Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Krauthammer on the permanent campaign

He defends our--I was going to say quadrennial, but that isn’t quite right--ordeal:

[F]or all its bizarre meanderings, the endless campaign serves critical purposes.

The first two -- testing the candidates’ managerial and consensus-building skills -- are undeniably useful. But like most Americans, I find it is the third -- the gratuitous humiliation of our would-be kings -- that makes it all worthwhile.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Thank you, Joe! I had just read that and hoped to find something about it here.

We have turned the presidential campaign into a pleasingly degrading ordeal for the electorate, but cruel and unusual punishment for the candidates. I thought we had a constitutional guarantee against the latter.

It is horrible and I only am watching selectively, the "high" points as shown online. How can anyone watch this stuff for two years? Maybe there is a conditioning in watching television series. I was at my mother-in-law's at just the right time on a weekday afternoon and she was watching the same soap opera she watched more than twenty years ago, with many of the same actors (older) and I am just about positive it was the same plot and dialogue. How do people do this, watch TV in any of the aspects of entertainment available, dramatic or political, when there is so much repetition and relentless tedium? Therein is the demand for the gratuitous humiliation of candidates, the longing for something interesting to happen.

Those characters in that soap opera who have been on that program for so many years must have something that endear them to viewers. Maybe that is what the endless campaign is for, to see which person's face and voice America will engage with over the long years. Who bears humiliation best? I don't see that this process has worked all that well in the past few elections, but you guys can tell me why I am wrong.

Krauthammer wrote: "The bargain we offer the candidate is this: We will make you Lord, circling celestially above us on Air Force One, but because we are flinty Jeffersonian yeomen, we insist that you flatter us first with a very extended show of camaraderie and commonality with the Iowa farmer, the New Hampshire alderman and the South Carolina good ol' boy."

I think I know where Krauthammer is coming from with this. But sometimes I wonder if the notion of our President as "King" or "Lord" isn't diminishing. I'm very serious. As I scan back through the decades, the zenith might have been Kennedy, following on the heels of war hero Eisenhower. From there I sense our esteem of the man and the office has been diminishing, with slight ups and downs along the way. Nixon disgraced the office; Carter's reign in office was marked with utter incompetence; Reagan represented an up-tick, but by the mid 80's the 24x7 cable coverage was in full swing and every blemish of the man and the office began to be shown. Since then the focus has been so relentless that we as Americans have "seen behind the curtain," so to speak, and the office and the man is no longer, I sense, held in quite the esteem it was 40 years ago.

Just a sense. I could be wrong.

Charles's second point is true (the one about putting together majorities), but why does it have to be done during an extended presidential campaign? Or does the plebiscitory or primary election method of nomination make this necessary? Does it have to be more out in the open? Back in the time of party dominance, coalion building was done more behind the scenes in terms of the nomination, though even then the candidate himself had to develop a public reputation of course, both for character and political positioning. That was the FDR method. Charles leaves out the anarchical condition of the primary jumble and the absurd tendency to frontloading we have now. What will happen with regard to this?

The last point I find silly and wrong. Democratic politics is always popular and even entertaining, but it is deadly serious and should be worthy of democratic pride on the part of both candidates and electorate. Humiliation and contempt should be no proper part of it. Our modes of communication today play the spoiler here.

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