Most people believe that the now commonly used aphorism “a rising tide lifts all boats” is attributed to former president John F. Kennedy, who used it in a 1963 speech to defend the building of a controversial dam opposed by many of his political opponents as pork. It was speechwriter Ted Sorenson, the man who Kennedy described as his own “intellectual bloodbank,” however, who actually brought the phrase to prominence, after noticing it as the slogan of a New England chamber of commerce. This was revealed in the former’s 2008 memoir, Counselor: A Life At The Edge Of History, published just over two years before his death. It says something profound about the level of loyalty Sorenson held for his boss, who died almost half a century before he did, that he chose not to take credit for popularizing what has become an essential aspect of modern political jargon. Indeed, it is most difficult to find men of his integrity in the politics of today, whose nature tends to revile those on both ends of its spectrum.
When things tend to get dicey, a daily occurrence, it would seem, in the American political arena, I sometimes conjure images of a strong tide rising above the pettiness and nonsensical antics of the career flamethrowers responsible for this, whether they be pundits or public officeholders. This tide ultimately manages to wash a great deal of the anguish caused by them away and, in the process, lifts the boats of those who actually make our country work; namely the business executive, tradesman, educator, parent, intellectual, public safety officer, entrepreneur, medical worker, armed forces member, decent politician and far too many more to list.
After the daydream has finished, I often wonder about what this tide would consist of, and, beyond that, who exactly would bring it about? Populist movements which try to overthrow the status quo with the intention of bringing about utopian governmental and societal systems always end badly; as a matter of fact, life for the common citizen under the new order is usually far worse than it was beforehand. No, if any positive, truly beneficial change is to be made here in the United States, it must be done through the established system of law. Pseudo-militant and outright terroristic uprisings do nobody any good, and cause an incomparable number of problems in relation those which they alleviate, if any. The saying, “you can’t fight city hall,” I have no clue as to who concocted that one, is one of the truest ever to have flown from human lips.
So, if city hall, or a more important seat of political power, cannot be fought on brutish terms, then how can things be turned for the better? I mentioned before that it must be done through the establishment, but what about on a more specific level? In order to answer this question, one needs not only a detailed plan of action, but the correct philosophy for dealing with the inevitable trials and tribulations which lie ahead.
Today, most politicos would surely consider themselves to be deeply philosophical on any given issue, but they would be wrong. The harsh reality is that a great deal of them are ideological, meaning that they are singularly concerned with an personal set of ideals and view all which goes on around them in absolutist terms of black and white, with the uncertainty of gray an evil that must either be disregarded, reclassified as black or white, or destroyed in its entirety.
While an ideologue instinctively fears the unknown, a philosopher examines every issue individually, and uses a well organized thought process, always open to change, to find the best solutions. I think it is safe to say that we need more philosophers in both government and the commentariat alike. This new series of articles for my column here at Blogcritics is, in essence, my contribution to the American body politic in the latter regard. Over the next several months, I will outline my unique, patently syncretic political macro-philosophy I have been struggling to devise for several years, and I believe that I have finally fined tuned it to the extent that it is suitable to be shared in a public forum.
Due to professional time constraints, I will no longer be writing articles on a semi-daily basis, but I will try earnestly to keep a weekly, or semi-weekly, schedule. In any case, I am sure that you would agree with me that quality beats quantity, and this series should be a shining example of that principle. As always, I welcome all of your questions and comments, and will respond to as many as I can.
We have much to learn from one another.