The other day, in the Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan gave advice to her Republican Party. What is their job, she asked? “It is to be sane,” she wrote. “It is to stand against excess. It is to put itself forward as worthy of leadership. It has to be centrist in its mood and attitudes, and in its internal understanding of itself.”
It was nice piece and it deserves reading in its entirety here. But it’s just not going to happen. Republicans have been successful by playing to the very worst instincts of their voters. Rather than appealing to the better angels of anyone’s nature, they win by pandering to the devil within. It’s their formula for success and they have every intention of riding it back to power in the mid-terms. And, seriously people, is any party led by Donald Trump capable of sanity?
But, of course, Noonan’s prescription to be the party of “the big center” could just as easily be followed by the Democrats. Only they won’t do it either. That’s because the influentials in my party are just as captivated by their own politics of resentment. The Democratic Party wants you to think about how you, or your ancestors, have been wronged by America and by some of your fellow Americans. They want you to simmer in that resentment and to demand your pound of flesh.
The truth is that virtually nobody is all good or all bad (Trump himself being the exception to that rule). We each have noble and petty parts in our souls. The best politicians and parties and movements bring out the former; the worst the latter. Politics is a keyboard and we can play the sweet or the sour notes. Right now everybody seems to be in a minor key.
This is not to say that Noonan isn’t on to something, though. I think there is a case to be made that there exists a plurality, if not a majority, of Americans who just want a sense of normalcy and decency and stability. They’re turned off by the egomania and vulgarity of Trumpism while they also reject the navel-gazing whining of the woke left.
Jerry Seinfeld had a long-run with a TV series that he (or maybe it was Larry David) described as “a show about nothing.” It was outrageously popular and remains so in reruns.
So, what if we had a party about nothing in particular? No strong ideological bent of any kind. No passionate beliefs. No sweeping agenda to remake America. No nutty conspiracy theories. No eccentric academic retelling of the basic narrative of our history. No political revolutions. No big, bold systemic changes. Nothing defined as a crisis or a trauma. Nothing we can’t handle.
Just sanity. Calm. Reason. Keep the lights on and the machine tuned up. When you need a tweak here or a little oil there, take care of it. If there’s any change needed keep it steady and incremental. Let people get on with their lives with as little drama as possible coming from their leaders.
My serious point here — and I am more than half serious about this — is that I have a hunch that this kind of governance would be overwhelmingly popular with the American people right now. I sense a national yearning for boredom.
Joe Biden’s fundamental mistake was to believe that, with the slimmest of margins in Congress, he had some kind of mandate for an historic agenda. But as moderate Democratic Rep. Abigail Spanberger put it so well, “he was elected to be normal.”
So with Biden’s big plans now mostly dead, let’s have a big new dose of normal. Big, bold, sweeping, breath-taking normalcy. Wouldn’t that be nice for awhile?
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