MINOT, N.D. — During a recent trip to Barnes & Noble bookstore, on the hunt for books in the children’s section, I couldn’t help but notice a surprising number of colorful works about former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The funny thing about children’s books is that, in a way, they’re not really for children. It’s the grownups who buy them, and the subject matter and marketing often reflect that. The half-dozen or so Ginsburg books on sale were aimed at the popular cult worship of the former Justice among left-leaning adults.
Given a choice, I suspect most kids would prefer something other than a preachy liberal epistle about a lawyer.
Still, standing there surrounded by Ginsburg, I couldn’t help but dwell on our veneration of political figures.
That fake gold, made-in-China statue of disgraced former President Donald Trump at the CPAC conference — which, as National Review columnist Kevin Williamson wrote, was “only four bankruptcy proceedings away from being the Trumpiest thing imaginable” — might lead you to believe that this is a modern affectation.
It is not.
Anyone who has ever visited the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., has stood under that famous rotunda dome and gazed up at the florid, pagan-themed “Apotheosis of Washington” knows this.
“Apotheosis” means deification.
Our nation may have been founded by a revolution fought against the concept of monarchs and the divine right to rule, but we’ve never lost the impulse to treat popular political figures like gods.
We are served best by political movements formed around ideas, not people. Politicians are supposed to campaign on a platform of ideas, and then, if elected, use the powers of their office to implement those ideas.
Instead, campaigns have become an exercise in promoting personalities. More so in this populist social media age than ever before.
Our nation’s capitals are so jam-packed with personalities that sound policymaking has become a rarity.
The cults of personality the politicians enjoy motivate them to cling to power even when revelations about their character and behavior suggest they should exit the public stage.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, worshiped by many in the news media as a paragon of pandemic governance, should resign because he actually botched the pandemic terribly, and he’s apparently harassed a half-dozen women during his time in office to boot.
Former North Dakota lawmaker Luke Simons, expelled by a supermajority of his mostly Republican colleagues earlier this month, is a big personality too, what with his penchant for social media self-comparison to figures like Teddy Roosevelt and St. Joseph, the father of Jesus.
He, too, apparently harassed a half-dozen or so women during his time in office.
He should accept his expulsion and quietly return to private life, but he doesn’t want to disappoint his Facebook fans.
Americans love voting for personalities, and we are getting what we voted for.
Good and hard.