Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan set down her pitcher of refreshment on top of her San Francisco coffee table picture book and noted to herself that Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century, possible the greatest president ever, used to be the governor of California.
“Did they know,” she wondered, “how lucky they were? Do they know how far they have fallen?” She tsk-tsk’ed and took a thoughtful sip from her pineapple and thumbed through the tome.
“But maybe San Francisco was regaining their senses,” she mused.
It was a landslide. That’s the important fact of San Francisco’s school-board recall election: There was nothing mixed or ambivalent about the outcome. Three members were resoundingly ejected from their jobs: 79% voted to oust Alison Collins, 75% to fire Gabriela López, the board president, and 72% to remove Faauuga Moliga, the vice president.
She smiled at the life-sized cut out of Reagan propped up against the living room wet bar in the Aviary II, the clever nickname she had given to her Upper East Side penthouse. She toasted the Gipper with her shy smile.
Warming up to her theme, Noonan continued muttering to herself,
It was a battle in the Democratic Party’s civil war between liberals and the progressive left. And it marks a continuation of the parents’ rebellion that surfaced in November in Virginia’s upset gubernatorial election.
Noonan had been to Virginia, but with the exception of an occasional postcard and her book, San Francisco remained a mystery. She took another thoughtful gulp from her pineapple before she replenished it from the pitcher. “Ahhh, nectar,” she muttered with some pleasure.
It is in the way of things that Democratic leaders in Congress won’t feel they have an excuse to crack down hard on the progressive wing of their party until the entire party loses big in the 2022 elections.
“Just like how that Californian Kevin McCarthy is cracking down on the Trumpers in the House,” she started to say, but then stopped, blushing as she looked at Ronnie, who seemed to nod. Flustered she continued.
But Democratic voters on the ground aren’t waiting for permission. They are taking a stick to wokeness whether the party’s leaders do or not.
“Woke is such an interesting word,” Noonan thought sleepily.
It did not help that just before the pandemic, in 2019, the board had famously turned to censorship. There was a big, colorful series of Depression-era frescoes in a local high school. They’d been there since the 1930s and were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration of the New Deal, a stylized depiction of the founding of America that included slaves and American Indians. The board decided it was racist, cruel, reductive; there was the implication it was right-wing art. In fact the frescoes were the work of a Russian immigrant to America, Victor Arnautoff, who was a communist and trying to bring attention to the cruelty present in some of America’s history. No matter, it was offensive, so the board decided to paint over the murals.
She was giggling maniacally now, and smiled beatifically at Ronnie, her heart swelling with pleasure. She loved her little chats with the boss more than just about anything. The room was swimming, but she leaned in to hear what Dutch had to say:
“Well, Peg, it’s not exactly the important work Our Party is doing: book banning and passing legislation to determine what can —and more importantly cannot— be taught, and then offering $10,000 bounties to sue teachers and entire school districts per each infraction for upsetting the parents of white kids, now is it?”
Fully awake now, Noonan’s hand automatically fluttered up to her ever-present pearl necklace, a gift from the great man himself.
(New Readers: The Further Adventures of Peggy Noonan is a sometimes feature of lo! many, many years where we parody the much-quoted Reagan hagiographer Peggy Noonan to try to understand the genesis of her Declarations column in the WSJ. We do not know if Noonan really has a San Francisco picture book, but to paraphrase the Great Writer herself, “Is it irresponsible to speculate? It would be irresponsible not to.” – Bacardi Lifetime Achievement Winner, Peggy Noonan, Wall St. Journal, April 2000.)