Half Past the Month: Let’s Try Supremacy

November 7, 2018

Listening to the acceptance speeches after a harrowing midterm election, was it clear what the winners thought had been won?

Some seemed to have counted the votes in their heads and concluded that the number represented fellow citizens who had astutely assessed character, intelligence and experience and had chosen him or her specifically to be their “leader,” whatever they imagine that to mean in a democracy-driven constitutional republic.

The political economist Jude Wanniski deflated such puffery in his 1978 masterpiece, “The Way the World Works.” Voters, he said, go into the booth looking for, say, a chicken. The choice, however, turns out to be a vulture and a snake. It is not much of an achievement that your vulture costume looks more like a chicken than does your opponent’s snake costume.

Others winners, more calculating, gathered their staffs to pour over the vote totals for what the results might say about their political future — a more certain path to higher office, perhaps, or a compromise in stance, a nod to a political faction, and so on. For such politicians, every election is as H.L. Mencken described it, “an advance auction of stolen goods.”

Whether the reaction to last night’s results was self-congratulatory or tactical, it missed the essence of what created our supreme nation and people.

Did I say supreme? Yes, there were those whose campaign carefully avoided the word. It was thought to imply rejection of mankind’s global destiny. And it was of course to be avoided in any of its hyphenated constructions.

Yet, the word must be said out loud, especially after a national election portending historic division. It is what will unite us. For America, like it or not, is founded on the hope that it (we) would become supreme — all of us.

But weren’t the founders all men? Weren’t they all white? Doesn’t that make us a nation of white supremacists and misogynist?

Quite the opposite; read the Declaration of Independence. It has to do with the determination that only the individual, any individual, is supreme. No leader, depraved or saintly, however elected or anointed, is allowed to change that.

Nonetheless, for decades now, election by election, we have been veering off that course. Just today the newly reelected Indiana Secretary of State mailed out a letter regarding State Form 48725 (business entity report) blithely congratulating owners for being “granted the authority” to stay in business.

Again, our society — at least at one time — protected citizens and their property from their rulers by laws and traditions dating back to Alfred the Great and the 7th century. Samuel Adams may have had that in mind when he gave context to the newly minted American democratic franchise:

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual — or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.”

Maybe it was just me, but that didn’t come through in the speeches last night.

— Craig Ladwig


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