US Election Day: November 2000

This presidential election pits against one another two men who might, in terms of policy questions, be indistinguishable. But in terms of spiritual substance, there is all the difference in the world. One candidate is an heir to what Voegelin calls the “common sense” philosophy of the Scottish philosophers, who derived their views from Cicero, who in turn, was heir to a thinned out version of Aristotle. You would invite this candidate home to dinner.

The other candidate is a child of the Enlightenment with the addition ( hardly unusual) of an unbounded libido dominandi . You would only have lunch with him in a public place.

As of this writing, the polling places have only been open for a few hours and the press and TV say the election is too close to predict.

I would obviously prefer the candidate with the reasonably intact personality to win. However, even if he does win, my life as a Christian in society will not become discernibly easier. The path of my own spiritual ascent will not become smooth.

My concern is that insofar as society is man writ large, the election outcome may be symbolic for the type of personality that makes up the political majority in this democracy. Is public policy to be shaped through pandering to groups constituted of individuals who lack sufficient spiritual substance to act other than as a tribe? I am referring here to Voegelin’s commentary on Turgot and Tribalism: See On Turgot and the Invention of Humanity . In the United States there is no public and common agreement about what is Man, God, Society, or History: the four pillars of existence. Obsession with process has taken the place of agreement on substance.

People outside of the United States, particularly those in Western Europe, may endure the same internal tensions as the United States because the United States is, after all, a child of Europe; but observers must always watch the events in the United States with some trepidation because of its exercises of power which often have a magical and eschatological content, and because, as someone once said, the United States has no compelling national tradition of public behavior to limit adventurism by those with shallow-rooted political imaginations.

Tuesday, November 7th, 2000.