Burke, Mahler, and Other Righteous Souls

by Jay Nordlinger

Today’s Impromptus, like most of them, is a mixture, ranging from the immolation scene in North Dakota to baseball (in particular, the intentional walk). In between is an item about politicians, and how they follow rather than lead.

What do the activists want? Well, that’s what I want. But what if you (the politician) disagree? Maybe you should make your case, persuade? Be willing to be reelected with 55 percent of the vote rather than 65 percent?

Perish the thought.

I have a thoughtful note from a regular and wonderful reader — who says, in part,

I always thought politicians were our representatives rather than our leaders. … Nobody should be asked to offend their strong principles. If I was elected I would not vote for anything pro-abortion. But if I was pro-NAFTA and the people who elected me voted for Trump, I’d have to follow the will of those voters.

We are talking about members of Congress here, more than presidents, governors, and mayors. In any case, this is all summed up in the phrase “Burkean dilemma.” It is age-old. There is a time for bowing — bowing to the will of your constituents, rather than following your own beliefs. But here’s my beef (one of them):

There are so many politicians who are smart, articulate, and persuasive. Why don’t they use those talents? Say you’re for TPP, believing it to be in the American interest, but your activists have been convinced that it’s bad. Why not talk to them? Why not make a case? That’s what you’re good at, right? Why did you enter politics in the first place? To look at polls and act accordingly?

Anyway …

Now for the intentional walk. From time immemorial, pitchers have thrown four balls, well outside the plate. Strange things can happen (like a wild pitch, allowing a runner to score). But now they have done away with these throws, and an intentional walk will be signaled by a manager from the dugout. (By “they,” I mean Major League Baseball.) The aim is to speed up play.

In Impromptus, I write, “I’m for faster play. But I think we’ve lost something. More than we have gained (in faster play)?”

I have a note from a reader in Berlin — Germany, not New Hampshire or any of the other American Berlins. (By the way, do you know that the Berlin in New Hampshire is pronounced BER-lin, rather than Ber-LIN? Probably true of our other Berlins as well.) (Although “Irving Berlin” is pronounced as we pronounce the German capital.)

Our German reader writes in disagreement with me. He says, “Baseball is supposed to be slow and measured.”

I have nothing against slow and measured. But I think of one of the most common markings in Mahler: Nicht schleppen, or “Don’t drag.” Alternatively, Nicht schleppend, or “Not dragging.”

This is my basic view of this speed-of-play thing. I don’t need them to rush. But nicht schleppen!

P.S. This just in: An exceptional reader from Atlanta Braves country writes,

A “called” intentional walk in PROFESSIONAL baseball? Say it ain’t so, Jay! Tell me it’s “fake news”! Or at least confined to the American League …

What next? A “called” hit-by-pitcher? “Invisible” runners? A “designated” hitter for the pitcher? Oh, wait …

All appears lost. The Huns aren’t just at the gates, they’ve got box seats, are slurping $12 Bud Lites, and are bragging about a “quality start” from a pitcher who couldn’t get through the 6th inning.

And worse yet, there’s nobody to stand athwart the baseline, hollering for the relay throw, ready to tag History out.


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