LI, being a superstitious type, takes some credit for Kerry’s victory in the debate yesterday. We’ve noticed that Kerry is better when LI isn’t observing him. Here’s a mystery for quantum political mechanics.
We did briefly turn on the radio, and heard Bush extensively hum and then haw. We also heard him actually have to say the name Osama bin Laden, which he characteristically botched – surely Bush’s bad conscience, like Macbeth’s, reveals itself in such telling verbal cues and phantoms:
Is this a dagger which I see before me,/
The handle toward my hand? Come , let me clutch thee:/
I have thee not, and yet I see thee still./
Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible/
To feeling as to sight? or art thou but/
a dagger of the mind…/
Ah, the Osama of the mind – is that a beret moustache ensemble he is sporting, or a beard and a long white robe? At least we know one thing: Bush could well say, I have thee not and yet I see thee still.
In any case, we are happy. It isn’t so much a Kerry victory we want – although we do want that – as to make the inevitable avoidable. We want to expand the flaw in the glacier, the gaps in the avalanche, the thing that springs up in the masses and says: things don’t have to be like this.
It is a beginning.
Our other clue that Bush must have truly fallen flat is the media treatment of the debate, which echoes the treatment of the State of the Union address, or the interview with Tim Russert. It is at these times that the public glimpses the child prince who leads us, who is, above all else, childish. The media just hates the glimpse behind the curtain, and does what it can to mitigate our reasonable disgust. The cause, we think, lies not with the prejudices of the characters who make up the media elite. It is curious that journalists, by the bias inherent in their training and culture, tend to be liberal, but the current commentariat skews heavily to the right. We think that the reason for this is found not in the ideological commitments of the press per se – it makes sense to us that the dressage of journalism would skew to the left, just as the dressage of the oil executive would skew to the right, personal taste and ties being the largest sociological factor in ideological worldview -- but in its function. The media assumes a function in democracies that the court used to hold in monarchies. Since the legitimacy talk in democracies is oriented towards the value of truth, rather than the value of order, the press and tv news, etc., front the truth function – but in reality, they exist to support order. Since Reagan’s presidency, the new order has triumphed. It is the order of a radical inequality in wealth between classes, and a corresponding destruction of the New Deal view of government as a force that countervails corporate power. Clinton accepted the force of things, but sustained, in a minor key, the countervailing ethos.
Interestingly, the press frenzy about Clinton was basically a courtier’s frenzy. The glimpse behind the curtain showed us a bit of plebian sex. The reflex courtier’s action to this was to expel the king in order to preserve the court. Bush, on the other hand, is such a creation of the court that the press’s courtier heart can’t help but love him. Thus, the absurd mismatch between describing him as a swaggerer, as a tough hombre, and his real appearance, which has an effect of anything but. He is of a type quite common in Texas, a man whose trust fund operated to permanently arrest his emotional development. LI has been around these types for twenty some years, and we like them. They are great partiers. They are the heirs who become Buddhists, or goldbugs, or potsmoking evangelicals, etc., etc. They have no sense that intellectual consistency is a constraint, because they have no sense that the intellect has any real autonomy. Their instinct echoes Hume’s famous phrase. For them, reason truly is a slave to the passions. Hume thought this was good – he had no tolerance for the proto-liberal project of theory. He was a thorough going Tory. But Hume might be unpleasantly surprised at the culture of feelings his protest has spawned. The hibernation of reason has produced the illusion that the world of feelings corresponds to the world as it is – a position Hume was careful to skirt. By an ironic dialectical twist, theory now has its revenge, as the proof of its rightness or wrongness becomes dependent on the strength of the good feelings it summons. Our child prince is not so much a compassionate conservative as a sentimental one, thus combining the worst of all possible worlds.