Is it now finally over? One hopes. But Americans invest a lot in their presidents, extending to them not only the dual roles of head of state and head of government, but also something like cultural emperor. Many commentators gushed about how a President Obama would change the face of America abroad. No doubt true, but it is peculiarly American to think that the president is the face of America. Canadians don’t regard Stephen Harper as the face of Canada, nor do the French think of Nicholas Sarkozy in that way, even if he might. Italians are hard-pressed to remember who is serving as prime minister; that ancient land does not regard her political leaders as definitive of the national character.The words of the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the great Democratic senator from New York, kept returning to me this long political season: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”
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Well, no. America has a new president. That’s important. But more important still is the American founding inspiration — often forgotten these past years — that politics does not a nation, or culture, make.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Is it Now Finally Over?
Father Raymond J. de Souza quotes late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, the great Democratic senator from New York, and makes an observation or two worth noting:
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