Two Americas: Peggy Noonan Sees Old People
Our girlfriend Peggy Noonan has been more enjoyable than usual this year, as a tragically drawn-out Democratic primary battle provided her with endless opportunities to touch herself while Barack Obama spoke pretty things, and to then guiltily wash her hands and realize that Obama was, in fact, the Democrat and not Ronald Reagan and, indeed, kind of "multicultural," if you get our drift. But all that tortured eloquence has vanished from Peggy's column, because the oxycontin/vodka cocktail hit hard as soon as she finished typing the relatively sane setup of today's "Declarations."
Peggy starts with the obvious observations: McCain is a terrible speech-giver-of-er, Obama has a happy following that is growing, McCain can't even read a teleprompter, Obama will win the election, etc., wrapping up with this final bit of setup for that "even Larry King could do it" reliable gimmick of the op-ed column, an unordered list:
But 2008 will also prove in part to be a decisive political contest between the Old America and the New America. Between the thing we were, and the thing we have been becoming for 40 years or so. (I'm not referring here to age. Some young Americans have Old America heads and souls; some old people are all for the New.)
Mr. McCain is the Old America, of course; Mr. Obama the New.
Okay, fine. Old/New. So the way you do that, IF YOU'RE NOT TOO HIGH TO THINK, is just a simple "Old America: Loves Whitey. New America: Loves Wheaties" kind of thing (but maybe it would make sense). Not for our Peggy! She changes the whole style of the list with each bullshit "example." Grandma's fucking with the Microsoft Word preferences again!
And, well, we're kind of at a loss because this is basically finding a scribbled note in the street by the homeless shelter:
Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it. Old America: Politics is a duty. New America: Politics is life.
The Old America: Religion is good. The New America: Religion is problematic. The Old: Smoke 'em if you got 'em. The New: I'll sue.
Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like "personal honor," of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles.
Mr. Obama is the new world, which is marked in part by doubt as to the excellence of the old. It prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.
Both Old and New America honor sacrifice, but in the Old America it was more essential, more needed for survival both personally (don't buy today, save for tomorrow) and in larger ways.
The Old and New define sacrifice differently. An Old America opinion: Abjuring a life as a corporate lawyer and choosing instead community organizing, a job that does not pay you in money but will, if you have political ambitions, provide a base and help you win office, is not precisely a sacrifice. Political office will pay you in power and fame, which will be followed in time by money (see Clinton, Bill). This has more to do with timing than sacrifice. In fact, it's less a sacrifice than a strategy.
A New America answer: He didn't become a rich lawyer like everyone else—and that was a sacrifice! Old America: Five years in a cage—that's a sacrifice!
Her "conclusion," obviously, is that Peggy Noonan is 900 years old and totally, officially, legally senile. She will now begin the journey that will lead her into the sunset of her life, the end.
Brave New World? [Declarations/WSJ]