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The Wire III.8-12


On political reasoning

A woman calling herself not naïve tells her politician horse-in-the-race that self-righteousness is essential to politics. She is an operator. She wants to add skill, diligence, & patience to politics. She specializes in winning winnable elections. But she is naïve: She believes persuasion makes politics. She thinks money persuades people: Money already presupposes people agree on what money is worth.

No such politician can understand the crisis of liberalism, much less solve it. This woman teaches that politicians win by talent. The politician’s wife explains that she loves him & believes him. Humorously, the sophist teaches the demagogue to replace public affairs by the private intimacy specific to men seducing women. In this way, she removes argument from his ambition. She does it by artful flattery, indicating how he should act… This woman applauds the reasoning of Kennedy & Clinton, but deplores Reagan’s.

The effectual truth of flattery is this: Politicians give a good talk in public & maneuver the money behind closed doors, away from the camera. Such politicians hold the rest of the world in contempt, mixed at times with fear, what with elections… So we see the parade of people in power or looking to become powerful: They seem like children or innocents, compared to the men who kill & get killed. Corruption must be protected in order to continue. Yet one of these prominent politicians is teaching Stringer how to move from drug-dealing into legitimate business.

The policemen are a different story, because they have to face both the corruption & the crime. Hierarchy deals with some of this & habituation makes up the difference, until a crisis comes. But policemen have to feel superior to criminals to do their job, which makes them feel superior to the people they protect. Civilians are obviously week, or why do they need cops? Criminals might be strong, even admirable, but lawless. When it comes to violent crime, the distinction between cops & criminals rests on the laws. Belief in the laws is the only way to distinguish criminals & citizens.

The drug city grows quickly. Some criminals start robbing others. The criminals that stood between criminals & cops are now unnecessary; they are abandoned unceremoniously. Diseases spread. Cops now have to protect criminals. Here come the liberal pet causes: Social justice is helping the drugs & prostitution businesses. Consequently, tough criminals become even more vicious. An artisan asks: How about electricity? Plumbing? The good church people now teach kids boxing, doubtlessly useful preparation for prison, where they would add weightlifting, all necessary preparation for the life of crime. But the isolation of drug city relieves the surrounding neighborhoods. Liberalism is unmasked: A few criminals had ruled everyone else.