Fred: The failure of normality

Byline: | Category: 2008 Presidential Election, Culture | Posted at: Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Andrew Ferguson pens a good read about Fred’s doomed campaign. A taste:

My guess is we’ll be missing him dreadfully by spring.

Actually, it’s more a story about us than it is of Fred.

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One Response to “Fred: The failure of normality”

  1. Amans Patriae Says:

    Thank you for the link. Andy Ferguson reminds us how attitudes have changed in our Republic over time. Bernard Bailyn, the Harvard professor whose seminal research led to a fundamental rethinking of the intellectual history of the American Founding and Framing, remarked in perhaps his most influential work:

    “Federalists and antifederalists both agreed that man in his deepest nature was selfish and corrupt; that blind ambition most often overcomes even the most clear-eyed rationality; and that the lust for power was so overwhelming that no one should ever be entrusted with unqualified authority.” [Bernard Bailyn, “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution” (Cambridge, MA: Belknap/Harvard University Press, enlarged edition, 1992; original 1967), p. 368]

    George Washington was an ambitious man, no doubt, but he apprehended and appreciated the distrust of political ambition and power which was so deeply ingrained in his fellow countrymen. He conducted himself with circumspection, accordingly, even in intercourse with his closest associates:

    “The acceptance would be attended with more diffidence and reluctance than I ever experienced before in my life. It would be, however, with a fixed and sole determination of lending whatever assistance might be in my power to promote the public weal, in hopes that a convenient and early period my services might be dispensed with, and that I might be permitted once more to retire.” [George Washington letter to Alexander Hamilton, October 3, 1788]

    Self-effacement, except perhaps when expressed as cunningly disarming humor, finds little place in our contemporary politics. The absence of public displays of raw ambition are no longer perceived as enhancing the dignity or character of a candidate. One recalls, indeed, that the Roman emperor (180-192 AD) Commodus debased the dignity of his office by entering the Colosseum as a gladiator, reducing himself to the role of a mere performer in the official public entertainments of his constituents.

    Certainly, Ferguson’s story should impel each of us to look into the mirror.