George Will raises some interesting points in his latest column. (Again, reading this may require you to register to view The Washington Post).
Predicting the outcome of the Presidential election this far in advance is a dubious science, one that resembles placing a bet on a race horse based on Vegas odds and most-likely scenarios. I find it interesting that even op-ed writers on the right are backing Obama over Clinton. To an extent, this is not surprising considering the conservatives' mutual distaste of her and everything for which she stands. What is, however, surprising is that they would back a candidate with such obvious liberal stances on the issues that many GOP supporters find intolerably offensive. Perhaps the underlying assumption is that as electing a Democratic president grows increasingly more and more likely, it's best to pick the lesser of two evils. Indeed, Obama is a difficult candidate to dislike and thus we are are disinclined to criticize him for advancing an agenda so deeply rooted in that secretly optimistic part of us.
Will's commentary takes a swipe at John Edwards, which to me is not warranted by the facts. Let it be known that I have never been comfortable with Edwards, particularly raising doubts as to his overall intelligence, political ability, and manner of presentation. As a skeptic, I have to admit that his performance in the South Carolina debate was strong, admirable, and persuasive. His role as peacemaker between a bickering Obama and Clinton makes me ponder whether he could bring that same kind of diplomacy to the table that has been so sorely lacking in the past seven years. Edwards' populist rhetoric certainly sounds good and caters to the desires of those of us who feel increasingly slighted and pushed aside by the wealthy and the powerful. However, the nature of the office requires an immense skill at reaching across party and ideological lines to form compromises. Without it, nothing gets accomplished except for gridlock and standoff.
Obama harps constantly on the idea of building unity that goes beyond party and the partisan divide. Edwards up to now has criticized strongly the very people whose support he will need to govern effectively. Collectively, our spite and hatred towards the elite has grown more and more venomous. The times in which we live make this an attractive viewpoint and one in which are we are in good company. However, like it or not, these very people have most of the chips on their side and will not willingly give them up. We can rant and rail against our enslavers from now until the end of time and not accomplish a thing in the process. Our capitalist system is based on economic inequality and though we have a duty to temper the excesses of the wealthy and powerful, as well as hold them accountable for their actions, we cannot deny their existence, either. They set the context and the rules of the game; true compromise and consensus must incorporate them. Even if we wanted to leave them out altogether, we could not hope to succeed.
We may challenge the notion of hierarchies and make light of the rapidly shrinking gap between the haves and the have nots. We may attempt to find strategies which extend basic freedoms and economic means to those of us who do not currently have them. We may even wish to level the playing field, so to speak, and distribute wealth more equally among every citizen. However, in striving for all of these noble goals, may we not forget that what we want accomplished requires us to work hand-in-hand even with sworn enemies. Alternative theories and philosophies designed to establish a truly egalitarian society quickly found that the same power dynamics and structure of the old regime re-established themselves, albeit it different ways.
We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, but we also hold to be self-evident that though we may be created equally, we are not equally graced by wealth, intellect, work ethic, morality, education, luck, or opportunity. Individuals have basic rights but they also have the right, within reason, to shirk their responsibilities as citizens. Lest you feel that I'm advancing some tired old "pull oneself up by one's bootstraps" argument, I am not. What I am, however, saying is that it benefits us greatly to take into account that our ideals must be tempered by the reality of our surroundings. Furthermore, we can effectively expand fairness for all but we cannot make people act in their own best interest or reach their highest potential without their own personal commitment to improving themselves. The American Dream, as espoused, reveals that hard work and devotion to duty should directly correlate to success. It makes no other promises.