Of modern filmmakers, Werner Herzog is the most visionary and the most obsessed with great themes. Little wonder that he has directed many operas. He does not want to tell a plotted story or record amusing dialog; he wants to lift us up into realms of wonder. Only a handful of modern films share the audacity of his vision; I think of “ 2001: A Space Odyssey ” and “ Apocalypse Now .” Among active directors, the one who seems as messianic is Oliver Stone . There is a kind of saintly madness in the way they talk about their work; they cannot be bothered with conventional success, because they reach for transcendence.
During the New Deal, liberals recognized that the ballot box and elected branches are generally the appropriate engines of social reform, and liberals used both to spectacular effect — instituting profound social changes that remain deeply ingrained in society today. In the face of great skepticism about the constitutionality of New Deal measures in some corners, a generation of Democratic-appointed judges, from Louis Brandeis to Byron White, argued for judicial restraint and deference to the right of Congress to experiment with economic and social policy. Those voices have been all but forgotten in recent years among liberal activists. It would be a very good thing for all involved — the country, an independent judiciary, and the Left itself — if liberals take a page from David von Drehle and their own judges of the New Deal era, kick their addiction to constitutional litigation, and return to their New Deal roots of trying to win elections rather than lawsuits.