1. I see no reason to change my predictions. The Democrats are lamer than ever on the shows, but trends remained mixed. The Republican vote—I repeat—will likely be just short of a landslide, just as the Democratic vote was last time.

2. Some of my friends are overreacting by saying this will be a critical election. Basic critical election theory is something like this: The election of 1932, for example, was a “negative landslide”—a vote against Hoover and the Republicans. 1936 was the critical endorsement of FDR and the New Deal “change.” This election too ( like 2008) will likely be a negative almost-landslide; it’s not the affirmation of any specific program of change. It’s up to the Republicans to put forward a program and a presidential candidate that will inspire that kind of affirmation. My own view (to repeat) is that the country remains pretty evenly divided and wary of both parties. As Rassmussen wrote, they think the Democrats are the party of BIG GOVERNMENT and the Republicans are the party of BIG BUSINESS. And our Tea Party friends still think of themselves as a third party prudently working “within the system” by transforming the decadent Republicans.

3. One of our readers—lacking the courage to do it himself—is egging me on to take on Ralph’s “politicized ontology” described below. It’s true enough maybe I don’t quite agree with it, just as don’t quite agree with what might seem to be Ralph’s too-moralized interpretation of “the Good” as described by Socrates in the REPUBLIC. What Socrates describes is in terms of what the philosopher would have to know (not only Being but what gives Being its beingness) in order to claim to rule on the basis of wisdom. But Socrates never claims to be “outside the cave” himself or to know what it takes to rule; he locates himself—with everyone else—in the cave or in the world of images. The philosopher-king is perfect in every way—a statue sculpted for an edifying purpose; Socrates is neither a wise man in that sense or suited to be a king. Still, this reader—surely a Straussian purist of a sort—is surely wrong to think that human beings—even philosophers—have access to an ontology that’s free from the (personal?) limitations of this world. My objection (in agreement with Socrates, I think) is to the exaggeration that turns the philosopher-king into a image of total liberation and the cave dweller into an image of totally manipulable enslavement. Those idealistic fantasies are presented, by Socrates, for Glaucon’s benefit. So I might disagree with Ralph on how politicized ordinary people finally are and even on the capacity or even desirability that “reason” take responsibility—or I might not. But the reader may, in effect, be confusing Ralph with Heidegger or Glaucon and missing the ways in which Ralph shows that philosopher—insofar as he’s not an abstraction in some book but a real guy—can’t truthfully liberate himself from the truthful moral experiences available to us all. The reader, following the surface of the REPUBLIC, might take too seriously the idea that the choice available to every serious person is either philosophy or politics.

Articles by Peter Lawler

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