“…nothing could be more ill-judged than that intolerant spirit which has, at all times, characterized political parties. For in politics, as in religion, it is equally absurd to aim at making proselytes by fire and sword. Heresies in either can rarely be cured by persecution.”
—Federalist № 1, Alexander Hamilton “Publius”, 27 October 1787
If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?
The discrepancy between candidate Obama’s rhetoric and President Obama’s words and deeds is not explainable only in terms of the inevitable exaggerations and omissions that characterize electoral politics… Candidate Obama did not merely obscure the policy implications of his principles. He obscured his principles as well.
…The simple explanation for the cultivated ambiguity is that Obama feared that if he clarified his intentions he would lose the election…
In the annals of American progressivism, Obama’s predicament is hardly unique… Like Obama’s new progressivism, the old or original progressivism championed a vision of democracy that sometimes conflicted with ordinary people’s opinions and preferences. [But] The old progressives often realized it and said as much. One of the distinguishing marks of the new progressivism at whose head Obama stands is the determination to conceal the gap between what majorities want and what progressive leaders want to enact in their name while insisting proudly on the purity of their democratic credentials.
Political science does not have a good explanation for Sarah Palin, and while it can, in retrospect, apply its theories of candidate selection, it cannot tell us why John McCain believed that he could trust Sarah Palin, or why President Obama was so stubborn about health care. It cannot shed much light on the personality of a president and how presidential personalities effect governing and management. There are typologies, but they are created post-facto and aren’t very satisfying. Historians [however] can locate Sarah Palin fairly easily (as they can Glenn Beck) as the latest in a series of conservative populist candidates that have been revolting against elites from the days of Jacksonian America, but their stories are satisfying because journalists are predisposed to recognize patterns (even where they do not exist) and jump onto a narrative. Historians tend to be closer to journalists in using descriptive, reporting-based analysis, rather than the hard tools of social science, to answer questions.
…I really wish that political scientists spent more time interacting with the people they write about. The lived experience of politics and the academic representation of it often differ.