Monday, October 25, 2004
Principle v. Personality
While I hate to think that any friend of mine would vote against the interests of the reality-based community in the crucial upcoming election, Eugene Volokh offers a coherent reason for doing so. He prefers, he says, Republican to Democratic approaches on a wide variety of issues, and thinks that a Republican administration will be more prone to act in ways he approves of than would a Democratic administration. That difference, he says, ought usually to trump judgments about the personal qualities of those running for office in deciding how to vote.
Eugene is, I think, almost entirely right on this point. In particular, I don’t find it very plausible that one can accurately judge, from mass-media accounts, the parts of the character of a Presidential candidate relevant to his or her performance in office.
... Having an unusually high level both of tolerance for cognitive dissonance and of intellectual integrity, Eugene does not need to pretend, to himself or others, that he finds Mr. Bush to be an admirable figure, or Mr. Kerry to be a fool or a knave. He's going to vote for the party which, if it controls the government, will take the nation in the direction in which he wants it to go.
By contrast, the proposition central to the actual Republican campaign, and to the arguments of most of the pro-Bush bloggers -- that the actual human being George W. Bush is more suited to the Presidency than the actual human being John F. Kerry -- doesn't really pass the giggle test.
So very often I see writers on both sides stand by their candidate because of personality or oppose a candidate because of personality. Comparing the principles of the Republican Party against the actions of the Bush Administration a big disconnect appears. But Republicans don't want to talk about the two-ton elephant sitting in their living room. Instead, they focus on Bush as a great and steadfast leader.
Leonard Pitts, Jr. yesterday used an excellent analogy:
... (O)ne's willingness to acknowledge a painting is forged is usually inverse to the price one paid to buy it.
That's a neat summation of our present state. After Sept. 11, we wanted nothing so much as to feel safe. So some of us bought what Bush was selling — the idea that security lay not in finding a terrorist who had attacked us, but in deposing a dictator who had not.
We bought a forgery, a fake "War on Terror" for which we paid, and are still paying, a fortune in prestige, money and lives. Now we are loath to admit what anybody can see. That's a neat summation of our present state. After Sept. 11, we wanted nothing so much as to feel safe. So some of us bought what Bush was selling — the idea that security lay not in finding a terrorist who had attacked us, but in deposing a dictator who had not.
... (A)sk yourself why we're keeping that forgery on the wall.
At this point, the only people being fooled are those who want to be.