Wieseltier: A pox on both (anti-)parties

The New Republic writer takes after Obama's self-defeating idealism and the anti-politics of the Republicans in an essay, "After Nobility." It's behind the paywall, but here is a taste:

"The politics of anti-politics is a great American comedy. Contempt for Washington has become one of the primary qualifications for elevation to Washington. Those who despise government are desperate to join it; those who despise politics are politicians. And those who cherish government and cherish politics are ominously instructed by their consultants to be silent."

Or, as Yeats had it, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity." Wieseltier continues:

"I do not understand this confidence that history will be changed by popular epiphanies, or by the virtual epiphanies known as networks. Moral moments come and go. The tents go up, the tents come down. The square fills, the square empties. The only way to perpetuate the accomplishments of the square is to leave the square for politics. The romance of civil society may have gone too far. Anyway, the abdication of politics plays into the hands of forces that already have no use for it. As Evgeny Morozov has written, "You can't simply join a revolution any time you want, contribute a comma to a random revolutionary decree, rephrase the guillotine manual, and then slack off for months. Revolutions prize centralization and require fully committed leaders, strict discipline, [and] absolute dedication." There is no question but that politics is unlovely, and appeals to the vices as well as the virtues. Yet it is also the only way to put constraints on power, and to wield power reasonably and accountably. It is true that power is the end of innocence, but who wants innocence? We should want goodness, not innocence. (We should want also a proper definition of goodness.) Politics is all that stands between power and cruelty."

Religion should as well. Does it?Cross-posted at RNS.

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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