The hanky-clutching, cluck-clucking, tsk-tsking faction of the Conservative movement is in for a rough and bumpy ride over the next four to eight years.
They’re the ones who wanted a Republican president who looked like the male manikin on top of the wedding cake. You know, like Mitt Romney. And who were shocked when they got one who wore a baseball cap and spoke with a Queens accent. Like Al Capp’s S.W.I.N.E. (Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything), they are perpetually offended by everything Donald Trump says and does. By the fact that he simply exists.
I call them the Pussycons. They’re demanding a prissiness from Republican politicians, a refined politesse that distinguishes them from the swinish multitude. For George Will, you had to be able to imagine him “in an Iowa living room, with a macaroon in one hand and cup of hot chocolate balanced on a knee.” A George H.W. Bush, dangling a tea cup. Or a Mitt Romney, so much more elevated than his 47 percent of “takers.”
For Peggy Noonan, the archetype is Jimmy Stewart, “modest” and “respectful.” He would be Ransom Stoddard, the well-meaning fellow who went wobbly and was unable to shoot when facing off against Liberty Valence, the small town’s scourge. Instead she got John Wayne, who played the outlaw Tom Doniphon. Never mind that it took the latter to get the job done.
Politesse involves adhering to an accepted code of social behavior. It’s a quality without depth. It describes the surface of a person. The oh-so-refined George Will’s favorite descriptor for Donald Trump, “invertebrate,” which Will uses to denote something low and slithery. Will is always attired in well-tailored suits, carefully accessorized with appropriate ties or bow ties, professorial round wire rimmed glasses and a nicely coifed toupee. You can easily picture him “with a macaroon in one hand and cup of hot chocolate balanced on a knee,” though you wouldn’t bet on him ridding a town of its bad guys as John Wayne did.
Pussycons are excruciatingly sensitive to language. So Peggy wants the Senate to ban the word “nuclear” as in “go nuclear” and “the nuclear option.” It’s too masculine, a “hideous, he-man, drama queen of a phrase.” But aren’t “he-man” and “drama queen” contradictories? Apparently, Pussycons don’t need to be logically consistent.
Pussycons are also excruciatingly sensitive to noise. Like Roderick in The Fall of the House of Usher, Peggy feels like all of her circuits have become overloaded in what she calls Donald Trump’s Washington:
People are speaking more loudly and quickly than usual. At parties, dinners and gatherings the decibel level hits the ceiling right away and stays there. No one can hear anything.
Sounds serious. Remember that the story doesn’t turn out well for Usher who in the end is literally shattered.
Pussycons are “embarrassed” by “bigotry” and “prejudice.” Yet they engage in it all the time. They worry that voter ID laws will keep African Americans from the polls, but isn’t it bigoted to assume that they are incapable of acquiring identification cards? Hey, there are voter ID cards in Nigeria. This is called the tyranny of low expectations, and it’s embarrassingly similar to anti-black racism.
The hypersensitivity of Pussycons robs them of a sense of humor. Otherwise, how could one not see the humor in Trump’s suggestion to the folks at the National Prayer Breakfast that they pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on The Celebrity Apprentice to pick up.
Arnold knew it was a joke and he joked right back, offering to switch jobs with Trump so that “people can finally sleep comfortable again.” Trump and Schwarzenegger have long been friends. But Peggy speaks for all Pussycons when she says that Trump’s joke betrayed a lack of a “sense of occasion.”
“Prudence is not weakness, and carefulness is a virtue, not a vice,” intones Peggy. Yet too much prudence often results in paralysis. It was Hamlet’s downfall. Wait long enough for the time to be right and things may get rotten. And too much carefulness can prevent us from making even minor decisions, as when J. Alfred Prufrock wonders if he dares to eat a peach. A leader must lead with confidence, else he loses the respect of those who would do harm to his country. That’s how wars happen. Khrushchev backed down during the missile crisis only when he came to believe that America’s young president had the balls to act.
Pussycons fret that Trump shoots from the hip. But the shameless dithering of the last eight years has created a dangerous situation. We live in a time of serious and constant crises. This is a time for action, for John Waynes rather than Jimmy Stewarts. And the Pussycons need to wrap their minds around this.