De Maistre’s America

Joseph-Marie, Comte de Maistre, coined the phrase “Every nation gets the government it deserves.”

That came to mind when reading Salena Zito:

In the spring of 2011, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana announced he would not seek the Republican presidential nomination, ending months of excitement among conservatives around his possible run. His family’s reservations under the spotlight far outweighed any political pressure he may have been feeling, and he gracefully bowed out.

His decision was a low point for conservatives hungry for that Midwestern sensibility and sharp wit that he embodied. As former senior political adviser to President Ronald Reagan and head of President George W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, Daniels was a rock star in the conservative movement. But the Daniels family had a complicated past. He and his wife had married, divorced and eventually remarried each other.

Most people would have called that a happy ending. But on social media, you can imagine, that story would have been told very differently.

Fast-forward seven years. Daniels says that if he’d had to make that choice in today’s political climate, he would have reached his conclusion significantly faster.

“At the time, it was a decision that took months for me to consider, one I put great thought into with my family. Today, it would take me less than 10 minutes to decide not to run,” he said from his office at Purdue University, where he serves as its president, a position he took in January 2013 at the conclusion of his second term as Indiana governor.

Daniels’ decision was a very high-profile example of when good men and women decide not to run for office not because they aren’t capable or they lack leadership qualities but because of the personal cost to their lives, reputations and family’s stability.

Yesterday’s goofy yearbook, Facebook likes and posts, or ironic tweets are now analyzed and distorted into falsehoods by thousands of anonymous Twitter trolls hired by opposition forces manned by professional digital teams and disguised to look organic. These trolls attract mobs and irrationality take over social media, eventually making their way into traditional news stories that can destroy not just candidates’ political careers but also their lives.

One of the most common complaints heard on the campaign trail in 2016 was this: Of all the inspiring, hardworking, bright men and women in this country, how did it come down to a choice between two people who were not exactly the paragons of virtue?

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