November 8 2012
City Journal has an excellent postmortem on the election just-completed. I share with Nicole Gelinas the experience of hearing celebrations in the neighborhood Tuesday night once outcome became inescapable.
This quote from Myron Magnet’s contribution won’t do much by way of cheering you up—but it’ll help you focus (as if you aren’t already!) on the magnitude of what is at stake:
Culture changes policy; policy changes culture; and so the wheel of history turns. This is one of those moments when you can see it move. America’s traditional culture of self-reliant striving, of taming the wilderness, of limiting government from interfering with our own pursuit of happiness as we individually define it threatens to give way to a belief that our past and its values, from the heroic Founding onward, is a record of folly, vice, and misery, just as the British came to feel shame at their magnificent history.
We are coming to care more about the victims—ever more broadly defined—than the successful, now assumed to be mere beneficiaries of injustice or worse. We are withdrawing from international leadership, disarming (understandably enough, perhaps) after a decade or more of inept foreign policy and timid generalship, guided by an idea of proportionality in warfare that has led us to act as if we were not the most powerful nation on earth, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We have become sentimental about nature, as if it were not red in tooth and claw, requiring us to master, cultivate, and use it—and no less sentimental about human nature, mistaking evil for misunderstanding or for justified resentment that a little compromise can dispel.
Decades of teaching in the universities, the schools, even the kindergartens, along with all the lessons of Big Bird, Mister Rogers, and Oprah Winfrey, have made these habits of mind and heart pervasive—but fortunately not yet universal—in our culture. And President Obama is the incarnation of those habits in policy.
He is very small, you might say, to carry such freight. But that is the point: he is small, and he threatens to make us smaller.
We must soldier on.