Bill Kauffman on our three placeless presidential candidates:
People lacking strong identifications with specific places-a block, a village, a city, a state, a region-will transfer their loyalties to abstractions. Woodrow Wilson, a displaced Southern minister’s kid, renounced the traditional American practice of neutrality and tossed the First Amendment in the scrap heap in his crusade to “make the world safe for democracy.” George W. Bush, the Texan-cum-Yankee prep-school cheerleader, has wasted astronomical sums and thousands of lives in a campaign whose ostensible purpose is to democratize the Middle East and “rid the world of evil.” The costs of such grandiose schemes may be measured in billions of dollars and acres of corpses. In addition, political power is centralized, citizens are uprooted, and the economy undergoes wartime distortions. These are reckoned acceptable prices to pay for the achievement of mighty (if ultimately unachievable) abstractions. But democracy was no safer despite the First World War, and I daresay evil will exist long after U.S. troops come home from Iraq.