Sunday, March 19, 2006

Put Not Your Faith in Princes…

Isn’t necessarily a dig at princes. Like everything else, treachery and triangulation can be overdone; but politics isn’t about noble gestures. Indeed, in the context of a struggle for power, the noble gesture is just another P.R. tactic; and principled leaders sometimes have to be trimmers in order to accomplish what needs to be done. Which is why I haven’t been automatically hostile when the Congressional Democrats have spoken with exaggerated moderation about the Bush Administration. Whether or not it is a good idea to push for censure now, it probably wouldn’t have been politic in 2002, though the unwisdom if not the illegality of Republican policies was already perfectly clear. Fact was, it wasn’t clear to a frightened and passive population. And even when I think that the public is ready to hear some plain talk for a change, I remind myself that it might actual happen that somebody else’s judgment about these things is better that my own. All that said, the continuing timidity of the Democrats no longer makes strategic sense to me. Or rather, it is perfectly sensible, but only on the assumption that it is a strategy pursued for aims I do not share in a game I wish our leaders weren’t playing.

I don’t blame the politicians for attempting to put together a winning coalition, but it pains me to recognize yet again that Congress’ real constituents are not the voters but the individuals, families, and organizations that pay them off with bribes and campaign contributions. The true constitution of our state is rather similar to the charter of a corporation in which one has as many votes as shares. It doesn’t matter very often what the citizens as a whole think—and Bush and his policies are vastly unpopular—so long as there is no consensus among the real electorate, the boni homines of what may soon be referred to as the Late Republic in more ways than one. The mealy-mouthed calls for an investigation of the President’s wiretapping exploits makes no legal sense—since he admitted his crimes, there’s nothing to investigate—but the interests that count, though not necessarily happy about what’s going on, are terrified of rocking the boat. The Democrat’s craven excess of caution is aimed at winning them over, not the public. The public is very ready to listen. Indeed, that’s what scares the political classes most.

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