Thursday, November 8, 2012

Who was that lawless roads pedestrian?

I was amazed at daybreak, yesterday, to find proclamations of a new alignment being offered on the strength of an admittedly amusing night. I was advised that it had been, if not especially good, then at least historically enormous; but then as I set about scrutinising its definition, I found recurrences of effect being misconstrued as cause, and coincidence as stable remedy. These sentimentalised deceptions were as innocent as the sensations that designed them, I allowed, and might well subside as such things do, innocuously enough. But then, at evening, there was more.

Ross Douthat's invention of an emergent coalition from an undifferentiated flight of commonsensible refugees of every condi-tion and occupation, from attack by Republican contempt, was dwarfed by Andrew Sullivan's com-pulsion to announce the greatest conjugal upheaval of all time.

Were the news not, in these parameters, benign enough to warrant such huzzahs, we'd have to reacquaint our mentors with society's assimilative powers all over again, that genius for absorption which allows abrupt deflection its novel but not much altering flight.

Yet here we were: pursuing innumerable, unremarked wars without the approbation or oversight of our institutions, but by one authority, stripped constitutionally of the power to do so. This was to have been the not George Bush presidency: the not war criminal presidency, the not civil liberties violating presidency, the not arbitrary presidency. 

The late campaign illustrates that triumph of history over political change which renders its morning-after raptures bitter precedents. Mr Obama sought office to fix an institution, and got away with neglecting to, by saying the economy ate his homework.

It was good to get past the Republicans, but I very much doubt that our culture can count forever on such a purified embodiment of the barbarian. Who can be sure that reason will not be resumed as their guide, as fast as it was abandoned, precipitating a pluralist outpouring from this coincidental coalition, as sweets from a piñata? The election held promise of a wiser pursuit of criminal justice in California, while nevertheless exposing the profound hazard of populist intervention in due process which rallied harsh misrule in the first place. But it is no exaggeration to say, the trends of the evening were framed as a flight from cruelty. It is not popular, against so many.

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