The Deflation of Politics; Elections Matter, but Their Reverberations Are Limited. Governments Change; for Most People, the Basic Conditions of Life Do Not

By Will, George F. | Newsweek, November 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

The Deflation of Politics; Elections Matter, but Their Reverberations Are Limited. Governments Change; for Most People, the Basic Conditions of Life Do Not


Will, George F., Newsweek


Byline: George F. Will

PRESIDENT, n . The leading figure in a small group of men of whom--and of whom only--it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.

--Ambrose Bierce, "The Devil's Dictionary" (1911)

By the time most NEWSWEEK readers receive this issue, they and other voters will be choosing, or will have chosen, the man least not wanted, a.k.a. the winner. He will step confidently forward--and will, as it were, smack his forehead into some facts, which are, as John Adams said, stubborn things.

Congress is a fact, and can be stubborn. In their quadrennial obsession with the presidency, Americans forget that Congress is the first branch of government. There is a reason the Constitution deals with the legislative branch in Article I: not much happens without its cooperation.

If John Kerry is Mr. Least Not Wanted, he probably will confront a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The Senate might have a Republican or a Democratic majority, or it might be tied, with the vice president--Dick Cheney or John Edwards--enabling his party to control the body's committee chairmanships and agenda. However, neither side will have anywhere near 60 senators, without which nothing very consequential gets passed these days.

If George W. Bush is re-elected he will enjoy only a negligible, if any, post-election honeymoon from a closely and angrily divided country. Because he will be a lame duck, the minds of many members of his party will inexorably turn, like so many sunflowers, toward rising suns--persons jockeying to become the 44th president.

Presidential power is primarily the power to persuade. Both Bush and Kerry ran campaigns of mobilization more than persuasion. They no longer have, if they ever did, much power to generate affection or enthusiasm beyond their respective cohorts of supporters. The most politically engaged of those now bristle with hostility toward the other side.

In 1908 a political scientist wrote:

"The president is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can; and if Congress be overborne by him, it will be no fault of the makers of the Constitution--it will be from no lack of Constitutional powers on [Congress's] part, but only because the president has the nation behind him and Congress has not. He has no means of compelling Congress except public opinion."

Eleven years after Woodrow Wilson wrote that, he destroyed his health campaigning across the country in a doomed attempt to generate public opinion that would force Congress to ratify the Versailles Treaty, including U. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Deflation of Politics; Elections Matter, but Their Reverberations Are Limited. Governments Change; for Most People, the Basic Conditions of Life Do Not
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.