GROVER CLEVELAND LOVED THE POEM, would gladly recite it to friends, and directed that it be read at his funeral. Long before anyone had heard of “re-branding,” Franklin Roosevelt nominated an urban Catholic redistributionist at the 1924 Democratic Convention, positioning his fellow New Yorker Al Smith as a sensible reformer, a “Happy Warrior on the political battlefield.” In the next generation, Hubert Humphrey fought against communism and for social justice as the Happy Warrior, even using the title to name his campaign plane.
Though soaked in the English romanticism of the early nineteenth century, the remarkable power of these words projected across borders and across time. More than a century later, they continued to resonate in the psyche of American politicians. Wordsworth celebrates the warrior, who — despite personal pain and/or negative outcome — is impossible to defeat, sustained in virtue and in happiness by an idealized vision of both the larger cause and the waiting home. As the nineteenth century ended, these classic romantic ideas of self-honesty, morality and the virtue of the modest hearth grafted perfectly onto the blossoming concepts of American duty and American exceptionalism. That such noble a set of verses could have shaped the heart of so many of our leaders makes America eternally indebted to this foreign poet — and right now desperate for his Warrior’s return.
Since Humphrey, the Happy Warrior has been largely missing in action. The only significant references of the last two decades were to President Ronald Reagan — but only after he passed away. Basically, entering the early eighties post-Carter polarized environment, Reagan was too good an actor to let himself be perceived as a “warrior.” His admittedly cheerful, though passive-aggressive style destroyed competitors from within — both foreign and domestic.
As always when something bad happens, there will be the social critics who want to blame institutions and not people. Political author Joe Klein might point out that the demise of the Happy Warrior was concurrent with the rise of the campaign consultant. Senator McCain might say the villain was campaign spending, scaring away heroes from entering the public arena. Marshall McLuhan might blame the tube and its power to project beauty devoid of virtue. But these social developments are not causes: they are simply technocratic advances that generally just leverage the direction the population is already heading.
Who killed him, then? For that, we need to identify real people and check their hands for blood. Fortunately, our search can begin with the clues embedded into the poem. And even if we can’t yet definitively identify the “real killer,” we sure can isolate some darn good suspects.p> Clue # 1 br> em>But who, if he be called upon to face
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online