Imagine you're a true-believing lefty who, since your "enlightenment" at university, has been laboring in the trenches of left-wing American politics for a good while. Maybe, like Al Gore, you've got friends (and, perhaps, benefits) among the beautiful people. And, of course, in general you've got friendly allies in the press. But in your heart of hearts you know these people don't really understand anything. Though useful to your purposes at times, they aren't reliable in a pinch. As for the American people in general, you know . . . they're fickle and unsophisticated and, mostly, you don't much like them. They don't know what is good for them.
None of this, of course, precludes your perverse interest in being loved by these people. You're not popular . . . but, gosh, you want
to be. Still, taking that as more or less impossible, you've contented an consoled yourself by clinging to a group of like-minded and similarly situated individuals who enjoy self-congratulation. Then, wonder of wonders (!), one of your number breaks out! He begins making strides toward that elusive popularity you've been after. You hitch your wagon to his star and, for once, you permit yourself to imagine the impossible. Maybe the American people are not as impossibly backward and stupid as you've been taught to believe. They love him! (Or, at least, they did . . . for awhile.) Will they, in turn, love you?
It turns out the answer is, uhh . . . "no." Jonah Goldberg
writes a compelling account of the Democrats' "lament." But, for a spectacularly entertaining version of the thing at work and in action, you can't miss this extended whine
from left-wing commentator, Bill Press. That
is an even more tasty morsel for this conservative's appetite for Liberal woe than the implosion of David Axelrod I discussed here
. In it you will see, especially, the predictable wannabe's response when rejected by the popular kids, to wit: "You ain't all that, anyway!" Yeah. Sure.
The trouble with that resent-laden response is that this isn't high school and the object of American politics is not to stroke the self-esteem of the unpopular. In American politics the American people are
all that. Public sentiment, as Lincoln knew (and lefties--at least since FDR--never have understood) is
everything. Short of force, you cannot make other people think as you think or act as you think they should act. One has to persuade them and that entails more than a few pretty words and the fawning adulation of the beautiful people. The American people have never been a cheap date . . . at least not for long.
Yet, tasty as these morsels are, they don't yet sit well. Goldberg hints at the reason for this in his closing paragraphs when he suggests that Republicans ought to contemplate the long-term benefits of trimming a little at the margins of sweeping victory this November by calling Obama's bluff and offering a real (which is to say, difficult) choice. They
need to remember that the object of American politics is persuasion and they ought to take advantage of Obama's crisis by recognizing the opportunity it presents for this project. A sweeping victory won't mean anything if it is hollow. There ought to be a real and fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans in this: Republicans ought to love the American people enough to understand that winning their momentary affection is not the same thing as earning their love. Love is born out of respect and respecting the right of self-government demands governing by persuasion rather than by deception followed by scolding.