William F. Buckley, Jr., the founder of modern American conservatism, once said he would like to see almost the entire Senate in Republican hands. But he would reserve one spot, he mentioned Ted Kennedy, for a leftist Democrat just to remind voters who and what they were. Well, these days, we’re getting a helluva reminder.
Why? Because voters are fickle. Because they overplay their feelings and don’t think. Because they have the political memories of gnats. Because their loyalties are seldom motivated by logic or reason but mostly predicated upon their subconscious fears, irrational hatreds, and personal prejudices. And oh yeah, cult of personality is a big motivator. Did I mention feelings? Welcome to democracy.
This is the price we pay for representative government of the majority, though thank God the power that majority wields is limited. How else can we explain national voting switches from Obama to Trump, then essentially back to Obama again in all but name? Given the very different ideologies that each of the two represent, you mean to tell me that voters changed their basic political assumptions in four years? Utter bosh.
And no, it’s not because Trump made such a hash of it. In fact, his administration did quite well in most things. The rub is in assuming it was an ideological change because that would denote an attention to ideas. American voters have no such thing. The about face had to do with personal perception and the evanescence of popular political power. The foremost of the personal aspect was the debacle of the Covid response. It affected much, as presidential policy was felt in every home and in day to day activities. People took it very personally.
The former president listened to his establishment doctors over his level headed economic advisors, a big mistake. Thus were many thrown out of work and businesses destroyed. That’s a legitimate hit on Trump and people were more than thoroughly ticked off. However, does it justify a wholesale change in national direction? Of course not. Covid was but one mistake in a usually competent administration. It lowered their grade from an A plus to an A minus. Yes, there was Trump and his foibles. His demeanor, loutish at times, could be hard to take, especially by swing voters. Does it mean we take the country down a wholly different road because the president can be an oaf ? Why should it?
We’ve had jerks and boors as presidents before. FDR was a dilettante. Kennedy was a sickly drug addict with a pathological libido. Johnson may have been the biggest jerk ever to inhabit the White House. Nixon was a brilliant loner with a chip on his shoulder the size of Gibraltar. Carter was a mean little man of no appreciable talent. Clinton was a dishonest voluptuary. Obama thinks he’s the holy messiah. Trump, see above. And the current guy? A confused robot. Yet some of these men were decent presidents, or at least had their good points. Except, of course, for Obama. Thus an intelligent voter, familiar with some aspect of American history, mostly discounts their feelings towards the presidential personality factor. Problem is, we have precious few intelligent voters.
Which brings us back to the beginning. If Joe Biden serves as a reminder, and in 2022 and 2024 the American people come back to their senses and elect vast numbers of Republicans, then the question should be asked: Why is the reminder, and the hopefully following redemption, necessary so soon after eight years of the Obama reminder? The answer is, it isn’t. But voters are too unenlightened, and that’s being generous, to see that. All they can understand are their precious feelings. Well, coit their feelings. I’d prefer competent government.