American Politics Through the Lens of The Godfather

May 12, 2008

This article – Pax Corelone – by John C. Hulsman in The National Interest is kind of awesome.  He looks at the American presidential race through the lens of the The Godfather.  According to him, the U.S. is currently in the position that the Corleone family was when Vito Corleone died (he is representative of America’s post-Cold War hegemony) – after all, the attack from the Sollozo family that led to his death was sudden and seemingly out of the blue (being too secure in ones position can be dangerous). 

So what happens now?  In the Godfather, the Corleone heirs had three potential strategies – Tom, the family’s lawyer who had a diplomatic, “let’s talk it out” outlook that is similar in philosophy to the modern Democratic party, Sonny, the hothead eldest son who favored a “shoot first, ask questions later” response to the Sollozo threat (hmm, which party/politicians share that mindset?), and Michael Corleone, who eventually saves the family thanks to his ability to adapt to the new multipolar world.  He was a realist.

“Viewing the world through untinted lenses, he sees that the age of dominance the family enjoyed for so long under his father is ending. Alone among the three brothers, Michael senses that a shift is underway toward a more diffuse power arrangement, in which multiple power centers will jockey for position and influence. To survive and succeed in this new environment, Michael knows the family will have to adapt.”

At the end of the piece Hulsman asks the key question – is there a Michael Corleone in the race?

“Can any of the candidates vying to become the next president of the United States match Michael’s cool, dispassionate courage in the face of epochal change? Will they avoid living in the comforting embrace of the past, from which both Tom and Sonny ultimately could not escape? Or will they emulate Michael’s flexibility—to preserve America’s position in a dangerous world?”

That’s the gist of it, but you should really go read the whole article, because it is excellent.


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