The red and the blue, &c.

A girl colors an electoral map of the United States in either red or blue as returns are announced on Election Night 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (Jonathan Drake / Reuters)
On Cracker Barrel, Josef Stalin, Robert Conquest, Mark Shields, Donald Trump, Julius Caesar, and more

Lately, there has been some secession talk. I addressed this matter in a piece last week. In fact, I was addressing David French’s new book, Divided We Fall.

In the last few days, I have done some musing. What if America splits apart, between “red” and “blue”? Will there at least be easy movement between the two countries, as in the European Union? I mean, what if a person likes both Cracker Barrel and the Metropolitan Opera?

I voiced these thoughts on Twitter. A tweeter replied, “If that fails” — in other words, if there is not easy movement between Red America and Blue America — “I sense a great franchising opportunity for a Cracker Barrel across the street from Lincoln Center.”

My reply: “You have just enunciated my personal dream.”

If there were a Cracker Barrel across from Lincoln Center, you might not be able to get in. The line would stretch down to Greenwich Village, or, in the other direction, up to Harlem.

Two years ago, I wrote a piece, with the help of readers: “Your Death Row Meals, or Last Suppers.” Its subheading: “What would be your ultimate meal? Readers place their orders.”

The piece began,

There’s a meal I like — a lot — in Milwaukee. It comes from Northpoint Custard. I get a grilled-cheese sandwich (made with cheddar), a vanilla custard shake, and a Diet Pepsi. (Don’t give me grief over my choice of pop. It’s been done.) I jokingly, or half-jokingly, call this my “Death Row meal.”

I have others — including a meal at Cracker Barrel: grilled catfish, cucumber salad, mac ’n’ cheese, biscuits, diet root beer, and blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve had that meal, I’d have . . . about a dollar. I look forward to the next dollar.

• So, Stalin is in the news. You can read about this here. In brief: A Republican polling outfit suggested that Vice President Pence use his authority in the Senate to alter the results of the presidential election. The outfit quoted Stalin, or a statement attributed to Stalin: “Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything.”

On Twitter, Jonathan Swan of Axios commented, “Not the most obvious inspirational quote for conservatives, but we are charting new waters.”

Typical snobbery of the MSM, right? Plus, doesn’t Swan know we’re a workers’ party now?

The late, great Robert Conquest wrote many limericks, and many serious poems, as well as works of history, etc. When I first met him, back in the ’90s, I asked him to recite his most famous limerick, which he did, without missing a beat:

There was an old bastard named Lenin
Who did two or three million men in.
That’s a lot to have done in
But where he did one in
That old bastard Stalin did ten in.

• As I have mentioned in this column before, RFE/RL (our combination of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty) found it necessary to restart its Hungarian service. It has also restarted its Bulgarian and Romanian services. Independent media have been dramatically curtailed in those countries. Now, people in those places can have more of a choice.

I recommend a report from RFE/RL, here: “How Hungary’s State News Agency Whitewashes the News.” You can see why Hungarians need an alternative.

• David Brooks published a column headed “Mark Shields and the Best of American Liberalism.” Brooks and Shields have appeared on PBS NewsHour for 19 years. The latter is now retiring. “Mark radiates a generosity of spirit that improves all who come within his light,” writes David.

Shields told a funny story once, against his own tribe, the liberals. I thought that was pretty generous of him. The story has to do with attitudes toward criminality. It goes like this:

Two liberals find a guy lying in a ditch. He has been left there half dead: broken, bleeding, moaning. One liberal says to the other, “Quick: We have to find the people who did this. They need help.”

• Have you read much about President Trump’s latest pardons in the conservative media? I haven’t either. But I very much appreciated a round-up in The Dispatch, here: the pardonees, their deeds, and other relevant information. This is pretty sordid stuff. Obviously, many will want to turn away from it.

Let me paste a paragraph:

Back in December 2018, Sen. Marco Rubio said he “would be very critical” of a potential Manafort pardon, adding that Trump doing so could “trigger a debate about whether the pardon powers should be amended.”


• A tweet from the president:

“Breaking News: In Pennsylvania there were 205,000 more votes than there were voters. This alone flips the state to President Trump.”

A comment from David French:

Completely false. Of course.

In reply to something else the president tweeted, David had this to say:

We should never get used to the fact that POTUS is sharing completely deranged, false, conspiracy-theory nonsense in an effort to overturn a lawful election.

I agree. I believe that one of our worst enemies is numbness. The acceptance of “new normals,” driven ever downward.

• Some of my colleagues say we must respect the feelings of Trump voters who believe the election was stolen from them. I’m all for sensitivity. I think it’s an underrated virtue. But you know this popular slogan, right? “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”

There’s also the coarser “F*** your feelings.”

A friend of mine saw that on a flag. Days before the election, in her town, there was a “monster truck” rally for Trump. They came through honkin’, hollerin’, and waving flags. One of the flags said, “F*** your feelings.”

My friend, incidentally, was called a “Communist.” She is a conservative.

Another friend sent me a clip of a Fox News host saying, “I’m supposed to believe Joe Biden is going to be president? President of the United States? Joe Biden? There’s something that just doesn’t feel right about this. You feel it too.”

On another day, this same host said, “There’s a sneaking suspicion — me and a lot of Americans — that Joe Biden was installed, somehow, some way. I can’t prove this allegation. But it’s a gut feeling.”

Okay. Barbra Streisand and Julio Iglesias recorded a duet called “Feelings.” I never liked that song. Too sappy — too touchy-feely — for me. But feelings are no doubt important.

And if we’re to respect them — take account of them — we should do so across the board, right? I mean, the feelings of our opponents, too? Where might this lead?

• The Arizona GOP circulated a helluvan image. Did you see this? Trump as a Revolutionary War hero or something? How about this? That’s Trump as Christ on the Cross. Then there’s this popular painting, showing Trump rescuing a flag at an NFL game or something.

There will probably be books on Trump iconography.

I remember how we conservatives, for eight years, decried and mocked a Cult of Obama. We had not seen anything yet, I’m afraid.

• Speaking of the Arizona GOP: Its leader, Kelli Ward, has been urging President Trump to “cross the Rubicon.” This has been echoed by General Flynn and others. I’m not sure they realize what crossing the Rubicon meant, in history: an end to the Roman Republic and the inauguration of Caesarism. Still, kind of poetic . . .

• Eventually — very soon, in fact — there will be no more stories about World War II veterans. We should enjoy them while we can. I enjoyed this one: “A Beloved World War II Photo Comes to Life in a Virtual Reunion.” The subheading (long): “Martin Adler, now 96, was looking for German troops in 1944 when he almost shot three Italian children. His daughter’s internet appeal brought them all together again this month.”

• I was struck by something in an obit — of Barbara Rose, a critic and historian of modern art. She was married for a time to Frank Stella. Let me quote from the obit:

As the decades passed, her faith in connoisseurship came to seem conservative and a rebuff to the present era, in which the meaning of any work of art is deemed inseparable from issues of race and gender.

Such an interesting passage. Some of us were saying, “Would that Hilton Kramer were still here to comment!” (Hilton Kramer was an illustrious art critic and modernist, who co-founded The New Criterion in 1982. He and Samuel Lipman founded the magazine in large part because the arts, and criticism of the arts, were being choked by politics.)

• Speaking of The New Criterion: I had a little post there yesterday — a quirky and personal post — on Pat Metheny, the jazz guitarist and composer. Here.

• This will amuse some: A few days ago, I was Googling “Alain Gurfinkiel,” without success. Why wasn’t I finding what I wanted? Then I realized. In fact, I had done it before — mix up Alain Finkielkraut and Michel Gurfinkiel.

I thought, “Hey, am I guilty of profiling or something?”

• On the street, a panhandler said, “Could you give me some capitalistic assistance?” I thought that was interestingly, and charmingly, phrased.

• Another street person — someone I’ve known, and been friendly with, for a long time — said, “Hey, Mr. Conservative!” I thought, “That’s weird. I don’t think I’ve ever discussed politics with Kenny.” He then said, “Look at you, all dressed up, nice ’n’ conservative.” I was wearing a jacket and tie. That’s what he meant! Made me smile.

• The days are getting longer — a little more sunlight, every day (December 21st having been the shortest of the year). Feels good. And we’re gliding into the new year. Hope you’re having a good week. See you soon.

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