Peggy. Dear Peggy. Peggy—are you okay?
Peggy Noonan, a writer. More importantly, an American. More importantly, the owner of a life-sized—and lifelike—Ronald Reagan “real doll” (we presume). This year has been hard on her. This election—nasty business, is it not? This Trump. An uncultured man. A man lacking in Reagan’s easy charm, and grace, and magnetic sexual attraction.
A friend I’ll call Bill, a political veteran from the 1980s and ’90s, also had his Moment with his child, a 14-year-old daughter who is a budding history buff. He had never taken her to the Reagan Library, so last month they went. As she stood watching a video of Reagan speaking, he thought of Reagan and FDR, of JFK and Martin Luther King. His daughter, he realized, would probably never see political leaders of such stature and grace, though she deserved to. Her first, indelible political memories were of lower, grubbier folk. “Leaders with Reaganesque potential no longer go into politics—and why would they, with all the posturing and plasticity that it requires?”
This child shall never see a leader like Reagan. She is stuck with leaders like Barack Obama—a lowly sort, lacking a Hollywood pedigree and a gel of hair. Tragic, it is.
I was offended that those curiously quick to write essays about who broke the party were usually those who’d backed the policies that broke it. Lately conservative thinkers and journalists had taken to making clear their disdain for the white working class. I had actually not known they looked down on them. I deeply resented it and it pained me.
A writer less humble and respectful of the American working class than Peggy Noonan might say: Ronald Reagan is the one who created the policies that broke the working class. This is neither here nor there. This is positively rude. This is a symptom of the rudeness and utter incivility of this loathsome election cycle. Let us forget it. Let us move on.
Then for no reason—this is true, it just doesn’t sound it—I thought of an old Paul Simon song that had been crossing my mind, “The Boy in the Bubble.” I muted the TV, found the song on YouTube, and listened as I stared at the soundless mile of cars and the soundless demonstrators. As the lyrics came—“The way we look to a distant constellation / That’s dying in a corner of the sky / . . . Don’t cry baby / Don’t cry”—my eyes filled with tears. And a sob welled up and I literally put my hands to my face and sobbed, silently, for I suppose a minute.
Because my country is in trouble.
Because I felt anguish at all the estrangements.
Because some things that shouldn’t have changed have changed.
Because too much is being lost. Because the great choice in a nation of 320 million may come down to Crazy Man versus Criminal.
And yes, I know this is all personal, and not column-ish.
But that was my Moment.
Can someone go check on her? I would but I have work.