Politics as Show Biz

March 16, 2015 With Robert Schmuhl

One of the best analysts I know makes a point of never voting! That’s Robert Schmuhl, Chairman of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Why does he stay  out of the booth? And why does he view the coming national election as in the hands of the public artists (their art being the one on which Aristotle wrote in “The Rhetoric”) and the billionaire-backed groups that win nominations  and then go on to victory or to falter in the final presidential race?  Schmuhl laid out his overview of modern politics as a form of show biz in his classic work, “Statecraft and Stagecraft” and, in his and his interviewer’s opinion the situation now is far more so than when that book first appeared some years ago.

Insights about the current and rather disheartening political scene abound in any extended conversation with this clear-eyed fellow who keeps his distance (the better to see behind their masks) from the pols and their acolytes. And here is just such a conversation  in which a good time was had by two old friends, the one still learning from the other.