Sweet democracy, &c.

Sen. Ted Cruz speaks at a campaign rally in Victoria, Texas, November 3, 2018. (Mike Segar/Reuters)
On the midterms, fried chicken, a new tell-off, and more

Consider the political career of Ted Cruz. (N.B. I wrote about Ted in a three-part series called “A Friend in the Arena.” This was in March 2016. Those three parts are here, here, and here.) In his first run for office, he was elected to the U.S. Senate — from Texas, the second-most populous state. He had no family connections, no big money. Remarkable. In his second run, he finished second, essentially, in a race for a major-party presidential nomination. In his third run, he was reelected to the Senate (Tuesday).

And he has years ahead . . .

• I voted, as usual, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. And I reflected: I used to stand in line with Julius Rudel (the conductor) and Peter Jennings (the anchorman). Both have passed away now. Back in the day, I figured I was canceling out their votes (or one of them)!

• On Tuesday, I stood in line with the congressman I was about to vote against. Alas, he would win, and win big: with 81 percent. He is set to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee (Jerrold Nadler).

But consider this: Standing in line to vote, with the person you’re going to vote against? That is a relatively rare thing in the world. Sweet democracy.

• I think it’s so strange not to show ID, when you vote. You do it for so much else in life: to get on an airplane, to get into a building (many of them). It seems so . . . dodgy, or loosey-goosey.

• I was very sorry to see Maria Elvira Salazar lose in Miami. She was running for the House, to succeed Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. I think she would have been good. She lost to Donna Shalala, the veteran Clintonista.

A month or so ago, I wrote about this race, here. An interesting race it was.

Let me say something for Shalala (not my candidate). A lot of people are harping on her age. She is 77, which is about as old as a freshman House member has ever been. But, you know? Her mother retired from law at the age of 91. And was an over-80 tennis champion. And lived to 103.

There is an age minimum for the House, yes (25). But no age maximum. Which I’m glad about.

• Do you want candidates to win? Or (other) candidates to lose? I can’t help thinking of my old friend Herb. He wanted the Pistons to win, yes. But even more, he wanted the Celtics to lose. (All Detroit-area people can understand.)

On Election Day, you win some, you lose some. Me, I was glad that Mike DeWine won. He has been in politics forever — since the early ’80s — and he is now governor of Ohio. My friend and colleague Mike Potemra worked for him and admired him a lot. So do I. DeWine is a champion of family values — not in the cheap sense but in a real one.

This is no common thing in politics, trust me.

In Wisconsin, the voters fired Scott Walker. He was a sterling and brave governor. A nearly historic reformer. Nationally, Republican voters were not interested in him for president. He barely got out of the gates.

In New Jersey, the voters reelected Robert Menendez. Voters elsewhere reelected Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins. There’s no accounting for taste. (One positive side of the Menendez ledger: He is realistic and tough-minded on foreign policy, an anomaly in his party, which is the Democratic party.)

They fired Mia Love and they fired Carlos Curbelo. I was sorry about those firings, very. Dana Rohrabacher suffered a close loss. I shed no tear. In Iowa, Steve King eked it out. A pity, or more like a shame.

• King is considered by many a model conservative. He’s a model of something. King is an ally of Marine Le Pen, and has hailed their “shared values.” He’s also the type to deny the reality of Putin’s Russia.

“Dissent?” he said last year. “I would say, Garry Kasparov has long — and now he’s in the United States — he lived a long time in Russia with a very loud megaphone of dissent against the regime, and he’s still alive and well, so . . .”

Gee, wonder why Kasparov felt he had to live abroad. And do we have no right to complain, or point out the truth, until he’s dead? (If it’s a corpse King wants, Putin has produced plenty of them.)

Recently, King endorsed a candidate in Toronto’s mayoral election. Why would an Iowa congressman care about a foreign mayoral race? Well, his was a special candidate, one Faith Goldy, a beautiful young woman with an ugly mind. She is a white nationalist, an alt-rightist, a fangirl of such figures as Corneliu Codreanu.

Who’s he? He was a Romanian nazi, in short. He wrote the infamous For My Legionaries (1937), which Miss Goldy described as “very, very, very, very spot-on.” (That’s four veries, for those keeping score.) Also, she gave an interview to The Daily Stormer, which proudly goosesteps.

Congressman King tweeted support for Goldy, calling her “a fighter for our values.” His, sure. Mine, no. Yours?

(By the way, Faith Goldy wound up with just 3 percent of the vote, which speaks well of Toronto’s immune system.)

On Twitter, I expressed my regret that Steve King had won, again. I got a billet doux, by e-mail:

. . . I just want to say: F*ck you.

It’s very telling that you cuckservatives criticize the one GOP congressman defending Western Civilization.

Steve King is the future of the GOP. Self-loathing, open-borders, limp-wristed cuckservatives like you are the past.

Move to Mexico, Jay.

I ain’t movin’. As far as I’m concerned, Americans such as my pen pal are welcome to apply to Russia, Hungary, Brazil, the Philippines, or whatever country might take them . . .

• The Democrats have a very serious handicap — well, several, but here’s one of them: They don’t give the impression that they care, at all, about illegal immigration. This is perhaps because they don’t. (I’m generalizing here.) If they merely gave an impression, they might counter President Trump’s demagoguery. (“Sheer demagoguery,” in a phrase Reagan loved.) As it is, many people figure, “Well, at least he cares about the issue.”

Does that make sense?

• Senator Mitch McConnell is one of the canniest politicians in America. Some of us have known this since way back in the ’80s, when he defeated Dee Huddleston to reach the Senate. Does anyone doubt his canniness now? Is he not a political supremo, quiet and idiosyncratic though he may be? Often vituperated, by Left and Right, he goes steadily on.

Some of us knew him before he became a cocaine baron! (For an explanation, go here.)

• Election Day seemed very, very important. Most election days do, I suppose. It ought not to be this way, in America. Politics ought not to be so urgent, you know? We are a constitutional republic: “a nation of laws, not men.” We should almost run on auto-pilot, if I may put it that way. Elections elsewhere can be all too consequential — cataclysmic. Here, they ought to be different.

“Politics is played between the 40 yard lines,” goes the cliché. That may be boring, but boring can be good, if you’re after democratic health.

• I got a letter from a friend who worked at a polling place. An excellent, long report, from which I would like to publish an excerpt — just one issue:

Anyone promoting paper ballots or the “paper trail” is either a moron or a troglodyte. [My friend can be blunt.] I watched some of the smartest, most experienced and dedicated people you’d ever meet work with 547 absentee ballots for nearly four hours, and it took them every minute. Paper ballots stick together. They stay stuck in envelopes. They blow off the table. They get stuck, or almost stuck, in tabulating machines. They all look alike, so there’s a constant danger of not counting or double-counting. Wanting paper ballots is akin to wanting all ballots to be filled out with a Paper Mate fountain pen. The “paper trail” argument is like wanting drivers to use hand-and-arm signals out of their window in addition to their blinkers to indicate a turn.

I guess I was inclined toward the paper-trail argument. I’ve reconsidered.

• Well, I’ve done nothing but sock you with politics. Are you tired of reading? Bored? Let me venture further afield, before we finish up.

A menu in a restaurant advertised a “Crunchy Chicken Sandwich.” I said, “‘Crunchy chicken’? Is that a euphemism for fried?” Yup. (I got the sandwich.) (Which was damn good.)

(As I was ordering the sandwich, I said, “I probably shouldn’t,” and the waitress said, “Well, it’s Friday.” I said, “Believe me: For me, it’s always Friday.”)

• On Twitter, I learned a phrase I like a lot — learned it from Sarah Rumpf. “Go step on a Lego,” she said. (Not to me, fortunately!) If you get tired of “Go jump in a lake,” “Go fly a kite,” “Go to hell,” etc., you might want try “Go step on a Lego.”

Always building one’s repertoire . . .

• A little music? For a review of Carmen, go here. For my “New York Chronicle,” in the November New Criterion, go here.

• Couple of Q&A podcasts? Here’s Andrew Roberts (talking Churchill) and here’s Bret Stephens (talking America and the world). Both great, absolutely great.

• Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote a lot of obits. I was sorry to read his. For years, he was chief obituary writer for the New York Times. Before that, he was, for many more years, the chief literary critic of the paper. I must have read a thousand articles by him, or more. (Millions did.) I learned a lot from him.

Here in New York, I got to know him a little. I knew friends of his, including David Pryce-Jones, Hugh Nissenson, and Bill Buckley. They loved him. It was easy to see why. He was such good company, such a gent, so smart, so knowledgeable, so fun, so congenial.

See you, everyone, and thanks.


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