Huffpost Politics
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Saladin Ambar Headshot

Who Would Winthrop Choose?

Posted: Updated:

It has been said in the history of the world no one has ever washed a rental car. The other notable thing about said history is that no one has ever showed up on an election day to vote for a vice president. That sorry individual who might be so inclined, also inhabits his mother's basement and resembles any number of protagonists of old X-Files reruns. Those that remember Democratic candidate for the vice-presidency Lloyd Bentsen of Texas may well recall that even those vice presidents out of central casting come to ultimately look like, well, vice presidents. Despite Dick Cheney's impersonation of the Dragon of Revelation-cum-Edenic Snake, most wondrous transformations of veep candidates appear only in our imaginations.

And so it will be with Paul Ryan.

But what is notable is that Ryan comes with an ideology, a personal view of what a good polis should be. It is one largely devoid of government, or, more appropriately, what that arch leftist John Winthrop referred to as a "Civil body politick." It was that old communist hack Winthrop, he of Mayflower Compact fame, who had the temerity to proclaim that "We must delight in each other, make others' Conditions our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor, and suffer together." Make others' conditions our own? "Leninism!" Suffer together? "Kenyan anti-colonialism!"

It is well worth reflecting upon Winthrop in this Republican, with a capital "R" moment. With the first party ticket ever in American history to lack a Protestant (the only thing menacingly comparable must surely be the flipping of minority status of that nefarious African American-Latino-Asian bloc), Winthrop illuminates the very best of the early American theocratic tradition. Ryan's compunction to end the safety net for America's most vulnerable communities has all the iridescence of 8th grade Social Darwinism. "My team is stronger than your team." Not the stuff to pull together Pilgrims.

How has the Progressive Party of the Social Gospel gone so far astray of Winthrop? (For those under one hundred, I speak of the Republican Party) How have so many rewritten Winthrop to serve a "Civil body corporate"? Instead of delighting in each other, it seems we are to at best merely extol each other to greatness. I must presume that my bartender's lack of health insurance is a personal failing, whilst I drink away the night in good health. Suffer together? Suffer ye alone.

The "Model of Christian Charity" of which Winthrop spoke will undoubtedly continue to serve as an eternal argument over the good life -- and the role of the state. But for now, the Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and his erstwhile junior, have decided that Winthrop's ideal of community, must succumb to the slaughter-bench of corporate prowess and personal strength.

"Deliver unto me the little corporations," indeed.