[From “While We’re At It” in the Nov. 2008 issue]
Once again the rhetoric of political utopianism is in the air. And once again it will collapse into disappointment; without, one hopes, having done too much damage or leaving too much bitterness in its wake. As the saying has it, God looks out for drunks, little children, and the United States of America. And he has blessed us with a constitutional order that cannot be easily overturned or undermined. Which is certainly not to say that elections make no difference. This one could make a very big difference with respect to the preeminient concern for the protection of the unborn and resistance to the biotechnological redefinition of the human. More particularly, that difference will be made in the courts, the busiest little engines given to overturning and undermining. For starters, it is quite likely that the next president will appoint one or more new members to the Supreme Court. It strikes some as passing strange that a politician declares that this is the greatest country in the world and is therefore in need of dramatic change. But that, too, is very American: the confused coexistence of idealism and realism, of the utopian and pragmatic, as they are expressed in the endless permutations of what is called liberalism and conservatism.
A great many people make their political decisions on the basis of party alignments. Relatively few do so on the basis of “the issues” — meaning that they study the policy wonkery and conclude that one or the other course will better serve the common good. In any event, most wonkery is in the service of party alignments. And, of course, voters beyond numbering go with celebrity appeal or whether they “feel comfortable” with the candidate projected on the television screen. … Except for the critical issues mentioned above, the substantive differences between the major candidates are not so great as fervent ideologists on the left and the right want them to be, leaving them to complain once again that they are disenfranchised. Which is pretty much what the Founders had in mind. …
If anyone (else) tells me that he/she voted for someone based on how that candidate made him/her feel, I’m going to want to feel a face with my fist. Who cares if you could drink a beer with the candidate? You’re not going to. Vote on the single issue that will actually last between the next six months: who will appoint the right judges to the Supreme Court. Health care will be figured out, no matter who’s in charge, because so many people are mad. Same with the financial situation. Focus on the Supreme Court, the FOCA, and similar items, where the president will actually do good or do damage.