Main thought. Hillary Clinton is not Barack Obama’s problem. America is Mr. Obama’s problem. He has been tagged as a snooty lefty, as the glamorous, ambivalent candidate from Men’s Vogue, the candidate who loves America because of the great progress it has made in terms of racial fairness. Fine, good. But has he ever gotten misty-eyed over . . . the Wright Brothers and what kind of country allowed them to go off on their own and change everything? How about D-Day, or George Washington, or Henry Ford, or the losers and brigands who flocked to Sutter’s Mill, who pushed their way west because there was gold in them thar hills? There’s gold in that history…
Mr. Obama? What does he think about all that history? Which is another way of saying: What does he think of America? That’s why people talk about the flag pin absent from the lapel. They wonder if it means something. Not that the presence of the pin proves love of country – any cynic can wear a pin, and many cynics do. But what about Obama and America? Who would have taught him to love it, and what did he learn was loveable, and what does he think about it all?
Another challenge. Snooty lefties get angry when you ask them to talk about these things. They get resentful. Who are you to question my patriotism? But no one is questioning his patriotism, they’re questioning its content, its fullness…
This is an opportunity, for Mr. Obama needs an Act II. Act II is hard. Act II is where the promise of Act I is deepened, the plot thickens, and all is teed up for resolution and meaning. Mr. Obama’s Act I was: I’m Obama. He enters the scene. Act III will be the convention and acceptance speech. After that a whole new drama begins. But for now he needs Act II. He should make his subject America.
Lack of real love of country is a leitmotif of this country’s elites. That’s just the way they’re raised. It’s that simple. Obama took the long way around to get there, but he did.
But George Bush is doing, if anything, worse:
Here’s some comfort for him, for all Democrats. In Lubbock, Texas – Lubbock Comma Texas, the heart of Texas conservatism – they dislike President Bush. He has lost them. I was there and saw it. Confusion has been followed by frustration has turned into resentment, and this is huge. Everyone knows the president’s poll numbers are at historic lows, but if he is over in Lubbock, there is no place in this country that likes him. I made a speech and moved around and I was tough on him and no one – not one – defended or disagreed. I did the same in North Carolina recently, and again no defenders. I did the same in Fresno, Calif., and no defenders, not one.
He has left on-the-ground conservatives – the local right-winger, the town intellectual reading Burke and Kirk, the old Reagan committeewoman – feeling undefended, unrepresented and alone.
This will have impact down the road.
I finally understand the party nostalgia for Reagan. Everyone speaks of him now, but it wasn’t that way in 2000, or 1992, or 1996, or even ’04.
I think it is a manifestation of dislike for and disappointment in Mr. Bush. It is a turning away that is a turning back. It is a looking back to conservatism when conservatism was clear, knew what it was, was grounded in the facts of the world.
It’s hard in some ways to put a finger on his failure. But I suspect that a lot of it is the consistent mistake of the Boomer right wing: to make the ultimate goal the reconstruction of the 1950’s. I even hear that wish in Noonan’s own writings. But Reagan didn’t even do that. The 1950’s were an unusual and very transitional time in our history, and to look at them as a fixed ideal is a serious mistake.
Even worse is for Christian leaders to unconsciously make reconstruction of that era the first goal. Given a choice between aiming for a strong church and reliving an ideal where everyone seemed to believe like we did, Evangelicals can’t seem to resist the latter. But resist we must. Our survival depends on it.