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Conservative Political Commentary

Quote of the Day

Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.


Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ostracon
posted by Bathus

Sad but true, "throw 'em to the wolves" is sometimes for the best.

The Dems set their sights on bringing down Tom Delay a long time ago, and now they've succeeded.

I had expected all along that they would succeed, and to be perfectly frank I've looked forward to their success because Delay (aka "The Exterminator," aka "The Hammer") has never presented the most appealing image of the Republican Party. He's not the devil the Dems want to make him out to be, but there is something about his persona that lends itself to a caricature drawn with the most hideous stereotypes one can associate with Republicans and conservatives. I doubt Delay will be convicted (but then again I thought Martha Stewart would be acquitted), but that's irrelevant to what's in the best interests of conservatives, the GOP, and the public generally.

What's happening to Delay is akin to the ancient Athenian democracy's practice of ostracism, a practice in which the actual guilt or innocence of the political leader is completely irrelevant. The person's status comes to depend entirely upon whether he is admired or reviled (or feared). Ostracism is a formalization of a fundamental instinct of all democratic peoples: The need, now and then, to bring low some person of high status.
To be ostracized by the Athenians meant being exiled from the land for a period of ten years. But one was not imprisoned, and one's property was not confiscated. In our democracy, ostracism can be both harsher and more frivolous than it was among the Athenians: Our practice is harsher because our modern ostracisms sometimes entail criminal prosecutions, with loss of freedom and/or property. Martha Stewart's criminal trial was a modern ostracism. She was convicted because she was reviled and envied. Our process is also sometimes more frivolous than it was among the Athenians, because they reserved ostracism for great political leaders. The Athenian people would have thought they had demeaned themselves if they ostracized a mere celebrity like Martha Stewart.

To have been ostracized by the Athenian democracy was a mark of greatness and power. To be ostracized by the American democracy it is enough merely to be popularly disliked or envied.

Distasteful (and morally abhorrent) as all this is, aside from the nice question of whether what is happening to Delay is fair or just to him personally, the reality is that in a democracy a leader cannot serve the public good if he is too widely reviled or envied. In that question of the public good, the justice of the individual case cannot stand against the public necessity.

The Dems and Ronnie Earle are doing the GOP a favor by giving them the excuse to do, and claiming the ignoble credit for doing, what many Republicans have wanted to do-- what must be done for the good of all, all except Tom Delay.

posted by Bathus | 1/08/2006 01:48:00 PM
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