Bill Murchison

One gets the idea that much of the nation in January 2009 is poised for a love-fest, if not for the Age of Aquarius. It might be time, after years of acrimony, for a little sweetness and light. Who's going to make that happen, nonetheless? A new president? Not that this one lacks admirable traits, but come on. Governing is about policy choices that a majority inevitability inflicts on a minority, until their respective roles and the policies change again.

Political men and women don't "unite," they divide, as we shall see again and again in due course. Even within their own parties politicians divide over questions of power and how to wield it.

Generally, when a society functions well, it does so in those areas of life that flourish outside the public sphere -- families, churches, civic organizations and the like. Here the members rarely operate on the basis of raw power, acquired during bitter, head-counting contests for supremacy; they operate on the basis of mutuality and of consent to rules clearly understood, only occasionally disputed.

For keeping the national peace, for building highways, regulating the terms of trade, punishing evildoers, and so forth, hire a politician. He understands the uses and forms of collective power. For the upbuilding of community values, the nurturing and spread of shared norms, the cultivation of the spirit, the training of the heart -- apply elsewhere besides the corridors of government. Go to church, get married, or join a club.

What a good thing it is that politicians don't dominate us any more than they do. To the particular politician who undertakes now to lead us -- what can anyone say but God bless and all the luck in the world.

Bill Murchison

Bill Murchison is the former senior columns writer for The Dallas Morning News and author of There's More to Life Than Politics.
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