.

It's always been this way. It must be this way. The political is not, as the left would have it, the personal.

I think we've gotten a little bit crazy in treating politicians like heroes. They're not. They never have been. They never will be.

As a class -- as a class -- they are among the least-moral people of the face of the earth.

We all know this. Why are we pretending it's otherwise? Where have gone the days when we could crack a joke about the Immoral Buffoon we have in office, while still acknowledging the truth of it, that he's better than an Immoral Buffoon who compounds his offensiveness by voting against our political preferences?

There are genuine heroes. Chances are, you know a couple in your personal lives.

Politicians are generally not heroes. Why are we treating them as if they were?

It's disappointing when someone you consider a hero fails, when he falls. When he behaves in a selfish, corrupt fashion.

But why are we talking about politicians in these terms? It hurts when a Hero falls, true; but Sanford isn't a hero. Sanford is a guy charged with one duty: Voting the way the people in his district would like him to vote.

That job is no more heroic than the baker who puts icing on my birthday cake. It's a job they're paid to do. Why should any of my sense of self be wrapped up in their exploits and their failings?

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posted by Ace at 04:10 PM

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