“I’m worried we’re suffering from the Pauline Kael effect,” a friend told me early last night when the mood was still convivial. I don’t think that’s it exactly. When she got the news of Richard Nixon’s victory, Kael is said to have expressed astonishment: “How can he have been elected? I don’t know a single person who voted for him.”
That’s not the bubble we conservatives inhabit, at least not those of us huddled in blue state redoubts like New York and Connecticut. No, we are surrounded by big government, fiscal incontinents who worship Barack Obama. We know plenty of people who voted for him.
What surprised me was the paucity of support for Romney. As I read the tea leaves, all the enthusiasm — not to mention all of the sane policies — belonged to the Republicans. And people across the country seemed to get that. The cheering crowds, the battalions of get-out-the-vote workers, the clarity of purpose expressed by both Romney and Ryan.
Well, I was wrong and my friend Ron Radosh (among many others) was right: Romney never quite closed the deal and Obama’s efforts to paint him as an out-of-touch plutocrat eager to conduct a “war on women” succeeded.
For conservatives, it is a depressing situation. Ron is right, too, about “the coming crisis of a growing entitlement state” and the myriad foreign policy challenges, not least the challenges of radical Islam, that Obama, and the country at large, will continue to face. I fear that what an English friend just wrote me is true:
You just don’t care about being a Great Power any longer. That’s what this is about. The world should start sucking up to China instead now, as Americans have shown they’ve no appetite for world leadership any longer. You’ve had a century in the sun, and now you’ve decided to become Sweden instead of shouldering the burden. The 47% have won and you’re going to slip into social democracy and in 4 years time no-one — Christie, Rubio, Ryan — will be able to do anything about it.
RIP American Exceptionalism
It is said that the one unforgivable sin is despair. Depression is not quite despair, but it is an allied and a corrosive sentiment. I agree with Ron that “it is essential that conservative intellectuals do not abandon the effort to change the culture . . . and do all possible to challenge the ascension of a failed intellectual liberal ideology, whether it be in the form of Progressivism, liberalism or socialism.” But I misread and misread badly both the mood of the country and the depth of support for Obama’s failed policies. I will doubtless get around to rejoining Ron in the battle, but a little hiatus for reflection will not come amiss.
Image courtesy shutterstock / spirit of america