Walter Russell Mead, in a typically witty and insightful essay, compares and contrasts the legacy of Massachusetts Bay and Harvard on this year’s two candidates.
When Wilsonians turn their gaze toward the United States, they become what I think of as the Bostonian school in domestic politics. Like the New England Puritans to whom they owe so much, todayâ€™s Bostonians believe that a strong state led by the righteous should use its power to make America a more moral and ethical country. This, I believe, is the tradition in American domestic politics that most profoundly shapes President Obamaâ€™s worldview; it inspired many of the abolitionists and prohibitionists who played such large roles in 19th century reform politics, and it continues to influence the country wherever the spirit of Old New England survives. (Not all domestic Bostonians are international Wilsonians, by the way; some believe that America should lead by example rather than by imposing its views on others.)
Bostonians over the years have changed their ideas about morality; few today would agree with Increase Mather and John Winthrop that the state should punish any deviation from Biblical morality as understood by 17th century puritan divines. But when it comes to punishing offenses against righteousness as defined by a congress of humanities professors, multiculturalist activists and foundation grants officers, the liberal morality police are ready to march â€” and to smite. Todayâ€™s neo-puritans would certainly agree that once morality has been re-defined in a suitably feminist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-tobacco and anti-obesity way, it is the clear duty of the Civil Magistrate to enforce the moral lawâ€”and that our governing constitutions and laws must be interpretedâ€”by the godly who alone ought to be seated on the judicial tribunalsâ€”to give said magistrates all the power they require for their immense and unending task of moral regulation and uplift.
Read the whole thing.