NR Digital

Reformed Swinger

by Kevin D. Williamson
Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, but Romney could win it

In Philadelphia, a very grand old gentleman is taking friends to lunch at the Union League. “This club is going to hell,” he says, his eyes darting around the dining room. “They let Democrats join now. Can you imagine? And I hear they even let” – here he casts sidelong conspiratorial glances around the table – “I hear they even let Jews in.” This last bit is delivered in a pro-grade stage whisper that leaves nearby businessmen squirming. He doses his snapper soup with sherry, a twinkle of gleeful malice in his eye. It’s his little joke: As everybody in the room knows, the grand old gentleman is himself Jewish, in precisely the style that William F. Buckley Jr. was Irish-American, which is to say about a half a degree below Ralph Lauren on the WASPiness scale. He has performed this ritual before, and presumably it is his way of letting the Establishment of which he is a pillar know that things forgiven are not necessarily things forgotten.

The Union League may be the citadel of Philadelphia Republicans, but their heartland is in the suburbs and their spine is the Main Line, the vestigial accretion of enmansioned old money congealed west of the city along the tracks of the old Pennsylvania Railroad. These are at best Chamber of Commerce Republicans, and their conservatism is for the most part a conservatism of manners. If you thought country-club Republicans were fair-weather friends, the cricket-club Republicans are bound to disappoint you. As they have, over and over.

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