A modern presidential election is all-consuming, a machine that generates so much noise that voters can be forgiven for complaining that they cannot even hear themselves think. The natural reaction to such overload is to shut out politics altogether, yet one way or another a decision will be made on November 3—though if we’re really unlucky, we might not know the outcome of that decision until days or weeks later.
Modern Age is pleased to offer some relief that nonetheless has a measure of relevance. We asked some twenty of our friends and contributors to weigh in on the best choice for president—but not the best choice on the ballot this November. Instead, we asked them to choose the best character from all of creative literature for the role. The result, we hope, is a symposium that’s diverting and amusing, but that may also reveal something valuable about the nature of presidential leadership and the politics of a free society. It certainly reveals some underlying tendencies in conservative and libertarian thought today, although our contributors are not all so readily classified.
Our friends were free to select any character from any book, film, play, television program, poem, or folk tale—and we even let them enter the equivalent of a “write-in” candidate who didn’t fit the formal criteria, if they preferred to imagine some other impossible (yet illuminating) scenario, as some did. So here is a different sort of election survey, for a fictional president, in the service of real principles. —Daniel McCarthy