A friend of mine moved to New York City a few months ago. He was a lifelong Pennsylvanian and we worked with each other a few times in campaigns. Recently, on the phone, he told me that he’s noticed a giant lurch leftward politically in this country. Hmmm, I wondered. My friend is smart and politically savvy so I wondered if picked something up that I, sitting in Pennsylvania on my computer surrounded by five children, may have missed. I miss a lot of things, I’ll admit it.
He said he noticed this leftward lurch about three months ago, about the same time he moved to New York City. Ah, I said. I think sometimes we simply extrapolate that what surrounds us, surrounds everybody. This is my fear for Peggy Noonan, who has long been my favorite conservative columnist.
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday, Noonan, worried that the “populist” tactics being deployed by Sarah Palin were “not helpful to the country.”
She is a natural. I, I will tell you, I, I feel increased concern about her, I think, what she thinks of populism, as her populist approach. There are two ways—you know, her stuff about “I’m Main Street, you’re not, you’re the elite. I’m not the East Coast, I’m Joe Six-Pack.” She actually says, “I’m the Joe Six-Pack candidate.” This left me thinking, “Gosh, would Lincoln say, ‘I represent the backwoods types?’ Would FDR say, ‘Yeah, the New York aristocracy deserves another moment in the sun. Vote for me.’” It—there’s something weird about it. But there’s also something, for me, concerning populism as a tactic is justified often in politics. “I need this program, the people want it.” Populism as a strategy, “We’re the good guys, you’re the bad guys,” is not good, and, and if that’s the road they’re going, that’s not a good road to be on. It’s not helpful to the country.
Peggy, this is what elections are about. Who are the people with, is the question that we’re answering. There are things at stake in this election. Very real things. Literally, lives hang in the balance. This is serious stuff and if you can’t get your blood pumping about this, I’m not sure I understand it. I’m not saying we must have a win-at-all-costs mentality. I’m not saying we should be cruel or cheat. I just think prizing comity over clarity is not going to get us anywhere.
I’m currently reading Noonan’s book “Patriotic Grace” and for the first time in my life I’m having a hard time with finishing a Peggy Noonan book.
She details a story about meeting a liberal artist on the street and says she hasn’t decided yet who she’s voting for. She says, “It would be a delight to me if Mr. Obama shows himself to be deep enough, sturdy and sophisticated enough that one could vote for him in good conscience.”
Not to put too fine a point on it but sophistication or depth has almost nothing to do with why I’m not supporting Obama. Obama has long intended to abandon the people of Iraq to Al Qaeda. Obama intends to sign the “Freedom of Choice” act which would wipe away all restrictions on abortion. never mind, taxes, spending, Iran, and gay marriage. To me, the issues are paramount.
In 2005, Peggy Noonan wrote of the growing friendship between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. She wrote:
What bothers me about the fervid friendship of the Bushes and Mr. Clinton–and the media celebration of it–is the faint whiff of superiority, a sense they radiate that all those slightly icky little people running around wailing about issues–tax reform, the relation of the individual to the state, the necessary character of a president–and working the precincts are somehow . . . a little below them. There is an air of condescension toward that grubby thing, belief. Those who hold it are not elevated, don’t quite fit into the high-minded nonpartisan brotherhood. When in fact the people doing the day-to-day work of democracy, and who are in it because they are impelled by deep belief and philosophy, are actually not below them at all, and perhaps above them. Not that they’re on the cover of People hugging, but at least they’re serious.
I am still one of those icky little people running around and wailing about issues. And that same air of condescension that she detected in 2005, I’m picking up now from Peggy herself.
Peggy, on Meet The Press, yesterday, worried that this campaign was about to “open up the gates of hell.” The gates of hell are not in attack ads. I think America’s a little stronger than that. We’re not wimps. We’re smart enough to know if something’s out of bounds and we usually stay away from it. Usually. The gates of hell open up into abortion clinics and the gates of hell open when Sharia law is allowed to behead innocents. That’s what we’re fighting about. I think it’s a fight worth having.
My advice to Peggy Noonan is: Get out of New York City. Now. Move to Wyoming. Montana. Meet some people who aren’t NYC artists. Meet people who have never been on Meet the Press. Meet people who don’t TiVo Meet The Press. I’m not saying they’re the real America. I’m just saying they’re most of it.