(Nantucket, Mar. 15) The wild wintry desolation of this small island is not everyone’s ideal for a seasonal getaway but nonetheless it is a supportive environment for thinking, reading and writing. Clutching a steaming mug of coffee at 5 AM and listening to the howling wind and the pounding surf one finds few excuses for failing to confront that old demon “Writers Block”.
For reading I chose as companions George Orwell and Harry Truman.
Reading Orwell’s Collected Essays from the Nineteen Thirties incisively indicting the Western Democracies for their confusion and moral cowardice in failing to stand up to Fascism, one is struck by the similarity to those same Democracies today in their flaccid equivocations and rationalizations in the face of Islamo-Fascism.
In his memorable account of his participation in the Spanish Civil War Homage to Catalonia Orwell penetratingly explored the reality of totalitarianism and also the peculiar inability of the left-wing mindset to see Stalin’s Russia as the nightmare state it was-- themes he brilliantly developed in his classic novels Animal Farm and 1984.
David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography Truman superbly portrays an often misunderstood President.
Truman’s Presidency is a startling illustration of the stunning volatility of the American public’s political temper.
Suddenly thrust into the Oval Office by the death of Franklin Roosevelt, Truman’s approval ratings for the remainder of World War II were higher than any President before or since. Yet within a year after war’s end a rising sea of labor and political discord utterly collapsed those approval ratings and resulted in a Republican sweep of the 1946 elections. So dismal was Truman’s repute that both left and right of the Democratic Party exerted themselves mightily to deny him the nomination for 1948. He would be saved only by their inability to agree on a substitute.
Yet once nominated, Truman almost single-handedly waged perhaps the most remarkable of all Presidential campaigns leading to the greatest upset in American political history.
However despite this incredible achievement and heroic leadership at the outset of the Cold War, Truman’s approval ratings soon plummeted to depths lower even than those of George W. Bush. Largely because of a sour public mood over the inconclusive Korean War, Truman left office as one of our most reviled Presidents.
So what does all of this tell us about the plight of today’s Republican Party ?
First, the present ideological divide in our society is actually less polarized than in the 1930s when both Communists and Fascists often held giant rallies in Madison Square Garden and political vilification far surpassed anything we know today.
Second, as Truman’s fortunes illustrate the absolute roller-coaster like swings in public opinion is nothing new. After every decisive election the winners gleefully predict oblivion for the losers and unending political success for themselves.
Republicans, take heart! Had a mere four per cent of the electorate who actually chose Obama (53%) instead selected McCain (46%)- and absent the September economic meltdown at least that number would have- today President McCain would be ramming tax and spending cuts through a panicked Democratic Congress regularly derided as “clueless” and “leaderless”.
Far more than 4% of the electorate--Bush voters who jumped to Obama-- are awakening to the enormity of the radical social and economic transformation that is clearly the Democrats goal. Obama remains a skilled dissembler, but the cat was out of the bag when he weakly relinquished the main agenda to Nancy and Harry.
Obama’s approval ratings are about the same as those of George W. Bush at the same point in his Presidency and much lower then those of Jimmy Carter. This “honeymoon” is waning rapidly-- no surprise given the massive assault on the economic fundamentals of our still “center-right” nation. Tax breaks for those who don’t even pay taxes, rewarding bad behavior in the mortgage market, and looting the Treasury on behalf of every left-wing special interest ultimately will not “play well in Peoria”. Even those lacking health insurance are just 15% of the population. While the other 85% are already suspecting Obama will make their care worse.
Given the stark threat the Democratic program poses to current and future generations Americans hoping for Obama to fail are merely hoping our country will succeed.
In a dark hour for him Harry Truman said:” Forget the news liars, the pols, and the pundits. In the end the people see through them all”.
Our history and some hopeful current signs suggest this may still be true.
------------------------ William Moloney’s columns have appeared in the Wall St. Journal, USA Today, Washington Post, Washington Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Baltimore Sun, Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News.