Friends have criticized the whole idea of what I’m writing, saying that politicians will never accept ideals.
In theory, true.
In fact, no.
Every one of us, including politicians — bases their views, their interaction with voters, with issues, and with power — on a set of ideals. Yes, even George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney have ideals. Liberals ignore this at their peril.
What I have said is that the ideals of the present generation of politics emerge from the mind, heart and life of Richard M. Nixon. The belief in conflict, in enemies, in narrow majorities ruthlessly exploited — this is Nixonism. And it’s a set of political ideals meant to move America to a better place, a more powerful place, a more united place.
Those who ignore this fact, well, they’re Clueless. The Clue they are missing is that they mistake the opposing ideals for cynicism, a lack of ideals. Yes, the ideals of our present leaders seem manichaest — black-and-white, absolute. (Which, I know, is a misreading of Manichaeism.) But they are ideals nonetheless.
If anyone is to really compete politically with this set of ideals, and not just lean against them as AntiThesis politicians such as Bill Clinton and Joe Lieberman have done, then they better get a new set of ideals to sell.
And those ideals better be compelling. They better be high-minded. They better be, well, idealistic. They had also better lead us to a better world than the one we live in. They need to draw a contrast, in other words, and set a new course.
That’s what the ideals of the Internet are, and do. Yes, they are high
minded. They are also compelling. Yes they are idealistic, but they
lead us to a better world. They are also achievable, because we have
seen them live in this medium, in the behavior of
millions-upon-millions of people over a decade.
This doesn’t mean that everyone on the Internet is high-minded. But by
internalizing these ideals, high-minded people have been able to
accomplish great things, while low-minded people have not done as well.
The ideals and values of the Internet, in other words, work. They’re ideals, but they’re not just ideals.
Which makes them perfect for creating contrast, and pointing our politics into a new direction, something we desperately need.
All we need to do is make them explicit. Which is what I’m doing here.