My husband warns me to avoid a cultish affection for Palin; I suspect that’s a good idea. We are fallen creatures and that is true of even extraordinarily attractive women who seem to live by their principles and are sensible, far-sighted, and cagey in negotiations. Still, I think she helps us see the best of McCain and reminds us that on both coasts & flyover country are many accomplished, thoughtful people doing productive, sensible things. She may be exceptional but she is also representative – giving us confidence in the wisdom of crowds, the open marketplace of goods and ideas. She reminds us – by her personal obscurity and consequential actions – that we can trust one another, that democracy does work.
She reminds us of what we share. A&L links to Jonathan Haidt’s “What Makes People Vote Republican?” at Edge. While his concern is not nationalism, he talks around it. He describes those quite foreign voters, the Republicans, and contrasts their moral responses with those of Democrats:
We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equalizer, with five slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans. The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.
Palin and McCain demonstrate what we know, as Haidt concludes “Unity is not the great need of the hour, it is the eternal struggle of our immigrant nation.” Indeed, Democrats will always fail to reach many of us as long as they do not value that unity. The McCain bounce may not be a course-changing moment, but I hope (suspect) that some of it is the country coming to its senses – as it seemed to do in the last two elections. That is because what Haidt describes as emotional responses arise from a quite real (if not always conscious) understanding of what makes this country work.
Some day the Democrats will win, but they are more likely to if they put up someone we believe both understands and feels our nation’s history and purpose: the government not as husband or father but as a beloved institution that defines and defends our liberty. Ours is a history of people who value what unifies them, an overarching history of which any one lifetime and, indeed, any personal ambitions are but a moment in a long, rich history. Such a candidate would fill out a suit – with principles, history, passions. Gore, Kerry, Obama – each empty next to a man who has demonstrated his nationalism is no rote response, no temporary passion.
Surely the Democrats can find someone who doesn’t shrug (as Obama and Biden did) at the thought of potential genocide if their policies are followed. They might find someone who either was honest about the role of lobbyists or, if they chose to make them chief villains, didn’t have sons who took that route. Surely they can find someone who isn’t snide, who has some sense of productivity and business, who believes education is improved more by clear goals than billions of dollars. Most of all, perhaps they can find someone who recognizes that our country may be fallible but that they love it, they respect what it is.
I suppose that’s it – it comes down to my quite subjective sense I want a president who loves this country. I’m too Midwestern, too chauvinist not to value that passion highly. The irony with which Obama speaks of the Constitution contrasts with McCain’s passion, the depth of understanding McCain brings comes from that passion. Obama, on the other hand, seems less interested and less informed, but mostly, less passionate.
Sure my reactions are flyover ones, a bit naive. But, let’s face it, such a judgment on potential candidates is neither stupid nor irrational. No wise investor chooses a company whose CEO thinks it produces crap. A CEO is not so reverent he doesn’t make changes – no company nor nation is static. Some things may work, some haven’t – winnowing goes with the job. But a CEO who plans for the future of a company he loves is the better investment: he loves the company, respects the workers, takes pride in the product, cherishes the reputation. I want in my president a love that is not uncritical but is also unconditional.