The “Vision Thing,” Or the Moral Grounding of All Politics

By my old friend from the Reagan years, Robert Reilly, in today’s Wall Street Journal (paywall):

The Great Communicator Ronald Reagan…spoke mostly in moral terms….He understood that Washington is not a management problem; it is a political problem. Everything the government does is necessarily political, because governments decide not only who gets what, but why. These choices define a candidate’s politics, but they must be conceived and expressed in terms of moral priorities.

Political language is inherently moral, not managerial. It must convey visions, not just plans. It must explain why some things are good and others bad.

Instincts are never enough. You need to have thought about politics in the philosophical sense to know what is going on. I have seen businessmen in Washington with superb instincts who soon became frustrated. That is because people who have no background in either moral philosophy or rhetoric—i.e., lacking the “vision thing”—are most often left speechless when they discover that they cannot rebut attacks with management techniques.

 If you cannot articulate the cause for which you are fighting in moral terms, you will lose.