Lawrence Henry: Where Are We?
In the 1970s, when Larry King hosted an overnight radio program, he used to indulge in a conversational riff about how everybody really was a liberal. In an elementary sort of way, it made sense. Everybody liked Social Security, he said, and that was a liberal idea. Everybody liked having the ability to join a union, everybody appreciated the idea of a minimum wage, of a 40-hour workweek, and so on.
He did not mention abortion, as I recall, or gun control, and so-called "gay" marriage had not even appeared on the political horizon. Still, within limits, King was right then and he is right now. Most people are comfortable with the kind of government essentially defined by Franklin Roosevelt, the most popular president the country has ever had. We still fight our elections between the 40-yard lines, as one pundit put it recently, and not in desperate goal-line stands, like parliamentary democracies, and it's a good thing, too, a legacy bequeathed to us by the incredible wisdom of our founders.
I state all this in terms of popular opinion, understand. Example: In a recent column, I deplored the state of the modern press as a PR agency for liberal causes. I heard from a friend of mine, quite well educated, who simply didn't understand what I was talking about. He opined that CNN was middle-of-the-road, and protested that he never read the New York Times. In comparison to most of the electorate, my friend is quite well informed.
Those of us devoted to political observation know that today's Democrats are stark raving postmodernist Leninist deconstructers, that our politics does not any longer represent a simple midfield swing between FDR and Eisenhower. Sadly, our recent Republicans in majority tried to play it that way. When you play midfield ball against a team that plays red-zone ball, you lose. And so the Republicans have lost, and with it have lost the franchise to protect America against very real enemies, enemies as real as Tojo and Hitler, and even more bloodthirsty, with atomic weapons in the offing.
At home, we face a real enemy, too, an enemy of extraordinary power. In the November 14 issue of Opinionjournal.com, Josh Manchester argued, in "Moral Purification," that an entire class of people in the United States loves our defeat. Quoting The Culture of Defeat, a book by Wolfgang Schivelbusch, Manchester explains that these individuals see the United States' defeat as a moral purification--a kind of superiority, in fact...
"There is a class of well-intentioned individuals in the United States," Manchester writes, "...who don't merely feel as they do upon witnessing a defeat, but instead think this way all the time. Like it or not, this mentality of permanent defeat plays a large part in the Democratic Party."And the Democratic Party sells this attitude very well indeed to the rest of the country--as normalcy.
You can't sell defeat; that's for the eggheads. But you can sell a "return to normalcy." They sold it to the country, with the connivance of the media, in the last election. It was sold to the electorate, with the parties flipped, after World War I, and resulted in the U.S.'s near-deadly quiescence in the face the rise of the fascist threat. Thus Nancy Pelosi's description of Iraq as a problem to be solved, not a war to be won.
That's where we are. The electorate has bought it, and, if we believe in our way of government, that is what we must accept. To win back, two things have to happen. First, we have to do what Ronald Reagan spent 20 years doing before he made his first run at the Presidency. He crisscrossed the country, giving speeches, very good speeches, about the state of freedom versus Communism, about the nature of government. We need a program of conservative education every bit that good, and probably better.
In our 12 years in office, we didn't even come close. This time, we don't have 20 years. The second, unfortunately, is another attack. In this, the jihadists may well outsmart us. They may just leave the American homeland fat and sassy. Instead, they'll attack Europe. They may wait a decade to hit us again, while the capitals of Western civilization fall across the sea.When they're ready to aim at us, they figure, we'll be so flabby we won't be able to do anything. And they might be right.