It is the end of the year 2014 and the beginning of 2015. Perhaps it is an appropriate time to think about what we are to be confronted with in the presidential year 2016. Ever since the autumn electoral rout of the Democrats we have been confronted by news stories of the looming presidential prospects of Hillary Rodham Clinton and hints about the rise of the presidential prospects of Elizabeth Warren. Only rarely is there a news story about the presidential prospects of the Republicans, though I count more than 25 possible Republican candidates. On the Democrats side we only hear of two, Clinton and Warren.
Two news stories, both from New York City, suggest that 2015 may be a grim year, but the grimness might be tinged with whimsy—at least in the second case.
First the grimness, and I write as an American with two proud police officers prominent in my family tree, my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather. The first was Frank Tyrrell, for many years the sole survivor of Chicago’s Haymarket Riot. As a youngster wearing short pants and a neatly pressed suit coat I went along with the burly members of the Chicago Police Department to place a wreath on the Haymarket memorial. Incidentally, the Chicago police had to move the memorial indoors after the radical SDS in the early 1970s bombed it a second time. Did our President’s accomplice, Bill Ayers, have a hand in the bombing? We shall wait for the full Obama memoir.
Then, of course, there is my second heroic ancestor, P.D. Tyrrell, an immigrant from Ireland who as a Secret Service officer broke the plot to steal Abraham Lincoln’s body in 1876 and sent the lousy would-be body snatchers to the calaboose. The Tyrrells arrived late in this great country, but growing up we all knew where we stood on the Civil War.
Will Rogers, the late American humorist and corn-pone philosopher, once said, “All I know is what I read in the papers.” That statement earned him a place in Bartletts’s Familiar Quotations. Were he alive today it would most likely be inviting widespread derision. Today’s newspapers abound with bogus stories. Most of us only know of the stories that are soon exposed. Doubtless there are many more. For instance, news stories of GDP growth or inflation rates usually have to be revised but they are taken at face value when they first appear.
I should like to pose a question to the overnight press baron, Chris Hughes, who owns the moribund New Republic that he has rendered moribund with astounding speed and no class at all.
My question is an old-fashioned one that might have circulated within the humanities faculty at universities two generations ago. “What,” I would ask, “makes a book more authoritative and satisfying than a news report?” Most of the profs in their tweed jackets and some pulling on their briar pipes would answer that the author of a book has more time to write it than the author of a news story, and the author of a book has more sources to consult and more interviews to conduct. He or she works from more evidence and writes with greater care—at least one would hope. To which today’s slightly crazed neoteric shouts some gibberish about “a vertically integrated digital media company” and leaves the room, preferably with the slam of a door.
Alas it is over. I am speaking of the Thanksgiving Day celebration—one of my favorite holidays. It is a serious celebration as we give thanks for our many blessings. Yet it is also a jolly day, full of good food, drink, and sport, perhaps touch football, more likely a televised game. The whole family comes together and, often in the company of friends, has a festive time. Moreover, there is a venerable sense of tradition to the feast that renders the whole holiday somehow reassuring.
However, now comes a time troubled by a deep sense of apprehension, especially for people of faith. I am speaking of the Christmas season. The apprehension begins with how we greet people? Last week it was customary to say “Have a Happy Thanksgiving” or just “Happy Thanksgiving.” I must have intoned that line a hundred times, never with a premonition of giving offense or of introducing an evangelizing spirit into a brief social encounter. “Happy Thanksgiving” might be prefatory to devastating a plump bird, but only the very morbid are offended and they can always munch on a nutrition bar.
So this is how the Sexual Revolution is ending. It is not ending with the Sexual Utopians of yesteryear shouting “Oh Joy” and extolling the therapeutic orgasm, which was to bring happiness to Americans from every walk of life. It is ending with gangs of angry women—some well into their seventies, some with grandchildren—recalling sexual assaults that allegedly took place up to half a century ago. They are aggrieved. They are angry. Some still burst into tears. And their alleged assailant, in this case the avuncular 77-year-old Bill Cosby, is pictured on the front page of the Washington Post in sullen denial.
I have a suggestion for my left-wing Democratic friends in light of all the controversy over Obamacare. That the controversy continues all these years after the bill’s passage and that today much of the bill is in danger of amputation must be very dispiriting to those left-wingers who had such high hopes for it. They obviously labored assiduously to render it incomprehensible to the electorate and for a long time they succeeded. Yet the electorate wised up this month and voted into office large numbers of Republicans. Those Republicans are out to gut the legislation.
In the gloom of the day after last week’s election I think even his allies in the media expected something more from the Prophet, Barack Obama. After all, he had just suffered through a wave election and he was left soaking wet. He did not merely lose this wave election. He was swamped.
Republicans were victorious practically everywhere. At times they won by double digits: Senator Mitch McConnell won by 15 points, Arkansas’ Senator-elect Tom Cotton by 17 points; and forget not the governorships: Ohio’s John Kasich by 31 points, South Carolina’s Nikki Haley by 15 points. The sorely pressed governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, won his third race for governorship in four years by five points against unions, big money Democrats nationwide, and Hollywood! As I said last week, it was the second wave in the last three elections and an election more epochal than the President’s in 2008 and his rerun of 2008 in 2012.
So what did you think of the 2014 election? Do I hear talk of a wave election? Is 2014 another 2010 election? I think it is, and that makes it more significant than any other recent election, as I shall explain in due course.
Yet first review the outcome. Republicans have increased their margin in the House of Representatives. That was deemed unlikely a couple of days ago. They have captured the Senate, again a very questionable outcome according to the polls only a few days ago. They have won a majority of governorships, including in one-party Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts. Moreover, they probably have a majority of state legislatures. And one thing more—the Democrats’ leading campaigners continue, as has been true for years, to be the kiss of death to almost anyone they endorse. I am speaking of my friends, the Clintons.
Adapted from remarks delivered on October 29 at a forum at Indiana University marking the 50th anniversary of Barry Goldwater’s presidential run.
Nineteen sixty-four was billed then and for years to come as the end of that era’s sudden political monstrosity, American conservatism. For years to come we were told that conservatism died, or committed suicide, in 1964 with the nomination of Barry Goldwater. And so ended—supposedly—another anomaly from America’s one-party state, at least for those who think it is right for there to be a one-party state within a democratic system.
Actually for us—those that are historically minded—1964 was not the end but the beginning, possibly the beginning of the beginning. It was the beginning of what has been for mainstream media—and come to think of it the Academy—the longest dying political movement in American history, American conservatism. Since 1964 conservatism’s obituaries have been filed with timely regularity—and I don’t know about you but I am actually feeling pretty good.