Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Mailer was never politically correct, but he was correct, politically

"Lyndon Johnson was first preceptor of the key that politics-is-property so you never give something away for nothing. Convention politics is therefore not the art of the possible so much as the art of what is possible when you are dealing with property holders. A delegate's vote is his holding - he will give it up without return no more than a man will sign over his house entire to a worthy cause.

"Such property relations are to be witnessed for every political sinecure in the land - judgeships, jobs, contracts, promises - it comes down to chairs in offices, and words negotiable like bonds.

"Politics at national level can still be comprehended by politics-as-property provided one remembers that moral integrity (or the public impression of such) in a high politician is also property, since it brings power and / or emoluments to him. Indeed a high politician - which is to say a statesman or a leader - has no political substance unless he is the servant of ideological institutions or interests and the available moral passions of the electorate. A politician picks and chooses among moral properties. If he is quick-witted, unscrupulous, and does not mind a life of constant anxiety, he will hasten - there is a great competition for things valuable in politics - to pick up properties wherever he can, even if they are rival holdings. To the extent a politician is his own man, attached to his own search for his own spiritual truth - which is to say willing to end in any unpalatable position to which the character of his truth could lead him - then he is ill-equipped for the game of politics. Politics is property. You pick up as much as you can, pay the minimum for the holding, extract the maximum, and combine where you may."

Norman Mailer; Miami and the Siege of Chicago (1968)

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