A German writer made his point quite accurately: Our politicians “being divided into factions, they are more concerned to ruin their rivals than to follow the dictates of reason.” That seems a disastrous state of affairs, when political leaders value their party and their “principles” more than they do the nation.
Oddly enough, the fellow was not describing 21st century American politics. He was Samuel Pufendorf and he wrote those words toward the end of the 17th century.
One would think — and hope! — that we have outgrown such pettiness by now, 3 1/2 centuries later. Nope, we haven’t at all. Our American political leaders play endless blame-games, devote enormous time and energy trying to undo the accomplishments of the other party, and actually accomplish close to nothing themselves.
After last fall’s election, when Republicans emerged with solid majorities in both the Senate and the House, Mitch McConnell assured us that now Congress would get things done because “we Republicans know how to govern.”
It is now clear that the Republicans do not even know how to govern the Republican party. Ol’ Sam Pufendorf would be pretty discouraged if he could hear our conservatives boasting that America is exceptional, the greatest nation the world has ever seen, while proving that we have learned nothing from history about how to manage a nation. He might even say again what he said in 1680: “He who has no Relish for History, is very unlikely to make any great Progress in the Way of Knowledge.”
There are three steps, methinks, in the intellectual life: We carefully observe to gain a knowledge of the facts. We then interpret those facts to gain understanding and insight. And then we embody our understanding by living it out in wisdom.
The more conservative among the Republicans know a little about American history, seem to have no ability to understand what they know, and certainly have shown no hint whatsoever of wisdom.
Proof: They are currently excited about a man who shouts his ignorance with great confidence, makes rousing speeches that actually have no content, is terribly insecure about his own intelligence and wealth and status as a white Anglo-Saxon male, and measures everything by how it affects him personally. He has no idea of any difference between leadership and intimidation. He is, in short, a perfect candidate for Tyrant of the United States.