Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Coda to L’Affaire Edwards

Commenters to our right and our left below think we’re being frivolous and/or hypocritical to devote so many pixels to the Edwards matter, what with World War V about to break out in the Caucasus. But there are several serious observations to make about this, several of which are suggested in Bill V’s post below.

It is not simply that Edwards is a hypocrite on several levels that makes this more than just a sex scandal: it is emblematic of a larger problem of contemporary liberalism that no one (except the Clintons!) has come to grips with.

As I explain to students, the paradox of the American presidency is that Americans want to look up to their presidents and presidential candidates, but they don’t want to feel that their presidents (or candidates) are looking back down on them. In other words, we want to put our presidents on a pedestal, but we want them to look at us at eye level. Not an easy trick. It is okay to be a patrician (FDR, JFK, Reagan to some extent, the first president Bush), but it is fatal to be seen as an elitist (Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, . . Obama??)

Now where does Edwards fall in these categories (patrician v. elitist)? Fairly easy call it seems to me.

The alternative is the common touch (Truman, Eisenhower, Nixon, Carter, Reagan again to some extent, Clinton, and GW Bush). Edwards tried to affect the common touch with his "son of a millworker"/on the side of the poor populism schtick, but it was obviously fraudulent.

And the aspect of MSM hypocrisy hardly needs to be adumbrated further.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Well said, Steve. Your students are fortunate. My retort would have been along the lines of: Dear Chicken-Littles and/or Incessant Pursuers of Conservative Hypocrisy, I can keep two thoughts (and topics) in my head at once; seriousness that takes itself too seriously runs many risks, starting with not getting the joke and perhaps ending with myopia.

George W. Bush has "the common touch" and isn't a patrician? Bush's common touch is the real deal, whereas Edwards's background (like it or not, he actually was the son of a mill worker and a letter carrier) and concern for the poor were "obviously fraudulent"? You must be kidding. Or are you simply talking about the marketing of these people and how successful it was, rather than any verifiable or falsifiable reality? Because if that's what you're getting at, I'd agree that GWB's marketing has been pretty exemplary, in a slimy Madison Ave. sort of way.

BTW, I think you're (continuing to be) frivolous in devoting so many pixels to the Edwards thing because of the numerous problems in the U.S., the majority of which are tied to or stemming from the Bush presidency. The Georgia issue certainly adds to it though.

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