Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reflections on the politics of the Eckersley/Blunt affair

after reading Ryan Cooper's piece in the Springfield News-Leader

Late last night I was thinking maybe I'd been a little harsh to a commenter at my blog. I suggested that by writing "don't you think you've said enough," he was suggesting I had no right to write what I wrote. Well, that wasn't true. He never questioned my right to write about any subject, so, yes, I'll answer my own question this morning: it was harsh to frame it that way. My apologies to that commenter.

And then I'll write incessantly about the same topic again. ;)

I read Ryan Cooper's Blunt's chief of staff won't keep his job, this morning and realized there is yet another side of the story I hadn't thought about. A more sinister side that Tony Messenger didn't touch on (at least in a way that resonated with me) and I didn't touch on. The side of the story that takes politics back to the political arena, where it really belongs, and reminds me of how little I know about the machination of politics. Perhaps that's why I spent my time on the issue looking at what is right and wrong about Tony Messenger's approach to the issue. I'm more comfortable going there.

Cooper put the subject of Eckersley/Blunt right back where it belongs, in a territory that I seldom tread, at least not consciously. For me, and I think for most Americans, politics is not supposed to be played out like a series of moves by skilled players, with the American people the pawns on a chess board, their thoughts moved strategically by the players to ensure a player's future "checkmate."

Politics and the ideology that accompanies it is supposed to be about its players representing us in a way that will lead us, as a whole, as a community or a country in the right direction. Politics are supposed to be about leading us to be the best, to travel the right road. We aren't politicos, we're human beings who have our own thoughts and opinions about what is right and what is wrong and how we can achieve the best goals, goals we have decided are worthwhile because they are the "right" goals.

Cooper wrote about The Leadership Institute, he wrote about Morton Blackwell, "a conservative political guru." Morton is the president of The Leadership Institute which boasts it is "For conservatives who want to win."

Everybody wants to be a winner. There are rules to every game. Politics, or the ideology that represents political parties has its game plan, has its rule book. I'm naive to think it doesn't. So, call me naive for not taking that into account. I'm sure Messenger takes the "game" into account far more than I.

Not being familiar with The Leadership Institute, I looked around their website briefly. I don't have a lot of time this morning, have a busy day ahead, but I found this speech given by Morton Blackwell to young conservatives at the Heritage Foundation's Third Generation meeting in 1985, an excerpt (he was speaking about Richard Weaver's book, "Ideas Have Consequences":

"Weaver warned powerfully against rootless, mechanistic manipulation, against knowledge "of techniques rather than of ends." His deserving target was the destructive tendency of modern man to lose his sense of purpose as he rapidly accumulates knowledge of how to do things. But it is a gross misreading to suggest he argued against action. It would be fair to say he held that actions based on the right ideas will have desirable consequences. He quite correctly gave absolute priority to ideals, but recognized the duty of philosophically sound people to take actions...."

He continued:

"The intellectual's dismay at the untidy nature of political life is by no means new. Very late in life Plato wrote in his Seventh Epistle:

For both the written laws and the unwritten laws of good conduct were gradually destroyed, and the state of things became worse and worse at an astonishing pace, so that I, who at first had been very eager to go into politics, finally felt dizzy when I looked at it and when I saw things carried in all directions in utter confusion. I did still not give up watching for a possible improvement of these conditions and of the whole government; but, waiting all the time for an opportunity to do something, I finally had to realize that all the states of our time without exception are badly administered.

If Plato was dizzied by politics and withdrew almost entirely from personal participation, we should not be surprised that so many conservative intellectuals and aspiring intellectuals now find comfort in the proposition that Ideas Have Consequences. They can believe themselves thereby absolved of the awkward responsibility for personal actions.

The world of politics is invariably imperfect and replete with compromises. How tempting it is to shield our principles from degenerating contact with such untidiness. Never mind that we simultaneously insulate the real world from the ennobling effect of practical contact with our principles.

Now, however, we should know better. Edmund Burke did not tell us: "All that is necessary to triumph over evil is for men to have enough good ideas." Quite the contrary, Burke's most famous words are: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing....""

The moral to the story? Is there one? If there is one, I think it is probably that we need to be careful of the motivations behind our politicians, or "representatives," that is, if we are even in a position to know them. That we should not allow the "players" to manipulate us with behind the scenes machinations that don't follow the law (if that is the case with the Blunt administration) in order to achieve their goal of "winning."

Ryan Cooper shared some insight into a process I think most of us don't understand, or maybe it's just me.

Blackwell concluded:

"Good ideas have desirable consequences only if we act intelligently for them. We owe it to our philosophy to study how to win."

Well, maybe so...but who wants to think about that? Who wants to think about the future of our country in terms of political winners and losers? Who wants to be that cynical? The truth is, we have to be that cynical. We choose which "mechanistic manipulation" best suits our own political ideology and then we have to live with our choices, whether we consciously recognize the "mechanistic manipulations" of the one who holds our future like a chess piece in a game or not.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice story, very interesting