Thursday, January 06, 2005


Commentors spoke of candidate's presidential qualities -- this refers to their legitimacy, their ability to embody and convey legitimate rule. Clearly Bush exhibited a quality of legitimacy, hence, even if people saw themselves as adversely affected by his policies, they saw him as the one authorized to rule.

What this points to is the construction of legitimacy. What confers the authority to govern? The mode of masculinity is clearly essential, condensed in qualities of resolve in this contest. It also raises the question of the legitimacy of government -- the winning candidate (barely winning, it must be remembered) best exemplifies the kind of legitimacy the US government is presumed to have, or desired to have.

This election was about meta-level concerns -- not who was qualified, or who would be best to rule, but a debate about what qualities people desire to be best. The red states were voting over the desire for legitimacy, rather than actual legitimate qualifications. Bush spoke to the desire for legitimacy, the desire for given authority. He reflected a wish that conventional structures be effective and virtuous -- the wish to have government appear to be what it is supposed to be. It is a desire for the appearance of authority that is a condition of legitimacy, of the operations of rule.

The Red Staters are the real post-moderns, embracing surface, appearance, style, and engaging in debates about that level, all through the currency of the real.


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