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  • Lance Mannion
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Tom W.

Wonderful post! Can we get Pop Mannion and Uncle Bill to blog?

It bothers me that must Democrats - bloggers or not - can't see or accept or support or even consider what's staring them in the face: a unity ticket is easily our best chance this year. And it's literally crazy not to go that way if at all possible...


"Pop's a Dodger fan and Uncle Bill lives and dies with the Yankees."

"Pop's for Obama.
Uncle Bill's for Clinton."

I feel that there's a correlation, here. Obama and the Dodgers have both had to deal with being essentially uprooted, and in search of an identity. The Yankees and Hillary both feel that winning is their birthright and their entitlement.

I'm thinking that that's just scratching the surface....


A dearly departed friend used to constantly complain about the left's 'purity fetish' when it came to politicians. He thought they were doomed because everything in politics was the result of compromise, but to the purity fetishists, once you'd compromised, you had to be kicked out of office. So the only politicians they could stand were the ones who never accomplished anything.


"But it's the things that need to be done that are what's important. Not the person doing them. To them it's an argument over process not over personality and since they are in fundamental agreement about principles, they don't worry about the personal and they can take a kind of mechanic's delight in the process. Half the fun of any repair job is arguing over the best way to go about it before you settle down to work."

Unfortunately, that's precisely the naive viewpoint - it's a version of the functionalist schools of political thought that were predominant during your father's and uncle's youths. Only one problematic aspect of this view is it's too easily made assumption of general rationality - that people are rational in the ways assumed or asserted by the economics, political science and social sciences of the immediate post-war period (and gradually absorbed by politicians of that period). Not only has this assumption been disproven - most concretely by the behavorial economists such as Thaler or Kahneman/Twersky - but it also can be extremely debilating to actual politicians and statesman.

In Platonic terms, this is described by the phrase: "the unwise cannot recognize the wise". That means that the unwise cannot identify the wise based upon the wise's expertise or knowledge because the unwise (lacking both knowledge and temperament) cannot distinguish between those who pretend to wisdom and those actually wise. Thus, the wise or savvy politician must signal to the unwise through commonly recognized signs or wonders or violence or signifiers that the said politician has the favor of the gods, or History (Hegel), or Fortuna (Machiavelli), or Leadership (TM), etc.


Lance, this is one reason I chose Clinton over Obama. I see where the Obombers get all righteous and elitist about what "they" will do, conveniently forgetting a few salient facts:

1) Most important, Obama has been Senator less than one term. In that time, he has not exactly distinguished himself as a legislative whiz kid, to the point where a glaring omission on his resume of "inclusiveness" is the fact that he wasn't one of the Gang of Fourteen who saved the filibuster. You'd think a guy who talks about "No Red States, No BLue States" would have been first on that coalition.

2) Senators hate the new kids on the block. That's why rookie senators get the shit jobs and the shit offices. Obama's got some powerful superdelegates, but at the end of the day, when he's President, he'll be paying back chits, not passing legislation. He'll be signing yes to bills he doesn't agree with, or face an uprising the likes of which he can't even imagine.

3) Hillary in the Senate will be the most powerful Senator. Period. Should she lose the nomination, she will be all but a shadow government to Obama (and McCain, but that went without saying, I felt). And don't think for one minute she's not got a list of senators that she's going to fuck over the second she can. That will effectively kill any proposals Obama puts forth.

4) Given all this, all these fresh new faces who pop up, clean shaven and idealistic, are going to shrug their shoulders in two years and say "Fuck, man, he turned out to be no better than Bush."


Great post. Somehow, I irrationally persist in my belief that actual humans like your dad and uncle can model this kind of behavior (vice Thaler or Twersky) and that both politicians and voters can profit from it, despite their otherwise regrettable Platonic deficiencies.


"But it's the things that need to be done that are what's important. Not the person doing them. "

Here, too, I would say your relatives are somewhat naive or again, perhaps too idealistic. Such an attitude can really be seriously maintained only if the persons going into political affairs are not self-interested, not wanting honors or rewards or fame or glory for serving the state. Traditionally, this circle was squared in American politics by one of two devices: either by politics being the province of an already wealthy and honored WASP aristocracy well-trained in selflessly serving others (essentially, the model of the early Twentieth century Progressives) or by politics being the province of academic experts (the model of the New Deal and post-WWII period), also portrayed as a engineering or science analogy. Neither model really described how politics actually worked, but these were the models that were aspired to.

The reality is that both models decisively failed: the WASP aristocracy in the wreckage of the Depression and the need to unify the nation in WWII, and the academic experts discredited when the post-WWII economic consensus collapsed during the economic disasters of the 1970s. Rather than attempting to return to already-discredited failures - and even the possibility of returning to the WASP aristocracy no longer exists - your relatives need to face much more fundamental questions. The question of glories and honours (or political ambition, or the spirited soul in Plato's terminology) in the social contract state is a central one.


"Somehow, I irrationally persist in my belief that actual humans like your dad and uncle can model this kind of behavior (vice Thaler or Twersky)"

Incoherent. Our current American state is founded exclusively on rational self-interest. If we cannot plausibly argue that the population actually IS rational - and we cannot plausibly do that any longer - then we must either propagandize the population into behaving as if they were rational (even though the population at bottom is not rational) or simply abandon the current regime. Hoping that completely selfless politicians emerge who somehow - the mechanism is entirely obscure here - selflessly and virtuously make the populance rational is itself a piece of irrational nostalgia, and a nonsensical claim by our current regime's own understanding of plausible political arguments. There's no difference between hoping for such politicians and wanting an aristocracy (not necessarily a hereditary aristocracy, but an aristocracy nonetheless). Or dreaming of some mystical time when King Arthur ruled the land or some such.

Susie from Philly

Anyone who doesn't understand that McCain has a very, very good chance of pulling it off is, yes, naive. Sorry, Lance. This time, listen to your elders.


This is a wonderful piece of writing. I've sent the link to lots of people.

lambert strether

Wouldn't a farcical aquatic ceremony be simpler than all this pesky "voting"?


Thank you for reminding us that people can disagree about this election without hating each other.

Ted Kennedy did not magically become the most powerful senator after the 1980 primary. Hillary may be able to block Obama's specific health care plan, but the two candidates have been talking about the same priorities because they are Democratic priorities. If Hillary is such a real Democrat as her partisans say she is, she will help to make sure that Democratic issues can succeed.


We have representative democracy and minority rights because people are not always rational, and have religious passions etc. The process is supposed to bring forward public-spiritedness in everyone so that they can choose the person who can be rational and disinterested. But two things have happened.
1) We expect a Presidential candidate to be our savior. Any president does not have unlimited power. At least we should hope.
2) The media speaks to irrationality instead of rationality. The media is charged with describing the personal character of candidates we do not know well and easily goes over into gossipmongering.

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