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A Cursory Glance In Passing Down A Deep Political Chasm

In doing a bit of quick research into Carl Schmitt I came across this article by Alan Wolfe. It's worth a read. I just want to quickly share a few pregnant excerpts from it.
  • In The Concept of the Political, Schmitt wrote that every realm of human endeavor is structured by an irreducible duality. Morality is concerned with good and evil, aesthetics with the beautiful and ugly, and economics with the profitable and unprofitable. In politics, the core distinction is between friend and enemy. That is what makes politics different from everything else. Jesus's call to love your enemy is perfectly appropriate for religion, but it is incompatible with the life-or-death stakes politics always involves. Moral philosophers are preoccupied with justice, but politics has nothing to do with making the world fairer. Economic exchange requires only competition; it does not demand annihilation. Not so politics.

  • No wonder that Schmitt admired thinkers such as Machiavelli and Hobbes, who treated politics without illusions. Leaders inspired by them, in no way in thrall to the individualism of liberal thought, are willing to recognize that sometimes politics involves the sacrifice of life. They are better at fighting wars than liberals because they dispense with such notions as the common good or the interests of all humanity. ("Humanity," Schmitt wrote in a typically terse formulation that is brilliant if you admire it and chilling if you do not, "cannot wage war because it has no enemy.") Conservatives are not bothered by injustice because they recognize that politics means maximizing your side's advantages, not giving them away. If unity can be achieved only by repressing dissent, even at risk of violating the rule of law, that is how conservatives will achieve it.

  • Liberals think of politics as a means; conservatives as an end. Politics, for liberals, stops at the water's edge; for conservatives, politics never stops. Liberals think of conservatives as potential future allies; conservatives treat liberals as unworthy of recognition. Liberals believe that policies ought to be judged against an independent ideal such as human welfare or the greatest good for the greatest number; conservatives evaluate policies by whether they advance their conservative causes. Liberals instinctively want to dampen passions; conservatives are bent on inflaming them. Liberals think there is a third way between liberalism and conservatism; conservatives believe that anyone who is not a conservative is a liberal. Liberals want to put boundaries on the political by claiming that individuals have certain rights that no government can take away; conservatives argue that in cases of emergency — conservatives always find cases of emergency — the reach and capacity of the state cannot be challenged.

(I'm not going to split semantic hairs by trying to introduce nomenclatural precision. Since this is a cursory glance I will permit these antipodal generalizations to stand.)

If ... (if) ... these generalizations are true — or, at the least, provide an introductory way to approach such different political styles — then it goes some way towards explaining the chasm that exists between those who seek a better world — a world where justice and mutual actualization are paramount objectives — and those who seek to preserve the status quo at all costs, or their own aggrandizement, or just plain simple power. The problem is that one side is playing a game to be won at all costs, while the other side takes into account factors unrelated to gaming.

In some ways this is all moot now, though, since it seems that everyone in government is playing the same game, a game completely unrelated to improving the lives of their constituents. We should also note that Mr. Wolfe's distinction between liberals and conservatives should not lead one to draw a similar distinction between demoncraps and repugnicans: there are certainly differences between parasites and predators, but no one wants to be a victim of either.

It also goes some way towards explaining how a certain reputed democratic ship of state is quickly bearing towards an authoritarian iceberg.

Politics is war conducted by other means. In political warfare you do not fight just to prevail in an argument, but to destroy the enemy's fighting ability... In political wars, the aggressor usually prevails... You cannot cripple an opponent by outwitting him in a political debate. You can do it only by following Lenin's injunction: 'In political conflicts, the goal is not to refute your opponent's argument, but to wipe him from the face of the earth.'
     —David Horowitz, conservative activist unhinged asshole