But let’s start with this:
Setting aside the nostrum that this election is unique in modern times and probably the most important of our lifetimes, a trope which is repeated every four years, what you and I saw on Tuesday had almost nothing to do with genuine philosophical differences. This was not Cato vs. Caesar, Adams vs. Jefferson, or even Lincoln vs. Douglas. This was incumbent alpha vs. challenge alpha in a chest thumping display of dyadic conflict designed to determine who will occupy the top position in a dominance hierarchy.
The first debate was all Romney as the Dominant Male:
Anthropologically, it was more like a pre-modern Polynesian chieftain conflict than anything like a real debate. By that standard, and that seems to be the standard that anyone cares about, Romney won the first debate against Obama. You see, Romney glared at Obama, and Obama’s eyes dropped, a standard act of submission. Romney was louder, Obama softer. Romney interrupted more, mastering both Obama and Jim Lehrer. Romney was the Big Man.
The second debate was a draw:
This week, Obama did not look down. He and Romney engaged in an elaborate dance of territorial disputes, crossing into one another’s personal space, striding fearlessly around the arena of conflict. Hand raised above the other in a stylistic analogue of physical blows…[but] in this setting alphas don’t strike, at least not with their bodies. They strike with their words.
But then Bowyer gets to the good stuff:
And why should be we surprised? Our nation has been on the path to tribalism for some time. Why shouldn’t we choose the chief to which we hail the same way the world has chosen its chiefs for millennia? Youth, physical vitality, territorial boldness, the will to dominance, tribal alliances, these are the ways men and women naturally choose leaders unless some set of ideas, some civilizing impulse raises them above that natural level. For America that set of ideas was found in the Declaration of Independence. (my emphasis)
But nobody was talking about the Declaration on Tuesday, about being endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights, about absolute limits on the power of the state, about property rights: that kind of talk is so GOP primary. Tuesday was more Who’s Your Daddy? Who will take care of you? Who will provide for your needs?
How far down we have come. How far we have to go to restore that “set of ideas…found in the Declaration…”.