A Party of Socrates

neo-neocon has a post worth paying some attention to. It's an excerpt from the book They Thought They Were Free, in which the author, a Leftist, interviews Germans about what they were thinking in the lead-up to World War II. They turned to fascism because they were tired of partisanship, corruption and politics as usual:
National Socialism was a repulsion of my friends against parliamentary politics, parliamentary debate, parliamentary government—against all the higgling and the haggling of the parties and the splinter parties, their coalitions, their confusions, and their conniving. It was the final fruit of the common man’s repudiation of “the rascals.” Its motif was “throw them all out.” My friends, in the 1920’s, were like spectators at a wrestling match who suspect that beneath all the grunts and groans, the struggle and the sweat, the match is “fixed,” that the performers are only pretending to put on a fight. The scandals that rocked the country, as one party or cabal “exposed” another, dismayed and then disgusted my friends…
A couple of folks who clearly don't know my reading habits approvingly sent me She Who Must Not Be Linked's column Thursday. I wish to stress that I do NOT remotely think SWMNBL is a fascist, but her words did call to my mind the neo-neocon post.

She writes (and for those just joining us who wish to find the whole column, I speak of Peggy Noonan):
The question isn't whether they'll win seats in the House and Senate this year, and the question isn't even how many. The question is whether the party will be worthy of victory, whether it learned from its losses in 2006 and '08, whether it deserves leadership. Whether Republicans are a worthy alternative. Whether, in short, they are serious.
I spoke a few weeks ago with a respected Republican congressman who told me with some excitement of a bill he's put forward to address the growth of entitlements and long-term government spending. We only have three or four years to get it right, he said. He made a strong case. I asked if his party was doing anything to get behind the bill, and he got the blanched look people get when they're trying to keep their faces from betraying anything. Not really, he said. Then he shrugged. "They're waiting for the Democrats to destroy themselves."
This isn't news, really, but it was startling to hear a successful Republican political practitioner say it.
Republican political professionals in Washington assume a coming victory. They do not see that 2010 could be a catastrophic victory for them. If they seize back power without clear purpose, if they are not serious, if they do the lazy and cynical thing by just sitting back and letting the Democrats lose, three bad things will happen. They will contribute to the air of cynicism in which our citizens marinate. Their lack of seriousness will be discerned by the Republican base, whose enthusiasm and generosity will be blunted. And the Republicans themselves will be left unable to lead when their time comes, because operating cynically will allow the public to view them cynically, which will lessen the chance they will be able to do anything constructive.
In this sense, the cynical view—we can sit back and wait—is naive. The idealistic view—we must stand for things and move on them now—is shrewder.
Political professionals are pugilistic, and often see politics in terms of fight movies: "Rocky," "Raging Bull." They should be thinking now of a different one, of Tom Hanks at the end of "Saving Private Ryan." "Earn this," he said to the man whose life he'd helped save.
Earn this. Be worthy of it. Be serious.
To give her her due, who doesn't enjoy a good head-bang over GOP fecklessness? I certainly do.

But venting is not the same thing as thinking, and this is lazy thinking, and progressivist utopian thinking to boot. The key to victory is every politician on our side ceasing to be a hack? Good luck with that.

When are we going to get it through our heads? Leadership is always rare. That's the bad news. The good news is, since most politicians are followers, it only takes a couple of true leaders to convince the rest of the gang to fall in line. As Mr. W. says, politicians usually --not just now, but in all of history-- are "small-minded, timid and focused on their localisms."

Fortunately, the Founders recognized this and planned our system accordingly. Saints not required, praise the Lord!

Here's an unpleasant yet reassuring lesson from Federalist # 55:
In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.
Let's meditate on that for awhile.

We can have no hope of and no interest in trying to elect a Congress of worthies. We should pray for a couple of worthies to lead the rest.