The art of politics from the perspective of the consultant is the art of manipulating the psychological levers that people didn’t even know they had. It’s the art of the marketer, for whom values are just props in the manipulation of the unconscious mass psychology that organizes people into effective groups.
The political consultant is therefore the polar opposite of whom every candidate at the very least pretends to be. That being: a sincere person who has convictions and ambitions beyond personal power.
Such a selfless person, however, is not necessarily a good thing. Hitler, too, was a sincere person. So sincere that he was willing to risk his whole nation and life for the prospect of achieving the Thousand Year Reich.
Though he was, yes, a slaveholder, and a member of the Anglo-American gentry circa 1770, George Washington provided a more hopeful example than Hitler of the possibility of the principled person.
We tend to think that Washington was famous for being the first president of America, or the winning general of the Revolutionary War, but in fact, his global fame came not from winning the war and assuming the presidency, but from winning the war *and then retiring to his farm*. It was this act, King George III of England said, that made Washington “the greatest man in the world.”
He walked away from power, from the belief that the Republic, literally, the body of the people, was a thing unto itself, and such a thing did not need to be embodied in a particular person.
Sanders evokes this very idea in his slogan, Not Me, Us. Muhammad Ali, suffering in the early stages of the degenerative disease that would ultimately take his life, put it even more briefly in a commencement address: Me, We.
And this is the fundamental trial facing our culture had the moment. In what sense are we “We”?
That’s why I regularly go on about how the most important thing is not Trump, or Russia, or Pelosi, but undermining the cultural divide that animates these clowns.
It’s a call that is criticized on the grounds that it is either too revolutionary, or too status quo. I think rather it is the sine quo non of having a country. You can only destroy the sense of We for so long before the legal structure breaks apart.
If you want to say that Putin’s Russia is continuing the KGB project of fomenting cultural differences in order to destroy America as a political entity, I would say that’s extremely likely. I’ll accept it without proof, because why wouldn’t they? That’s history – and despite what Francis Fukuyama declared back in the 1990’s, saying that the end of the Cold War marked the End of History, history goes on.
The West was triumphant culturally, economically, and militarily against the rest of the world. The Soviet Union is no more, and China now provides the factory and laboratory of International Capital. But deprived of a foreign adversary, the war has only moved within.
Or rather, the war within that has always been raging, is now moved to Center Stage.