The Meaning of the Election

Wilson Carey McWilliams used to write books with this title, in order to conclude fun things like “this election represents the unchecked movement of America’s decline into oligarchy” [I am very much paraphrasing].

I can’t really address whether an election has a meaning. That’s probably the job of historians, but do note that I’m a lot better talking about other ages than our own because 1) no one really knows everything about those ages and 2) no one is going to blame you for missing crucial pieces of information, since the inquiry is ongoing.

What I can say is that I have observations and concerns about this election, and while I’ve been vocal with them, it’s probably a useful exercise to restate them in one place. A blog is by nature scattershot. Looking at the traffic patterns, there are lots of people who come here, read one set of articles, and pretend the rest of what I write doesn’t exist. It’s a quite impressive feat, to take information and fail to acknowledge the author in the most basic sense (i.e. that there is an author, that the Internet is not merely a projection of your brain).

So it goes:

  1. It’s a necessity Democrats lose. They have to lose – I’m not saying this out of partisan spite. If the economy got hit hard and failed to grow and the only thing the people in charge were talking about was spending more and higher taxes, then no matter what the party is, I have to strongly consider voting against it or at least not supporting it. Pundits don’t seem to realize just how necessitated the voter anger is. There really isn’t a choice this election: there does need to be change, and only one party has controlled Congress since 2006.
  2. Necessity doesn’t generate virtue. The closest I’ll come to saying this election has a meaning is as follows. The rise of things like “Beck University” and the tendentious readings of American history people like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell are relying on may pose a long term threat to the liberal arts. And by “may,” I mean I’ve seen with my own eyes more scholarly concerns about historical figures turn into partisan ranting and become “knowledge” for those who are younger. How widespread this threat is, that people can ultimately choose for themselves – those are two concerns that do not let me push this critique further. However, I do need to alert you that this threat is very real, and the cost could be our heritage. Uncritical approaches are just as dangerous as being over-critical.
  3. Winning an election doesn’t mean you have the capability to govern. The worst thing about the election of the current President was that he clearly had the thinnest of resumes possible for the job. Of course, we on the Right have decided that if the Left didn’t have to care about experience, we certainly don’t, especially not when we want “change.” I suppose in American history that there are times when “outsiders” win more than “insiders,” and times even when “insiders” win more than “outsiders.” But a general suspicion of leadership and even management has me worried. There are people who have tough choices to make, choices that do have more significance than what we do on a daily basis. You can’t just elect “anyone.”
  4. When are we going to get a more realistic, moderate Left? This goes hand-in-hand with some concerns I have about conservatives and libertarians, especially those of the Ron Paul variety. It’s one thing to have reservations about going to war. It’s another thing to see “militarism” everywhere and believe that if people just go to church or a commune more often, there won’t ever be a war. Not ever. The primary concern I have is that “make love, not war” may be catchy, but completely destroys any respect for governing and the hard choices people have to make. That we go to war isn’t because we’re corrupt; it’s because people love certain things (not just oil) and feel they’re worth fighting for. Nearly all serious criticism of the Left has had to be put aside because of the anger of the Right, and that’s not a healthy situation. It’s pretty clear to me that a number of policies have been enacted by Congress and this administration that are more ideological, as opposed to being responses to actual problems (i.e. how many people are actually dying because of lack of access to health care?). That ideology ultimately reduces to some ridiculous fantasy about how people behave and what actually ails us. I’m not saying the underlying sentiments are wrong, or that there aren’t goals worth working for involved. But if you want American politics to get better, then everyone has to get better. It’s not fair for some people to be serious and dealing with actual problems, and everyone else thinking that by being shrill and yelling a lot they can make the world better. That’s our situation today, on both sides of the aisle.


  1. Moderation in all things?
    with respect to acting in the face of danger,
    courage is a mean between
    the excess of rashness and the deficiency of cowardice;

    with respect to the enjoyment of pleasures,
    temperance is a mean between
    the excess of intemperance and the deficiency of insensibility;

    with respect to spending money,
    generosity is a mean between
    the excess of wastefulness and the deficiency of stinginess;

    with respect to relations with strangers,
    being friendly is a mean between
    the excess of being ingratiating and the deficiency of being surly;


    with respect to self-esteem,
    magnanimity is a mean between
    the excess of vanity and the deficiency of pusillanimity.

    – Aristotle

  2. Nice round up or analysis once again. I really loving your articles. Really full of information. Will try to look out for more Wil­son Carey McWilliams books from now on.

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