For Prudence, Supplemental

Scott shouldn’t have all the fun–or the mixed reader reaction.  It is a remarkable fact of the Obama era that we have come to the point of serious division and rancor amongst ourselves.  I don’t think there was this degree of disagreement over whether and how to oppose Bill Clinton in the 1990s.  I have lots of thoughts on this state of affairs, including the possibility that this internal debate may be healthy for conservatives and the Republican Party.  But it could go either way.  Perhaps later on I’ll walk through the several sides of this.

In the meantime, I’ve started writing a weekly column for Forbes.com, which is to be called “The Sinews of Politics.”  Yes–it’s an adaptation of the title of Churchill’s Fulton speech, “The Sinews of Peace.”  My bio line says that politics “is more of an art than a science.”  That’s meant as a provocation of traditional academic political science today, which removes a lot of the artfulness from our understanding of politics (and then wonders why students find the field boring in college).

This week’s column is on the subject of political prudence, and bears the headline: “What The Tea Party Needs Now Is Its Own Abraham Lincoln.”  Here are the opening two graphs:

Sometimes small things later appear much more significant, and one of the small events from the George H.W. Bush years that is worth pondering now is how he brought into ridicule the classical concept of “prudence.”  Perhaps it was more Dana Carvey’s relentless mocking that made prudence the subject of dismissive mirth, but regardless of fault this important quality has slipped from our mind and our political practice.

What is prudence?  It is a commitment to high principle combined with a profound grasp of current circumstances.  The first part is easy: declaring principle, and one’s adherence to it, seems a clear duty and is always well received—by your fervent allies and supporters.  More difficult is the task of persuading the undecided and the confused, and figuring out, in a democracy, how to assemble a stable majority of public opinion behind a course of action that can succeed.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing, which gets into the necessity of figuring out the prudent strategy or strategies (there may be more than one) for out current predicament.

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