In an earlier political era in American history, circa 6 months ago, say, most right-thinking people, politically minded and otherwise, never game any credence to Rick Santorum’s 2012 presidential ambitions. While possessing a fairly pleasing set of attitudes on the sort of social issues that actually matter to the kinds of people that would find Santorum’s set of attitudes on them pleasing, his sympathizers nonetheless saw no sizzle; neither did they find among his positions anything that made them stop and think that he had any sort of roadmap out of our recent economically dark times. His presence and performance in the traveling carnival that was Fall ’11 season of Republican Idol, generally solid, steady, and on message, simply wasn’t showstopping and therefore could never make either the judges or the audience take their eyes off their respective (though very different) favorites. Those favorites, respectively, were Romney and…Everybody But (but not Rick (S)).
Today, as Michigan (and Arizonan) primary voters take their turn writing names, pushing buttons, and pulling levers, the profile of candidates they will choose from looks dramatically different. Everybody But (but not Rick (S)) had essentially exhausted all its options (save Ron P, but that is another matter) by the end of the calendar year. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich each took a turn in the spotlight to audition for the role of ‘true conservative’, to be the kind of nominee that hard-right Republicans could, win or lose, proudly go to battle for. All flopped, flamed-out, fumbled, or philandered their way off stage. By the time the actual counting of votes began in Iowa, Santorum was the only alternative to Romney’s phony conservatism left standing. His strong second-place-on-second-thought make that first-place showing owed as much to his good fortune for being an afterthought while Everyone But made fools of themselves as it did to his aforementioned pleasing set of attitudes. In any case, Rick was in the conversation.
Or he was until he got drubbed in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada. But then he had his own private Super Tuesday on February 7, besting the field in Missouri, Minnesota, and Colorado. He has since enjoyed advanced polls from Michigan that have him leading Romney, one of a number of states that the once inevitable nominee has some claim or other to call ‘home.’ Santorum’s post Iowa stumbles appear now to be the result of a mix of unfavorable demographics and a South Carolinian electorate reluctant to acknowledge the absurdity of a Newt Gingrich.
Santorum’s ascendancy as the conservative faithful’s real alternative to Romney has also been abetted by some creeping changes to the very landscape on which the fight for the Oval Office is expected to be settled. It is slowly filtering into the consciousness of Americans that our long-ailing economy has perhaps begun convalescing, and with them President Obama’ approval ratings. That, of course, is bad news for Romney. Romney has always been the judges’ favorite contestant, and grudgingly that of some of the audience, because he was ‘electable.’ His electability was a function of two things: First, his undisputed business acumen suggested that he could fix the economy in ways that Obama clearly could not. Second, he was a phony conservative and wouldn’t frighten independent voters. While the Everybody But parade spoke to the unwillingness of many conservatives to accept a phony as their standard-bearer, what is truly lethal to Romney’s candidacy – to the very reason for it – is for the economy not to be so obviously in need of Romney’s fixing. If the dark clouds are breaking up and the sun starts peaking through, Romney becomes redundant, ridiculous even, a Ken-doll flip-flopper who’s signature legislation he is now running against. In other words, Romney becomes unelecatable.
But if Romney can’t win then the conservatives of the GOP (they don’t comprise a ‘wing’ of it, they are its center) have no use for him whatsoever. If they are going to have to vote for a loser they can just as well vote for one they believe in. Freed from the lure of electability, they can vote strictly on principle, and for that Santorum, a plain-spoken and earnest defender of their views, suits nicely. Democrats likely think that the rise of Santorum is evidence of Republican delirium and will serve only to hand Obama the election. This gets things the wrong way round. Republicans are now clearly seeing the overwhelming likelihood of Obama’s victory, and are turning to Santorum so they at least have someone speak for them.
For those who lived through it, endured it, and ultimately absorbed it, September 11, 2001 persists in memory in an intensely personal way. Each of us owns that day and its aftermath, even when we manage to remember that so many others own it too. Some of us, far too many, lost lovers, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, cousins, colleagues, and friends. These people and their families have suffered unnatural losses by grotesque means, never to be made whole again. Others, spared this terrible, immediate grief, were nevertheless called to witness something die, and then something terribly sad and terribly wounded grow in its place inside our friends who lost someone. And there are those of us, living in the city at the time, who suffered the violation of our surroundings. To have shredded, singed office papers falling like morbid confetti in front of our homes; to continually encounter dumfounded, fearful, and farway eyes; to take ghostly quiet subway rides; to breath the choked air; to smell that burning smell, miles away, in midtown or in Brooklyn, a burning that even to the uninitiated was unmistakably more than electrical wiring, rubber, wood, and fuel, a smell that hung in the air for weeks and haunts us still. These are all elements of the pictures of that September past that we each stitch together in our own peculiar ways.
“The important point, however, is that there must be some normative principles bearing on PAs [propositional attitudes] to the effect that we ought to modify our PAs because of how they are. Rational normative principles are of the form that if one has such and such PAs then one ought to modify them in such and such ways. Unless there are such principles there is no rationality and no reasoning.” – Nick Zangwill, “The Normativity of the Mental”
This is the simplest, most direct argument for normative ‘realism’ I’ve found. It is refreshingly plain in that it wears its transcendental structure on its sleeve: believing, wanting, and the like must be normatively governed psychological processes if rationality and reasoning are to be possible, and rationality and reasoning are not only possible but abundantly actual. Moreover, it’s a wonderfully, boldly assertive philosophical mouthful, just the way I like it; when it comes to the root philosophical issues (and there is nothing more root than the normativity of the mental; everything of a peculiarly human interest stems from this) they invariably involve at their core simple, stark choice points. Capturing those choice points in simple, direct language takes philosophical talent, and Zangwill brings plenty. But what makes philosophical disputes so thrillingly interminable is that virtually no two philosophers conceive the choice points in precisely the same way: God, the Devil, and each and every Man is bound up in his own peculiar details. More on this presently. Continue reading
Sean Tevis, a forty year old self-described ‘information architect,’ suffered a setback to his bid to become the United States Representative from Kansas’ 2nd district on Tuesday, finishing third in that (rather red) state’s Democratic primary. As a New Yorker not paid to know the political preferences of Kansans in August, perhaps my mention of this event might provide Mr. Tevis with some small consolation. I say that not to flatter myself; I’m what keeps the consolation small. But that I was even aware of Mr. Tevis’ reach for Congressional glory is a certain testament to the reason he ran, namely to spread word of his ‘plan to re-balance the US political system.‘ Continue reading