Sunday, November 02, 2008


"No one has ever lost any money under-estimating the intelligence of the American people." H. L. Mencken

"Stupidity is for the vast majority of people no doubt the best solution to the problem of thinking." T. S. Eliot

"Democracy is the tyranny of statistics." Jorge Luis Borges.

"I hope to see the Conservative Party return with a substantial majority. I have bitter memories of the Attlee-Cripps regime when the kingdom seemed to be under enemy occupation. I recognize that individually some of the Liberal candidates are more worthy than many of the Conservatives, but any advantage to them can only produce deplorable instability....

I have never voted in a parliamentary election. I shall not vote this year. I shall never vote unless a moral or religious issue is involved (e.g., the suppression of of Catholic Schools). Great Britain is not a democracy. All authority emanates from the Crown. Judges, Anglican Bishops, soldiers, sailors, ambassadors, the Poet Laureate, the postman and especially ministers exist by the royal will. In the last 100 years, particularly in the last hundred, the Crown has adopted what seems to me a very hazardous process of choosing advisers: popular elections. Many great evils have resulted but the expectation of a change in my lifetime is pure fantasy.

Crowned heads proverbially lie uneasy. By usurping sovereignty the peoples of many civilized nations have incurred a restless and frustrated sense of responsibility which interferes with their proper work of earning a living and educating their children. If I voted for the Conservative Party and they were elected, I should feel morally inculpated in their follies - such as their choice of Regius professors; if they failed, I should have made submission to socialist oppression by admitting the validity of popular election. I do not aspire to advise my sovereign in her choice of servants."
Evelyn Waugh, "Aspirations of a Mugwump", in the Spectator (London), 2 October 1959.

Like Evelyn Waugh I have never voted, nor do I intend to do so on Tuesday. For some of the same reasons. However, I do wish like Waugh to express an opinion about the upcoming Presidential elections here in the USA. Allow me to say that as in 2000 and 2004, I fully anticipate that the candidate that I personally would prefer to be elected, will no doubt lose. Like ex-Vice-President Gore and Senator Kerry, I believe that Senator John McCain, is both the best qualified man for the position of Commander-in-chief, and, will (perhaps for that very reason?) lose the election. Why one might very well ask is Senator McCain, the best qualified for the position of President? Chiefly I might well respond because of both experience (his own as opposed to his opponent), and, even more importantly because of character. John McCain, comes from a family which has served the state, almost continuously since the origins of the republic. With both a father and grand-father serving as Admirals of the Fleet. As for McCain himself, it is true to say, in Shakespeare's words that he: "has done the state some service". Of which we all know quite well indeed. What however should be pointed out, is that McCain, is one of the few candidates for President in the history of the USA, who is in the original Homeric sense of the word, a 'hero'. Id. est., someone 'who does brave and noble deeds'. What Bonaparte meant when he referred to Marechel Ney as: "the bravest of the brave".That and his wide experience at the summit of the political landscape is more than enough for me to wish him to be elected. And, that is all: I do not in point of fact, agree with much of what McCain stands for. Neither on tax cuts, immigration, nor on his policy towards Russia, Persia or North Korea. Nor am I especially enamoured of the party that he represents (the very re-incarnation of John Stuart Mills 'the stupid party.'). And, as for his choice of Governor Palin for the position of Vice-President, all that one may say about the matter is she seems to be a modern-day exemplar of Pericles dictum that 'women should neither be seen nor heard'. Regardless Senator McCain is in this Presidential election cycle by far the best man for the job.

And, what of his opponent? The junior Senator from Illinois with the absurd name, is of course, and has been the favorite of a good many bien-pensants, both here and in Europe. And, what may one ask make of their claims for this individual? My considered response is: 'not much'. Absurd first, middle and last names apart, the junior Senator from Illinois, is another species from the Clintonesque stable: a pure bred, Balzacian character: the provincial petit-bourgeois, arriviste as opportunist. Pur et simple. Like his erstwhile opponents, the Clintons, the Democratic nominee, has overturned the Shakespearean dictum cited above: the state [politics] has done him a service, by making him considerably wealthier, then when he first entered into it. That aspect apart, the whole premise of the 'vote for Senator with the absurd name,' is premised upon the supposition that he is a 'transformational' candidate. What is the basis of this judgment is to my mind less than obvious. There certainly is no empirical foundation for this hope. Indeed, the auguries for candidates with as much experience as the current Democratic nominee, are less than hopeful: the two Presidents since the Great War, who have had as much experience as he when elected, were: James Earl Carter and George Walker Bush. Ironies of ironies indeed. Ah! But of course what the transformational candidate is supposed to be is a reincarnation of is not of Messieurs Carter and Bush, but, instead Abraham Lincoln! That is who we are supposed to see elected to office on Tuesday. Well pardon me amici, but, insofar as we are talking of the re-incarnation of Lincoln, that would appear to mean that the Almighty has been consulted and indeed approved this proposed 'transformation'. However inasmuch as the Almighty has not been seen by any sentient being in the last two and half millennium, I am not altogether sure that I believe this supposed tale. Which is a pity, since the reincarnation of Lincoln apart, there is little rational or intelligent reason to suppose that the junior Senator with the absurd name will make a 'good', much less 'transformational' President. Or for that matter that he will be a better President than his opponent. However, as the sayings which I have posted above have noted, it is perhaps a bit too much to expect intelligence to triumph on election day. Or as the Anglo-Irish poet, W. B. Yeats put it better:

"A Statesman is an easy man, he tells his lies by rote, a journalist makes up his lies and takes you by the throat, so stay at home, drink your beer and let the neighbors vote."


At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A fine argument, yet you leave out a major factor in one's decision: the role of President as symbolic figurehead for the nation, a role for which Barack Obama is far better suited than his opponent. Simply put, he is an educated, multiracial son of an immigrant, who worked his way up from obscurity to the top of the Democratic Ticket. His story reflects the American dream that the rest of the world wishes were more attainable. Thus, our standing in the world will substanitally benefit from his election.


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