The Conceit of Government

The WSJ’s Peggy Noonan asks the question as to why politicians seem so full of themselves, especially criticizing Senator Barrack Obama’s comparison of himself to President Lincoln:

Oh. So that’s what Lincoln’s for. Actually Lincoln’s life is a lot like Mr. Obama’s. Lincoln came from a lean-to in the backwoods. His mother died when he was 9. The Lincolns had no money, no standing. Lincoln educated himself, reading law on his own, working as a field hand, a store clerk and a raft hand on the Mississippi. He also split some rails. He entered politics, knew more defeat than victory, and went on to lead the nation through its greatest trauma, the Civil War, and past its greatest sin, slavery.

Barack Obama, the son of two University of Hawaii students, went to Columbia and Harvard Law after attending a private academy that taught the children of the Hawaiian royal family. He made his name in politics as an aggressive Chicago vote hustler in Bill Clinton’s first campaign for the presidency.

You see the similarities.

Frankly, it makes me wonder whether or not there’s any room in politics anymore for the self-made Abe Lincoln’s anymore.

Quite seriously, whom would you rather vote for? The poor, self-educated rail splitter? Or the Columbia and Harvard Law graduate?

What is in the air there in Washington, what is in the water?

What is wrong with them? This is not a rhetorical question. I think it is unspoken question No. 1 as Americans look at so many of the individuals in our government. What is wrong with them?

It’s identity politics. People vote for the person they would like to identify with in office. I support Bush because he’s strong on terrorism. I support Senator Allen because he upholds “Jeffersonian Conservative” principles. I support my supervisor because he’s a great guy who listens to people.

We want to be reminded of their great, endearing qualities, because when they remind us of how great they are, we remind ourselves of our own presupposed qualities and how we projected them into these politicians.

Isn’t this why Caesar thrice refused the crown? It’s an old trick. Timeless even. But it works because people see themselves in the people they elect.

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