National Review / Digital
A Message of Compromisers


It’s only a matter of time before Chris Matthews announces that the amendment limiting presidents to two terms is, in fact, racist. There will be a great lusty national clamor for a bill that gives Obama the chance to have as many terms as the white guy who presided over a sustained economic crisis. Before this happens, the conservative movement has to figure out how to attract all the people who hate them.

Who are these people? Why, they’re a zesty coalition of economic illiterates, young people whose grasp of history is so feeble they think Bill Clinton freed the slaves by winning WWII, and a vast number who don’t like conservatives, don’t believe their ideas, and think “GOP” might as well stand for “Gouty Oligarchical Plutocrats.” That’s whom we need to win over. It brings to mind a scene in Independence Day, when a scientist asks a captured alien what they want humans to do.

“Die,” it croaks.

Okay, well, everything’s on the table, but let’s talk about some options. First step towards winning back the country: conspicuous empathy. Big sloshing wet buckets of the stuff. As Peggy Noonan wrote in the Wall Street Journal, the Democrats have the emotional advantage: People think that the liberals Care. No doubt they do, in the abstract. But the end result of Official State Caring was seen after Hurricane Sandy, when untold numbers of citizens stuffed into Vertical Poor-Person Storage Buildings were left without power, food, and sanitation. The stairwells stunk of offal; the streets were piled with rotting trash. News crews interviewed frightened tenants, and in each case there was evidence of the strange Rapture of the Males that removed all the menfolk from the family structure. The government was the father, of course — and just as absent as the ones who dropped off some DNA and melted into the wind.

If this is the result of Caring, you shudder to contemplate the results of indifference.

For now, accept the fact that the country changed while we were out making money and children. Archie Bunker is dead; Meathead got tenure. Forty years of cultural liberalism rewrote the concept of American exceptionalism to mean that we’re uniquely bad. The iconoclastic skepticism that once defined both boomers and their spawn has settled into the slack-spined posture of the supplicant. “Question Authority,” their self-satisfied college motto, has turned into a plaintive whine: What else can you give me today?

So it’s all lost? No! you say. Buck up! you say. We’re a can-do people. If we can put a man on the moon, perhaps we can put 60 million Democratic voters on the moon, and figure a way so their absentee ballots get “lost” somewhere between Tranquility Base and here.

But that’s not right. That’s their way. Besides, if you put 60 million Obama voters on the moon, they’d still find a way to call us out of touch.

No, we’re told that the party has to retune and refine, adjust its message, reach out, and find a way to turn all those upraised middle fingers into a game of horseshoes.

This requires compromise, which is called “caving” when the Democrats back off from nationalizing an industry and “evolution” when conservatives abandon their defining principles.

December 3, 2012    |     Volume LXIV, No. 22

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Helen Rittelmeyer reviews Strom Thurmond’s America, by Joseph Crespino.
  • David French reviews Into the Fire: A Firsthand Account of the Most Extraordinary Battle in the Afghan War, by Dakota Meyer and Bing West.
  • Tracy Lee Simmons reviews Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author and the Book That Defined the “Special Relationship,” by Peter Clarke.
  • James E. Person Jr. reviews Lincoln’s Battle with God: A President’s Struggle with Faith and What It Meant for America, by Stephen Mansfield.
  • John J. Miller remembers the original version of Red Dawn.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Flight.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .