Jan 17, 2012

Cormac McCarthy on political journalism

Brokaw cracked with the back of an axe the shinbone on an antelope and the hot marrow dripped smoking on the stones. They watched him. The subject was the campaign.

Polls say that people are disgusted with modern politics, said Fineman.

Brokaw smiled, his face shining with grease. What right man would have it any other way? he said.

The electorate does indeed count politics an evil, said Matthews. Yet there’s many people concerned about it just the same.

It makes no difference what men think of politics, said Brokaw. The campaign endures. As well ask men what they think of stone. The campaign was always here. Before man was, the primary season waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practitioner. That is the way it was and will be. That way and not some other way.

He turned to Ignatius, from whom he’d heard some whispered slur or demurrer. Ah Davy, he said. It’s your own trade we honor here. Why not rather take a small bow. Let each acknowledge each.

My trade?


What is my trade?

Politics. The campaign is your trade. Is it not?

And it aint yours?

Mine too. Very much so.

What about all them notebooks and video cameras and stuff?

All other trades are contained in that of political journalism.

Is that why the campaign endures?

No. It endures because old men love it and young men love it in them. Those that ran, those that did not.

That’s your notion.

Brokaw smiled. Men are born for games. Nothing else. Every child knows that play is nobler than work. He knows too that the worth or merit of a game is not inherent in the game itself but rather in the worth of that which is put at hazard. Games of sport involve the skill and strength of the opponents and the humiliation of defeat and the pride of victory are in themselves sufficient stake because they inhere in the worth of the principals and define them. But trial of chance or trial of worth all games aspire to the condition of presidential campaigning for here that which is at stake swallows up the game, player and all.

Suppose two men at Iowa with nothing to campaign with save their lives. Who has not heard such a tale? A turn of the ballot. The whole universe for such a candidate has labored clanking to this moment which will tell if he is to die at that man’s hand or that man at his. What more certain validation of a man’s worth could there be? This enhancement of the campaign to its ultimate state admits no argument concerning the notion of policy. The selection of one man over another is a preference absolute and irrevocable and it is a dull man indeed who could reckon so profound a decision without agency or significance either one. In such elections as have for their stake the annihilation of the defeated the decisions are quite clear. This man holding this particular arrangement of positions is thereby removed from existence. This is the nature of presidential elections, whose stake is at once the game and the authority and the justification. Seen so, politics is the truest form of divination. It is the testing of one’s will and the will of another within that larger will which because it binds them is therefore forced to select. Politics is the ultimate game because the election is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. The campaign is god.

Adapted from this:

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