Monday, March 14, 2011

All things to all people, and nothing definite to anyone

In thinking about "Campaigning as All Things to All Republicans," the article about former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty's nascent Republican presidential candidacy in today's New York Times, one should be heartened, first, by the fact that it occurred to anyone at the Times to make a Biblical reference, even obliquely, by invoking a phrase from St. Paul's first Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 9, verse 22. Indeed, I imagine that the article was written by someone about my age, who may have been quizzed by a younger copy editor: "Interesting turn of phrase--where did you come up with it?"

Pawlenty is amiable and intelligent and is who I thought Senator McCain would choose before McCain began to demonstrate, rather embarrassingly, the truth of the adage that hope deferred makes the heart sick, and made some embarrassing choices.

Pawlenty's own choices this electoral season are not easy ones, though he should realize the extent to which he sounded a cautionary note for his own candidacy when he uttered this home truth:
“I think the people who get tossed around in this process are people who don’t have their compass set, who don’t have their feet firmly planted on the ground. And then they start to just grab for the wind and they flop around."


And granted that Pawlenty doesn't have a Michael Bloomberg fortune, his visits to New Hampshire were not thought experiments or philosophical exercises but, presumably, early tests of strategies to garner votes. Accordingly, as the Times tells us:
"At a recent Tea Party Patriots rally, he pronounced, 'The government’s too damn big!' To an evangelical audience, he declared, 'The Constitution was designed to protect people of faith from government, not to protect government from people of faith.' And to Republicans in New Hampshire, he closed with a gentle plea: 'Please leave with hope and optimism.'”

Nothing wrong with making potential supporters feel at home, I suppose. But I can't help but wonder if the estimable former governor might be on more solid ground—philosophically, at least—if he had something like the following to his respective constituencies:

To the Tea Party: "At some point, you need to make up your mind if you want the central government provided by the United States Constitution or the toothless mockery of national government that existed under the Articles of Confederation. The Founding Fathers understood the difference. Do you?"

To Evangelicals: "The first instrument of government in North America did, indeed, begin with the words 'In the name of God, amen.' It was the Mayflower Compact. It was sufficient to organize a small settlement in a day when men literally believed in witches; it was not a suitable foundation on which to build an entire nation made up of people of many widely varying beliefs. Our Constitution is a product of the age of the Enlightenment, not the age of Jonathan Edwards or Cotton Mather. It is important to know the difference and act on it."

To the New Hampshire Republicans: "Please leave with hope and optimism, but only after realizing that the only sound basis of such is to reject the know-nothingness that threatens to hijack the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt."

Now that would make for an interesting candidacy, even though, in today's political climate, it might well be over almost before it started. And then Mr. Pawlenty could go home and read Albert J. Beveridge's biography of John Marshall or Marshall's biography of Washington.

© Michael Huggins, 2011. All rights reserved.

No comments: