Peggy Noonan Out-Logicked By This Tiny Adorable Monkey!
The knock at the door came while she was indisposed, which in her case meant lying on the floor of her bathroom trying to reach the painkiller that had dropped from her palsied and bandaged fingers and rolled under her clawfoot tub. Had this not been a bad enough week for Sister Peggy Noonan of the Order of the Demerol Escapade? Her search for a new houseboy to replace her much-beloved whathisname – Mantel? Mint Julep? – had yet to bear fruit. The frame where her beloved Robert Taft portrait had for so long consoled her with the great Senator's very Republican gaze before finally self-immolating under the weight of her insipid maundering taunted her with its emptiness. And to top it off, she had slashed her fingers to ribbons trying to pry open several cans of sardines during a late-night raid on her understocked larder. Infernal electric can openers! Invented by communists or possibly Sarah Lawrence students, as if there were a difference!
And then, the knock. She stumbled to her front door, slid the bolt with her elbow, and then wrenched the doorknob with her teeth. Slowly, slowly, the door swung open, but now her teeth really hurt.
“Good morning, Ms. Noonan!” piped the cheery voice. She blinked, startled at the sight of the capuchin monkey wearing a bowtie and swinging in front of her, his little monkey hands grasping the lintel above the door.
“I’m Talbot!” the monkey said. Then he swung himself forward, did a back flip, and landed at her feet, arms outstretched in a sort of ta-da gesture.
“But you can call me Ronald if you like! Your bosses at the Wall Street Journal told me about your horrible accident and sent me down here to be your stenographer for this week’s column. Since you can’t type, you can just dictate your column to me and I’ll type it out myself on that trusty vintage Underwood you love so much!”
With that, the capuchin monkey scooted off down the hall. Peggy, blinking, still unconvinced she was conscious, followed.
“Oh yeah, that’s a beauty!” The monkey had found the Underwood on the floor in her study, where she had placed it so she could type while lying down. He jumped up on the carriage and began pecking at the keys. “They sure don’t make ‘em like this anymore, do they? And America used to build things, you know? Great things! Solid things that lasted! Back when we were great! Anyway, are you ready to write?”
Well, she had been thinking about America, as she often did. And she had some things to say for the audience of captains of industry and sober-minded retirees in Connecticut who still read the WSJ. What the heck! She’d written under weirder circumstances!
The most heartening thing for Republicans in the past few weeks’ primaries, what carries the most long-term significance, was pointed out by the political scientist Yascha Mounk: A clear majority of GOP primary voters in Pennsylvania supported either a Muslim (Mehmet Oz, who has 31%) or a black woman (Kathy Barnette, 25%). The Republican Party “is surprisingly good at building a multi-faith and multi-racial coalition,” Mr. Mounk tweeted. Democrats had best take note.
“Mrs. Noonan? If I may, a small suggestion?” Talbot-but-call-me-Ronald had hopped off the typewriter and onto the edge of her coffee table to stare at her with his adorable capuchin monkey eyes. “Do you really want to take this one primary as a bellwether? After all, Dr. Oz was a television celebrity long before he decided to run for the Senate in a state he doesn’t live in, and we know from recent history that being a television celebrity while spouting empty-headed nonsense from an alternate universe can take you a long way! As for Kathy Barnette, Republicans always say they judge someone on ideology, not skin color, so why is this weird since she has a lot of crazy rightwing beliefs? She marched on the Capitol on January 6, for gosh sakes. If she had tried to run as a Democrat, obviously she would have gotten crushed by the white guy they nominated not because they are huge racists but because he’s not an insane person who thinks Antifa conspired with the Italian intelligence service to use satellites to hack voting machines, or whatever weirdness these people are on about this week. Aren’t you just engaging in the sort of identity politics Republicans always accuse Democrats of engaging in?”
I’m not sure it’s the party that’s building the coalitions and I’m not sure they’re coalitions exactly, but something new is being built, and it involves the widening of the Republican Party in terms of who wants to join and whom its voters will support. This shift began in 2016 and appears to be accelerating.
“Perhaps it’s worth considering what happened in 2016, and just what nihilistic beliefs seem to have seized hold of the Republican Party, and whether it’s good that more people are flocking to its illiberal, anti-democratic shores? And maybe we could also look up what social and political scientists normally mean by the term ‘accelerationism’ in a political context? No? Okay, just a suggestion! Say, I’m thirsty, do you have anything to drink?”
If Mr. Trump had picked David McCormick in Pennsylvania, we wouldn’t be in recount territory; he would have won comfortably.
“I don’t mean to be a fussbudget, Ms. Noonan.” The monkey had perched atop her bar cart and was busily unscrewing the tops of the crystal decanters of various liqueurs she kept there. “But doesn’t that point sort of contradict what you said a couple of paragraphs ago about the Pennsylvania primary? If David McCormick had won comfortably, that means a lot fewer people would have cast those votes for the Muslim and the Black woman that you were going on about. If McCormick, a white man, had won because of Trump’s endorsement, then all your earlier triumphalism patting voters on the back for voting for two darker-skinned people would be null and void and pointless. Say, you know what would go great with this liqueur? Do you maybe have some nuts or some other food? Even some of those little cocktail onions? No? Just asking!”
But there’s another, larger mood shift going on, and to me it’s the real headline. Something is changing among Trump supporters. It’s a kind of psychological moving forward that is not quite a break, not an abandonment but an acknowledgment of a new era. In Florida recently, talking with Trump supporters, what I picked up is a new distance.
“Geez, I don’t know, lady.” Talbot-but-call-me-Ronald hopped off the bar cart, landed awkwardly, and fell over on his side. “Florida? Have you seen what’s been going on there lately? Writers have made long careers out of chronicling its unique insanities. Just the name has been a national punchline among political observers for decades now. I dunno, I just think I’d try to find a more diverse example than Florida. The humidity makes those people weird.”
For [Trump] once, it came down to slogans (“America first”) and now it’s all grievance (“stop the steal”) Beyond that it’s—what? … It seems to me at least two-thirds of the base is in agreement on traditional Republican policy -- taxes should be lower rather than higher, regulation too. Spending? The general view is “Hold where we are or cut but don’t go crazy.” They are for cultural normality and stability as opposed to lability and extremism. They want these things advanced through the party. They are serious about policy.
“I hate to tell you this, Ms. Noonan.” The monkey was crawling along the floor towards her beloved Underwood, a line of drool trailing from his mouth across the parquet. “But it’s always been about grievance. Even the words ‘America First’ were an expression of grievance. And people’s ideas of ‘cultural normality’ differ widely, but none of them is '25 percent of the people voting for Kathy Barnette.'”
What will be interesting as this evolves is what proportion of Trump supporters really do want to win for serious reasons and will make the compromises victory entails.
The monkey lay curled up by the typewriter, snoring with a volume and timbre that seemed way out of proportion to his adorable tiny body. She would have to push through her poor injured hands and type that last part herself. And she made a mental note to tell her editors to tighten up their monkey recruitment. She wasn't exactly asking them to type Shakespeare here.