Winston Churchill was isolated in his condemnation of Hitler when appeasement was in the air in the days before the outbreak of World War II. Joe Lieberman put principle above party to argue that cut-and-run is always a recipe for disaster. John McCain fights for what he believes even when it invites ridicule. Manliness means not tripping all over yourself to apologize for something said or done not because it was wrong, but because apologizing is convenient.
It's rare for an intellectual like Harvey Mansfield to offer philosophy and reflection as something for Washington pols to think about. The consultants who run campaigns are more likely to quote Dick Morris or James Carville than Plato or Aristotle. Philosophy is about the contemplative life; politics is about getting elected. Plato saw the rulers and the ruled as inhabiting a dark cave and thought they should be listening to philosophers, thus getting their light from the sun. Rodney Dangerfield put it another way: "I don't get no respect."
Prof. Mansfield thinks Alexis de Toqueville's fears of "democratic despotism" have come true as political correctness. "Mild despotism is a kind of conformity that happens almost without your feeling that you're being oppressed by it. It's all about the questions that are not raised or ideas that are put aside. Mild despotism tutors tyranny. It feeds people as children and keeps them or makes them unwilling to raise dissent or ask questions."
He blames his colleagues in academe for lacking intellectual nerve and verve, for framing their arguments in terms of utility and relativism, dismissing as merely quaint the enduring ideas of what is good, noble and just. Relativism is only "lazy dogmatism." It's a lesson Washington could put to profitable use.
Suzanne Fields is a columnist with The Washington Times. Write to her at: firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Suzanne Fields and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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