George Packer wants an exciting politics of heroism, sacrifice, war. It’s dead wrong

Corey Robin in Salon:

ScreenHunter_1165 Apr. 28 16.42George Packer is bored with American politics. “The 2016 campaign doesn’t seem like fun to me,” he writes in The New Yorker. Today’s politics “doesn’t quicken my pulse.” It “doesn’t shock me into a state of alert indignation.” The “thrill is gone.”

When George Packer gets bored, I get worried. It means he’s in the mood for war.

Packer claims he lost his passion for politics sometime between Obama’s first and second term. That’s the moment he confronted “the stuckness of American politics,” the moment when he realized that not only were “the same things” happening but that they would “keep happening.” Money would keep pouring in, filibusterers would keep filibustering, extremists would keep getting more extreme. Now he knows “we are paralyzed.” There are no more surprises.

This isn’t the first time Packer’s found himself yawning his way through a campaign. During the 2000 election, he complained that Al Gore was “more a technician than a leader,” whose “campaign slogan might as well have been, ‘First, do no harm.’” It wasn’t just Gore who had lackluster ambitions; there wasn’t “any burning issue galvanizing the electorate” either. Not just in 2000, but pretty much throughout the 1990s. As Packer would write a year later in the New York Times Magazine:

A strange thing happened after the cold war ended: patriotism all but disappeared from American politics. The right and left essentially offered a choice between hedonisms: tax cuts or spending. No one asked for sacrifice; no one spoke to common purpose.

A burning issue, a galvanized electorate, common purpose, sacrifice: that’s what Packer looks for in politics.

More here.