Peggy Noonan is the dotty, slightly out-of-touch grandma of the Wall Street Journal editorial page. She shows up on the Sunday morning chat shows, her voice soft and breathy, a little sing-songy, offering conservatives a lap to climb up on, while she coos gauzy, comforting platitudes. Famous for coining the phrases “a kinder, gentler nation,” and calling forth “a thousand points of light,” she also attempted to calm GOP fears during the 2012 election, predicting a Romney win because of the optimism she sensed a rallies and saw more Romney lawn signs while driving through suburban communities. Given the awful track record of other right-leaning pundits, she has kept her job, continuing do dole out optimism scented like home-baked cookies while scary uncles such as Charles Krauthammer darkly warned of Tr**p’s deficiencies and the ranting brats of Breitbart were undisciplined second cousins, running through the halls, gleefully knocking over display cases.
But in Friday’s Journal, she’s concerned. Before the election, she wrote “Imagine A Sane Donald Trump,” a nostrum as syrupy as patent medicine, and nearly as effective. Sure, he’s nuts, but look at his good side:
…his broad policy assertions, or impulses, suggested he understood that 2008 and the years just after (the crash and the weak recovery) had changed everything in America, and that the country was going to choose, in coming decades, one of two paths
Those paths: the Yellow Brick Road of moderate populism (Tr**p), or being left in the forest of socialism, where a witch who looked suspiciously like Hilly Clinton would toss you in a caldron of universal healthcare and relative stability.
Il Douché, she discerned (always a dangerous word in Noonan’s hands) understood what she understood, that America wanted government
supportive and encouraging of business but willing to harness government to alleviate the distress of the abandoned working class and the anxious middle class; strong on defense but neither aggressive nor dreamy in world affairs; realistic and nonradical on social issues while unmistakably committed to protecting the freedoms of the greatest cohering force in America, its churches; and aware that our nation’s immigration reality was a scandal created by both parties, and must be redressed.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it—except for the church part. While I’m not as dismissive as religion as Bill Maher or the late Christopher Hitchens (I love gospel music too much for that, and the food is usually pretty good, too) the last forty years has shown the power of religion to be divisive.
But he’s disappointed her. Like an indulgent grandma she was willing to overlook his twitter-storms, his lack of politesse, because he was fundamentally right. It took the heath-care debate for her to realize this.
And what was it that tipped her off? “He doesn’t understand his base (nevermind that , according to some Republican legislators he met, he didn’t under the bill).
But she doesn’t understand Tr**p’s base either. Because he doesn’t have a base, per se. He has bases, with different desires. The working class voters in West Virginia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, the bloc who put him over the top, electorally, saw him as a right-win Roosevelt, a man of wealth (if no taste) who had the common touch, and would work for their interests, regardless of the fact that he was a Reality TV version of a billionaire, a serial scam artist who had not previously shown the slightest understanding of their plight. But the Breitbart true believers have no interest in helping anyone. The site’s stories cheer on the “Freedom” Caucus, and even a short time reading the site’s comment section is enervating. It’s an unkempt nursery where the smell of soiled diapers is overwhelming, anyone showing even the slightest doubt about Tr**p is booed down as a troll, Alex Jones and Sean Hannity are lauded as truth-telling deep thinkers, Sarah Palin and Louis Gohmert are looked to for political guidance, and the conservative bona fides of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are rudely questioned and branded as RINOs. It’s aroom filled with tinpot revolutionaries, a mob whose only interest was upending the furniture, tearing the house down, salting the fields, with no interest in rebuilding. They view themselves to be potential tenants of Galt’s Gulch, but irony is that, in Randian terms, Steve Bannon is their Ellsworth Toohey, the mooching architecture critic in The Fountainhead who demands the mob take down the flawed tabloid publisher, Gail Wynand, after his paper supports the hero, Howard Roark, who selfishly blows up a housing project.
But for Noonan, their biggest problem is that…they’re not Peggy Noonan. In speaking to them, she realizes
…(we) brought different experiences to the table. I had worked in a White House. I had personally observed its deeper realities and requirements. Their sense of how a White House works came from news shows and reading, and also from TV shows such as “House of Cards” and “Scandal.” Those are dark, cynical shows that more or less suggest anyone can be president. I don’t mean that in the nice way. Those programs don’t convey how a White House is an organism demanding of true depth, of serious people, real professionals.
She worries that Tr**p, when faced with a real crisis (“Maybe the mad boy-king of North Korea will decide it’s a good day to see if his missiles can hit Los Angeles. Maybe a sleeper cell of terrorists will decide it’s a good day to show it’s woke,” she frets) Trump will react like the spoiled child he is. It’s certainly a real concern, but she worked for the Bush family, who gave us W. And that administration. W, perhaps even more than Reagan, let people believe that the idiot spoiled children of the powerful can occupy the White House. Instead of placing wagging her finger at her ignorant children, Noonan might want to look inward.