Politics & Policy

Bitterfest 2012

Four years ago, at just this time, I wrote a column headed “Bitterfest ’08.” I pledged a couple of weeks ago that I would not write such a column this year. I pledged to myself, I mean. I said, “If Romney loses, I’m not going to write another Bitterfest column. Just not gonna do it.” I had several reasons, all good.

But here I go . . .

‐I got started early on this year’s Bitterfest — with an Election Night blogpost, here. I cited an Obama slogan: “Mitt Romney: Not one of us.” Yes, Mitt Romney is not one of them, I said — not one of Obama’s “us.” Neither am I.

What are we, some kind of American remnant? Well, perhaps. But that seems a little dark, even for me . . .

‐Here is something else from that blogpost (not that I’ll repeat the whole thing): The American public took a look at Obama and his record. They took a look at Mitt and his. And they said, “Four more years!” Four more years of Obama, and all he represents.

You might say they were snookered the first time, in ’08. This time they knew what they were getting — and asked for it. Demanded it.


‐Every time a Republican presidential nominee loses, I hear the same thing, from Republicans, and especially from movement-conservative types: “The candidate wasn’t good enough. He should have done this, that, or the other thing. Or he should have been someone else. Then the people would have voted for us. Our standard-bearer was defective.”

I think this is baloney, particularly in 2012. The voters had a clear choice. Each presidential nominee was a good — very good — representative of his point of view. The voters had plenty of information, no matter how biased the media are. They had plenty of good, solid information. Conventions, debates, etc.

And they chose.

The Left is winning, in more than the electoral sense. The Left is winning culturally — psychologically, spiritually, if you will. They control education, the entertainment industry . . . need I give the whole list?

We are talking about some deep matters here, not about simple electioneering. I trust you know what I mean.

‐Some of my colleagues are almost comically incapable of blaming the people — of holding them responsible for their votes. This is charming, in a way, in addition to comical. Some political version of “The customer is always right.”

I don’t have this problem, thank heaven. I think the people are in fact responsible. And often wrong.

As might doesn’t make right, neither does a majority.

‐I think the people — the holy, sacred people — are wrong about movies, music, morality. A whole range of things. But they’re supposed to be brimming with wisdom when they enter the voting booths on Election Day?

That would be strange.

‐I think Romney would have made an excellent president — a superb, sterling president. Perhaps an historic one, the “turnaround artist” we needed. There’s no way to find out, of course. It would have had to be tested.

‐I suppose people didn’t care that he had extensive business experience. In fact, it may have worked against him. Say what you will about Obama’s background: At least it’s not tainted by business! Grubby, unseemly business.

What’s business good for, anyway? Jobs, prosperity, vitality? Hey, who needs business when ya got government?

Honestly, if people don’t respect businessmen, that makes perfect sense. They’ve been told all their lives, through movies and television and everything else, that businessmen are villainous. Sometimes these things have an effect, you know? That’s why people do them — make movies and such.

(I told you this would be a bitterfest. Credit me with truth in labeling, if with nothing else.)

‐In our culture — as manufactured by Hollywood — businessmen are the villains, time after time. And the heroes? Lawyers, political activists, journalists, environmentalists. You know the deal.

‐At the end of the ’08 campaign, Obama promised people that he would “fundamentally transform” our nation. Did he mean that businessmen would cease to be villains? No, no. Anyway, the people said, “Go ahead.” And they’ve now said, “We like it. Keep doing it.”

I was tremendously heartened by the tea-party movement. I had thought the country would go quietly unto social democracy. I thought they wanted to be Norway (without the oil, of course, because the people, through their elected representatives, won’t permit the acquisition of American oil). But the tea-party movement represented hope. Maybe there was life in the old gal yet. Maybe people still wanted the Constitution, fiscal discipline, and free enterprise.

They were demonized so quickly and thoroughly, the tea-party people. Tarred as racist. Once they succeed in tarring you as racist, you’re pretty much done.

Some time ago, a young woman was talking to me about a human-rights heroine in the Arab world. She belonged to an Islamist party (the heroine did). But don’t worry, said the young woman: It’s like how you can be a Republican and still not have sympathy with the tea-party people.

Ah, I see.

Anyway, it could be that the tea party was kind of the last gasp of Constitutionalism and free enterprise. A final spasm, before the Left achieves its dream of making our country like Europe.

The main Obama slogan was “Forward.” And “forward,” from these people, means lefter — more toward Europe, more toward social democracy and socialism. More toward collectivism in general. Ever bigger government, ever greater government dependence, an ever smaller private sphere.

It could be that Reaganism was a mere parenthesis — a brief slowing-down in this march “forward” toward Obama’s, and the Left’s, ideals.

‐I’ve made this point a million times — I hope longtime readers will forgive the repetition: Conservatives always say that the Left monopolizes education, K through graduate school. And then when left-wing candidates win elections, these conservatives say, “Blow me down, how did that happen?!”

I was educated by the Left, like everyone else. But what they fed me, I largely spat out, eventually. It would not be normal for most people to do this. Most people accept what they’re taught. Hasn’t that been true in every time and place forever? (I don’t claim to be the Durants or someone.) (Wish I were.)

‐The Left has . . . what? They have education, the movies, entertainment television, popular music, the news media — the core shaping institutions.

And we have . . . what? Country music, talk radio, and NASCAR?

Ain’t enough! Need more juice!

‐A question, and one that Mitt Romney asked, in his way: Why would anyone come here from abroad to do business? Don’t they have better options? Might India soon become a better option, if it’s not already? Canada is, I understand.


‐For the next four years, conservatives will be clinging to their guns and their religion more than ever, that’s for sure.

‐Hey, won’t it be exciting to see what Obama’s “flexibility” leads to!

‐And Obamacare! Like Julia, we’re wedded to the government forever. Amen.

‐In this campaign, Mitt Romney did not have merely Obama and the Democrats to overcome: He had the grievance culture, the entitlement culture, and the Hollywood culture to overcome. These cultures, together, have triumphed in American life.

(I’m one to talk about a grievance culture, given my bitterfests, I recognize.) (But at least I’m not demanding that the government make me happy!)

‐Perhaps the current America simply would not and could not elect a Mitt Romney. He is, in a way, out of his time. Out of step. A throwback. That’s one reason I like him so.

In America today, we have 14-year-olds screwing like banshees. Everyone thinks that’s cool, or most people do. We have abortion on demand. Nobody gets married, except gays. Divorce is over 50 percent, I believe. It’s “no fault” divorce at that. “The culture is a sewer,” as my friend Mark Helprin says.

Could a Mitt Romney win in this environment? An environment that adores Bill Clinton? Cool is king. Obama is cool. Romney is not. He’s square.

You know that Obama sex ad, the one appealing to the hookup culture? “When it’s your first time, make sure it’s with a really cool guy — but not your husband, ha ha ha!” I have paraphrased. But you know the ad I’m talking about.

If that ad doesn’t backfire but actually succeeds, Romney can’t win.

There is no place for Ozzie Nelson in this culture. There is a place, of course — but not an election-winning place. A remnant place. You get to be the target on Saturday Night Live. Never the cool kid, never the mainstreamer.

‐On NRO the other night — Election Night — someone said, “Hey, GOP, no more candidates over 50, okay?!!” How disheartening. But maybe it’s right. Maybe someone with some experience and maturity is too out of step. Reagan was nominated — the first time — when he was 69. He wouldn’t make the new cut. Would miss it by almost two decades.

‐Romney wanted the continuation of American primacy in the world. As the 20th century was the “American Century,” he wanted the 21st century to be an American century. The public, I gather, is not much into that. Decline is a choice. And the people may well be saying, “Yes, please.”

‐A lot of my colleagues don’t like it when someone laments that so few pay taxes. That the tax burden falls on as few as it does.

Well, I’m one of those lamenters. I think this question of “skin in the game” is serious. I have stated my views on taxation many times, too many times. But let me state here, quickly, that I don’t think taxes should be viewed as something for other people to pay. We should all contribute to the commonweal, even if it’s a mite. This is part of the dignity of citizenship, I believe.

Why should so few carry the freight for the rest of us?

‐I would find Obama’s victory this week easier to swallow if he had not campaigned like such a scoundrel — if he had not painted Romney as a plutocrat, felon, and traitor who would give your wife cancer and put y’all back in chains. (Obama had some help from his partners and friends, true.)

It’s one thing to be a left-winger who leads the country to ruin, wittingly or not. But do you have to be an SOB while you’re doing it?

‐The Democrats are always accusing Republicans of not caring about people. You know what’s not caring about people? Running up a $16 trillion debt. Someone will have to pay that. It won’t be today’s political class. It will be our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren . . .

How compassionate. The attitude today is, “Gimme, gimme, gimme. And if it beggars future generations, what do I care? I want mine.”

Yes, really caring.

‐I’ve said it a million times: There’s nothing compassionate about economic collapse. You think some belt-tightening is painful? Try economic collapse. You can ask the Grecians (as a great man once said). (Other than Keats, I mean.)

‐Ahmadinejad was dead-right, I’m afraid: You can’t hold a $16 trillion debt and be a world power. Out of the mouths of genocidal maniacs . . .

‐I doubt that many Americans were impressed by Romney’s acts of charity — his charitable giving. Charity is passé, even quaint (like so much about Mitt). If you want to give, you give to the government. And then government gives to the needy, on the government’s terms.

I remember a very good half-hour on Firing Line between Bill Buckley and Michael Kinsley. They were talking about the basics of life: the relationship between the citizen and the state, etc. And the subject of charity came up, somehow. Kinsley exploded, “People shouldn’t have to receive charity!” (I’m paraphrasing, but closely.) “They are owed payments by the government because they’re human beings!”

Joe Biden likes to talk about the “social doctrine.” He means that you must be generous with other people’s money — welfare must flow from the government, and not just any government, the federal government. As we learned, he himself gives squat to charity. But he lectures the rest of us on charity and compassion. What he means is, taxation.

He also says that resistance to higher taxation is “unpatriotic,” as you know. (None dare call it McCarthyism.)

‐I wonder: Is there enough oil and natural gas under private lands to keep us going? Because there’s no way in hell the Left will let us explore or drill elsewhere, no matter how discreetly, benignly, and beneficially we do it.

Let’s hope that importing is easy and convenient . . .

‐Did Hurricane Sandy tip it for Obama? I don’t know how you’d measure such a thing. On MSNBC, Chris Matthews said, “I’m so glad we had that storm last week.” I’m sure he is.

(I have since learned he apologized for the remark.)

‐If Obama had lost, I wonder how he would have behaved. Graciously? Like Mitt? Or no?

‐Well, we won’t have to worry about the integrity of the Constitution. Because, no matter what the administration does, John Roberts will be there to stop what is unconstitutional. Yessiree, that’s our chief: caring not a fig about political pressures . . .

‐Last Inauguration Day, Roberts messed up Obama’s presidential oath. This Inauguration Day, things should be pretty chummy between the two.

‐The people saw the vice-presidential debate. And they wanted Obama-Biden anyway. Sometimes a cliché is handy: There’s no accounting for taste.

‐“The bad old Republicans favor the rich!” say the Democrats. The thing about the rich: They’re going to be fine regardless. They’re not depending on Social Security and Medicare in their old age. They’re not looking for a job. They’re not worried about paying for groceries. In good times and bad, they’re basically fine.

No, it’s the less well off who need a robust economy. Why Republicans don’t make this point, routinely, is a mystery.

‐We might take comfort in this: Obama et al. are still forced to pay lip service to the old American ideals (let’s call them). I will quote from a couple of debates — starting in ’08. That year, Obama said, “This is the greatest country on earth.” He said it in the tones of a hostage with a gun in his back. He speaks with real passion when he says things like, “You didn’t build that!” (A reader of ours pointed this out.)

This year, Obama said — did you hear this? — “I believe that the free-enterprise system is the greatest engine of prosperity the world’s ever known. I believe in self-reliance and individual initiative and risk-takers’ being rewarded.”

Kids say the darndest things. Grown-ups say the darndest things, when they want to be president.

‐The Left should like America better now, right? And Europe should too, right? Among Europeans, there is a certain kind of pro-American, you may have discovered: He thinks America is okay when the people elect Democrats. Otherwise, no.

There is a certain kind of pro-Israel person too — or semi-pro-Israel person: He thinks the country is okay — legitimate — when the people have the wisdom to elect Labor. But when they’re so foolish or malevolent as to elect Likud, all bets are off.

You’ve met this type, right? If you haven’t, or would like to, you can read the New York Times.

‐Speaking of Israel: They will have to summon all their resources, temporal and spiritual.

‐“Reality will assert itself,” you may well say. As Obama had to deal with terrorists, he will have to deal with the debt, with entitlements, and so on. There’s no way around it. Margaret Thatcher liked to say, “The facts of life are conservative.”

I don’t know. For some, soaking the rich — a.k.a. “fairness” — is the highest priority, no matter the economic consequences.

‐It’s not very usual for a House member to be a vice-presidential nominee. William E. Miller was, in 1964. Later, there was an American Express ad, featuring him: “Do you know me?” I wonder how many did.

I will be interested to watch the career of Paul Ryan, that admirable man.

‐I believe this about the election: that we gave it our best shot. That we “put it all on the field,” leaving “nothing in the locker room,” as Romney said. I think he was an excellent nominee. He made some mistakes — but anyone would. We worked hard. We had plenty of money. We offered a clear choice. Romney was a first-class alternative to Obama.

And the people said no. “Four more years!”

The thing is, in a democracy, the people decide. It’s their responsibility. They determine what kind of country we’ll be. All you can do is offer them an honest choice. They do the rest.

‐The temptation, for some of us, is to retreat from politics. To give up, essentially. To cede the field to the Left. I mean, just give it to them: socialism, abortion on demand, the whole nine yards. It’s their world. They own it. The rest of us live in a kind of dhimmitude. We should just tend to our families, our churches, our friends — cling to our guns and religion.

That’s the temptation. But as David Pryce-Jones put it to me, in his wise and stirring way, the temptation is to be resisted. Hardly any good would come from giving in. Not even peace of mind, probably.

I could go on — and on — but I think I’ve poured enough bitterness into one column. I’m practically swimming in my own bile. In future columns, there will be less bitterness — not none, I’m sure; but less.

See you, dear hearts, and bless you.


To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.


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