Anatomy of a Column
eggy Noonan was sober as a judge (and by that we mean Judge Jeanine) when preparing the rituals profane and arcane. Noonan was troubled by the state of the Republican Party and wanted to call up the spirit of Ronald Wilson Reagan, the greatest president of the last half of the last century to have a chat. Just thinking of him made her blush. Blush warmly, that is.
She closed the heavy drapes in her boudoir and put out the sacred relics: a brown cordovan she had pinched on moving-out day, a bottle of Just For Men black, and of course she removed the pearl necklace given to her by the great man himself. Noonan dimmed the lights, lit a few Ralph Lauren candles and unveiled the crystal ball, which was actually an empty rum bottle, but one made do.
She filled her mug with sacred Mai Tai and quaffed deeply. She hummed a few scales to warm up.
She addressed the empty bottle:
“Eenie-meanie, Jelly Beanie,” and giggled. But it had worked before.
Her beloved Ronnie did not appear. She took a thoughtful sip, and decided that she should tell the Spirit Realm her concerns, and maybe Ronnie would show up.
“It is still a matter of belief among Mr. Trump’s followers that he was a transformational figure in the Reagan mold.
Noonan choked a bit saying that aloud, but soldiered on:
Of the differences between them — fidelity to the Constitution, seriousness about and knowledge of the issues, and personal dignity among them — the most obvious is this: Reagan transformed the party without splitting it. He changed its nature while uniting it. He took a party that had grown vague and formless and, to put it in broadest terms, split between New England Yankees and Southern California right-wingers and blended them together.
There was some vague mist forming in the room. Noonan acknowledged the mist with a brief nod and pressed on with her summary.
[Ronnie] made what endured for two generations: a united conservative party. He didn’t kill the liberal New Englanders; he blended them in. He didn’t kill the Birchers; he allowed them to blend in as if they had no recourse but to join him.
The mists were madly spinning around the table, starting to take human form. Emboldened and encouraged that soon she would be in the presence of her beloved Dutch, Noonan continued.
[Reagan] did this in part through temperamental moderation — he was a person you could cut deals with, who’d understand your starting principles. But he did it primarily through electoral force — two historic landslides, including a 49-state sweep. Every politician realized: You better jump aboard the Reagan Express because your own voters already have.
Noonan took a necessary gulp of Mai Tai, as all this talking did leave one parched.
Mr. Trump had no interest in unifying, never saw its purpose — never won a landslide or attracted broad public support. He broke the party with an adolescent glee. See what I destroyed! But he never built anything that would last in its place.
“O, spirits, give me guidance,” Noonan wailed into the mist waving her pineapple spear over her head, which then slipped and fell into her décolletage, and the mist replied coming out of Noonan’s own mouth:
In a populist movement especially, it’s the populace that has to turn… Candidates for president are notoriously bad at judging their own motives and prospects. They’re gamblers looking to win; gamblers tell themselves stories… Mr. Trump undid a party establishment nobody liked, stomped it and threw it out the window. Acknowledge that.
“I will,” Noonan replied in her own voice. “What else?”
The spirit should be “acknowledge, don’t avoid.” Republicans can’t win on their issues if they don’t do it together. The independents of America, the suburbs, the moderates by thinking and temperament — they won’t vote for Mr. Trump again, if they ever did. His numbers are sinking; he can’t put wins on the board. If both sides don’t drop their anger and resentment, they’ll wind up living together in Loserville, like the Hatfields and McCoys spending all their time shooting at each other from behind boulders while the Democratic Party thrives.
“Yes! Yes! Yes! We need to return to the Reagan principles, unite the party as in the old days!”
“Appear, Spirit, So That I May Partake of Your Wisdom!” Noonan shrieked.
And in a flash-bang, the mist parted out stepped Reagan’s campaign advisor Lee Atwater with his beloved dog whistle.
[Declarations: Only the Voters Can Crush Donald Trump – by Peggy Noonan W$J 10 Dec. 2022]
(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 heavy drapes in her boudoir, 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.)