I spend a good deal of time criticizing the failings and outright evils to be found in political parties — since these are the things that need be addressed most — but we must not forget the complimentary strengths that are encompassed by the Left and Right.
This is even more apparent in how we deal with other countries. The tightrope walk to appear neither acquiescently weak nor imperialistically strong is fraught with totterings and outright falls. Obama is not the first president to be criticized for being chummy and self-critical of America in front of the world and more sternly nationalistic at home. This is the nature of the game — pandering to the audience the same way you might tell a waitress it was the best meal you ever had at the register, and praising your wife’s cooking at the dinner table.
But it is our active pluralism represented through opposing attitudes that allows us to play the game both ways. For example, one politician can defend Israel and another can admonish the same. And over time, America cannot be peg-holed for long thanks to the turnover of elected officials.
Perhaps the perfect tag-team to defend America’s place and peace among nations is the good-cop-bad-cop partnership. Carter (the “good cop”) made great strides in the Middle East peace process, while Reagan (the “bad cop”) flexed military muscle that in no small way helped win the [[Cold War]].
Yes, it takes peanut farmers AND cowboy actors to make a nation great — and respected. This is because there are arguable really only two reasons people are respected: they are feared or they are loved. Some countries demand amicable partnership, while more belligerent ones only respond to a stern posture. If we spend too much time on either of these (or rather not enough on both), we lose face to half the world or more. We become ineffectual, despised by allies and unheeded by enemies.
We will never win the hearts of dictators or make friends by bullying free nations. But we can build alliances with those willing and keep the rest at bay by less pacifistic rhetoric and tactics. America is expected to be all things to all people, fulfilling these two roles at the same time.
Political Schizophrenia? Perhaps, but this is only unreasonable because of the most understated axiom of politics and groups of people in general: A group is not a person. We should not treat other nations as individuals, with single, homogenous agendas and interests. And understanding this about ourselves enables us to use it to our advantage.
The question is if we will.
Here’s a great lecture by Jonathan Haidt on the “moral roots of liberals and conservatives” that pertains to this topic … http://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html