In the summer of 2016, the words “vote your conscience” provoked a storm at the Republican convention. Today on the homepage, I have a piece titled “Vote Your Conscience: A few thoughts on next week, the previous four years, and the future.” The relevant issues are discomforting, for the most part, but of course very important.
“We all get to pick what we value,” I often say. No one can dictate to you what to value: what to admire, what to disdain, what to be neutral on. This is up to the individual. And no one can tell you what to care about. “It’s not a big deal, what’s the matter with you!” people might say. Remember Lyle Lovett, singing, “It may be no big deal to you, but it’s a very big deal to me.”
One more link: to this Q&A, which I recorded with George F. Will a week ago. He wanted the World Series to go seven games, because “you can’t get too much of Mookie Betts.” Betts is an outfielder for the L.A. Dodgers. In the course of our podcast, Will called him “superb,” “angelic,” and “transcendent.”
As it happened, the series went six games, with the Dodgers winning it, over the Tampa Bay Rays.
The best-selling of Will’s many books is one of the best-selling sports books of all time: Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball.
Did he have a rooting interest in the World Series? Not really. But he had two things to say for each team. The Rays are a very well-run organization, proving that money is not dispositive in baseball, as it is not in politics. Having a lot of money is good; but how you spend what you have is critical.
And the Dodgers? Simply the best team in baseball (as the season, strange and abbreviated as it was, proved).
George Will is a Cubs man and a Nationals man, for reasons I could explain, or he could explain, as he has. More than anything, however, he is a Lincoln man. Toward the end of our podcast, I asked him sort of a gooey question: “What does Lincoln have to say to us today?”
Two things, primarily, answered Will. First, prudence is of great importance. Prudence is not the absence of principles but rather the application of principles to muddy reality. That is what statesmanship is, and why prudence is the essential value of the statesman.
I am paraphrasing Will.
Second? The United States is about the Declaration of Independence. Lincoln called it the apple of gold in the frame of silver. The Constitution is the frame, and very, very important. But gold is more valuable than silver, and the apple is more important than that which frames it.
Will grew up in Champaign County, Illinois. According to local lore, it was in the red-sandstone county courthouse that Lincoln first heard about the Kansas-Nebraska Act — about its successful passage, in 1854. The act had been spearheaded by an Illinois senator, Stephen A. Douglas.
Here, I will quote Will verbatim: “It was Lincoln’s recoil against the Kansas-Nebraska Act that propelled him to greatness.”
The Act said, We’re going to solve the problem of whether slavery should be expanded to the territories by having people vote on it. “Popularity sovereignty” was the mantra. Vote slavery up, vote slavery down, it’s a matter of moral indifference. Lincoln said no. We are not a country dedicated to majority rule, only. We are a country dedicated to ordered liberty. This is the “fundamental insight that should govern the American polity,” says Will.
Again, our Q&A is here.