On Wednesday, November 7, 2012, I woke up early, 3:30 according to the small cell phone I use instead of a watch and that Oumi says no one would bother to steal because it is not a smart phone. I said someone might steal it to get some calls in and she allowed there was that.
Most mornings I turn on the computer downstairs between grilling some vegetables and boiling some coffee which she takes to her job which starts early but on the 7th I did not even glance at the computer. I made some coffee, weaker than used to be my wont because for the first time in her life Oumi, what with long hours of work and school, has taken up coffee but she cannot take it strong. I was on my second cup and checking the seasoning on her food when she came down showered and dressed and gave me a kiss. She did not say anything except, Who won? I said I did not know, I fell asleep. When you rise before dawn you tend to go to sleep earlier than used to be your wont. She nodded, showing neither surprise nor disappointment that I did not know who would be president of the United States.
When I dozed off a few hours earlier, the television was off, and I remembered a vague image of a split screen with a news anchor wearing a suit and sitting at a table talking to a reporter in what looked like a rumpled fashionable suit who was standing somewhere with an earpiece and holding a microphone and saying it was too close to call in I forget which county of a state out there somewhere. Much attention was focused on Ohio, I now recalled, as well as Florida. Pennsylvania had been called for the incumbent not much earlier and that was when I had decided I was not going to try to stay up late and I knew I was not going to turn on the news when I woke up in the morning. It was going to be a very bad day.
Most of the conservatives had been calling it for the governor since early October when he clobbered the incumbent in the first debate, but they did not notice, or they did not say they noticed from tact or superstition, that his follow up was feeble. They said he was following a strategy of staying calm and serene and reassuring, or what they like to call presidential. A small number thought that was not enough, he ought to follow up the debate performance with attacks on the foreign policy disasters of the incumbent administration, hammering away especially at the fiasco in Libya on September 11. The governor and his aides thought that would sound shrill and even suggest to some voters called independents whose minds might not yet be made up that he was reckless and trigger happy and was planning to get us into more trouble overseas. Surely there was a way to say it was the president who was getting us into trouble overseas by a policy of systematic and even deliberate weakness of which the murder of our ambassador in Libya was the all-too-grim evidence.
This paper and the Weekly Standard and some editorial pages said this and puzzled over the dissembling not to say dishonest response from the White House. The president could not react, quickly or slowly, for the simple reason that he still did not understand the nature of the global contest we are engaged in and the characteristics of our enemies. His staff and high officials sought lame excuses to avoid saying specifically that an act of war had killed Americans and we were treating it as a tragic error. The governor should have pointed this out, to greatest effect during the second debate, when he had the opportunity and a huge audience, but he did not. With neither candidate making an issue of Benghazi, it could not have much weight in most voters’ minds, if they still needed to make them up. Possibly, as the governor’s men evidently calculated, foreign policy was of little or no consequence to the electoral arithmetic at this point, and they may well have been right. But having gambled and lost, they will be second guessed for a long time on this one. And the Republic’s security, for four more years, will be in even greater jeopardy than it is already.
We now face a grim prospect. We must dig in and resist for another full presidential term and try to limit the damage the socialists wish to wreak on the country and its institutions, not to say its spirit and character. Character is fundamentally an innate trait, almost genetic. But in a curious way, leaders, in democracies no less than in tyrannies albeit in different ways, set an example of character and it carries, and young people and children are marked by its misty influence, four years, eight years. Mr. Kristol quoted Yeats. “…For how can you compete,/Being honor bred, with one/Who were it proved he lies/Were neither shamed in his own/Nor in his neighbors’ eyes…” (Mr. Kristol references the whole poem, “To A Friend Whose Work Has Come to Nothing,” on the WS page.)
On the domestic side of the American dream, the Democrats already have their health program, which has been weakened, notably with a number of opt-out provisions. They will return to it with a vengeance, strengthen it and thereby weaken our economy, lessen the creative incentives in our medical research establishments, and endanger the healthiness of many if not most Americans. How can you advance health in a society by replacing doctors with administrators, laboratory researchers with tax collectors?
They have announced a vast immigration reform without giving much in the way of specific details, but it can be surmised their intention is to produce a huge new bloc of voters — amnestied illegal aliens and fresh contingents of new arrivals — that will assure future electoral victories. In this perspective, the conservative side is forced to resist massive and rapid legalization of residents who will vote against them, even though they are often people, quite possibly most often, who hold to many of the same virtues the conservatives are trying to preserve, enterprise, hard work, community and family, independence. But of course life is not abstract, and you may be hard working and striving for the opportunity of the American dream, but if you are poor and worried about your family, you do not see a contradiction between that and relying on the state for your health, your housing subsidy, your children’s education, and all the other gifts the left will offer to accompany immigration reform, all in the name, of course, of making assimilation easier (which it will not, on the contrary).
Politically, it will be difficult for conservatives not to appear defensive, reactionary, and mean-spirited. Perhaps their best bet therefore is to embrace these very traits and find a way to turn them into virtues, stating that there is no merit in compounding bad policies with worse, and they are not against immigrants but politicized immigration policy, just as they are open to every pragmatic scheme to render manageable the economics of health care, but draw the line at socialized medicine which will serve no health-giving purpose.
It will take clarity and courage and we do not know yet whether the Republicans have the men — and the women — with these traits, particularly in the demoralized state they are bound to fall into as the invigorated administration gets going after the second inauguration and the reality of at least four more years in the wilderness sets in.
True, the wilderness is not entirely bleak. The Republicans did well in the House, though they failed to convert several chances to make gains in the Senate, where there will remain a Democratic majority whose leadership would convert it from a prudent council into a rubber stamping chamber for the executive. Republicans have two alternatives at the federal level: They can play a hard line game, obstructing every single program, appointee, and initiative the administration makes that is not designed to promote policies they favor, and offer alternatives of their own at every turn; or they can play the bipartisan game and try to govern the country and direct its foreign policy in concert with the administration.
Unless the president has a road-to-Damascus moment between now and the first few months, or even weeks, of his second term, we can be certain the second course is futile, worse: a program to discredit the Republicans as a useless opposition party of opportunists and me-too men. The party should remember that the socialists have been failing for four years and have brought the country to the brink of very long-term, if not irreversible — nothing is irreversible — decay and weakness. By having no part of policies that will serve only to make matters worse, while explaining to the American people that the American promise lives, they will win the argument that failed during this year’s campaign.
This failure should not be the cause of discouragement. Of course it is unfortunate and disturbing, but if you choose to take part in public affairs, you do not have the option of being discouraged. If you think you have, that is of course your right, but you should find something else to do, quite possibly more useful, such as launching a tennis school or writing children’s stories. Whether it is a wise choice is not the point: if you are in public life, you have to function on the assumption that you will prevail, or you are simply cheating your fellow citizens.
The Republicans, particularly the conservatives among them, may reproach themselves for tactical mistakes and strategic errors. They should examine their consciences and ask whether personal ambition did not too often get in the way of party unity and tactical soundness. They should reform their primary system and find a way to avoid the sort of demagogy that, in fact, opened the door to the lowest kind of class-war demagogy by the Democrats, which evidently they used successfully.
The democratic cookie crumbles in its own odd way, and even with the country sociologically somewhere to the right of center, even with capital L liberalism dead in the water, as Mr. Tyrrell has written and as liberals themselves prove every time they do or say something, the political game throws up results that by definition have to disappoint as often as they reward.
But I would write all this later. Now work and life and striving beckoned, and I would think about a few sets of tennis indoors and some work on my ’91 Ford truck.
It is your country, Oumi said, packing up my gourmet grilled vegetables and pouring some coffee into a small thermos. It is yours too, I replied. Hard working little economic women like you will keep it great and free. Thank you for rising with me, she said. Would I miss a chance to be awake with you? She kissed me by way of reply and spoke a true American verse, There is always another day.