“once it was a man, and it did you service in its fashion.”

A professor of mine linked to Andrew Sullivan’s recent article, Republicanism as Religion. I try to resist my own partisan tendencies, but it’s hard for me to disagree with any of the particulars in Sullivan’s article — except the coda:

If [Obama] defeats [the GOP] next year, they will break, because their beliefs are so brittle, but will then reform, along Huntsman-style lines. If they defeat him, I fear we will no longer be participating in a civil conversation, however fraught, but in a civil war.

First, there’s the idea that the battleground is Obama vs. the GOP; if Obama retains the White House but the Republicans keep the House and take the Senate, I don’t see them “breaking.” (I don’t know whether this is a realistic scenario now; I know it was viewed as one after the midterms, but things change.)

Second, isn’t this the kind of wishful thinking that made all of us starry-eyed liberals so disappointed the last time around? Election 2012 as Gandalf vs. Wormtongue, with the fate of all Middle-Earth in the balance? I don’t want to be too dismissive here, especially as the referring professor is a friend of Sullivan’s, but it’s kind of disquieting to see Obama reappropriated as an object of center-right wish-fulfillment, having apparently outlived his usefulness in that role for the left.

And yet, now that I’ve heaped scorn on the analogy, the Tolkien rings true here:

See, Théoden, here is a snake! To slay it would be just. But it was not always as it now is. Once it was a man, and it did you service in its fashion.

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