The following is a guest post by Richard Lowery, Jr.
I remember once reading an article describing how prominent past events are reinterpreted as contemporary conditions change and that historical milestones are reduced or increased in perceived significance with the passage of time. I forgot who wrote the essay, but I think it was either Jonah Goldberg, Niall Ferguson or the comedian Carrot Top. The unrecalled writer provided as examples the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and 1932 Saudi Arabian monarchy’s promulgation of Wahhabism.
If you were to ask the average New York Times editorial board member 30 years ago to comment on the 1917 Bolshevik Revolutionary Debutante Ball, then you would have been instructed to regard it as a highly prominent galactic event – almost equaling the birth of Margaret Sanger. But with Marxist-Leninism having subsequently been flushed down the historical toilet, it can now be viewed as a nightmarish cul de sac that will thankfully grow more distant in the rearview mirror. (1) Sane human beings that are equipped with neuron synapses that properly fire electrical signals between their two ears no longer believe in Marxist principles a’ la Das Kapital; exceptions include hold outs skulking about American college faculty lounges, a couple of U.S. Catholic nuns and one French Parisian mime that performs on the Pont de l’ Alma entrance side to the Luxemburg gardens. (If you are ever in Paris – ask the mime to do his interpretation of how the World’s workers will unite to control the means of production. You may not agree with it, but it is a brilliant performance.)
Conversely, until recently the Saudi Arabian Royal brain trust’s 1932 proclamation – that true believers should be adhering to the Wahhabism Thing with all its fanatical accoutrements – was viewed as having the same impact as the Des Moines, Iowa Rotary Club’s November 1932 meeting minutes. But with Islamic nut jobs currently coming out of the woodwork beheading scores of infidels, blowing up cities, advocating for an Islamic world conquest to establish a planetary caliphate and what not, the 1932 proclamation has been moved up a bunch of notches on the importance scale.
Carrot Top: Historically Insightful? I can’t remember.
On the morning of Election Day, Tuesday, November 8, 2016 on or about 6:00am Eastern Time the smart people thought that the Republican Party was out of date, out of touch and out the door. On the following morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2016 on or about 6:00am Eastern Time the smart people thought that the Republican Party was out of date, out of touch but had taken over the control room and had barricaded itself behind the control room door. During every election season we are told that this election is the most important election ever with far reaching impacts ranging from influencing sunspot development in Andromeda Galaxy to snack food consumption in the Outer Hebrides. So is 2016 – in the long run – going to be 1917 or 1932? Honest people who do not reside in rubber rooms and wear straight-jackets to Sunday brunch should admit that they really don’t know. It depends a lot on Mr. Trump. Here are some opinions of mine to factor in as we stir our pots of prognosticatory bouillabaisse.
The Tight 2016 Election Factor:
It was a close one. There have been four other U.S. elections where the winner has won the Electoral College, but did not win the popular vote and they are listed below. As a courtesy, please note that I have underlined and highlighted the election winner in a blue color that has a shade somewhere between a Midnight Blue and Navy Blue. The hue is lighter than an Oxford Blue, but too dark to be considered Zaffre. And no way is it Sapphire Blue!
1824: John Quincy Adams vs. Andrew Jackson
1876: Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel J. Tilden
1888: Benjamin Harrison vs. Grover Cleveland
2000: George Bush vs. Al Gore
None of them were transformative in nature. Two of them saw the losing candidate win the next election. (Jackson 1828 and Cleveland 1892) Razor thin edges present challenges to do big enduring things because every cat in your corner needs to consistently – over long periods of time – be herded in your desired direction and since you do not have many cats to spare in your feline inventory, a couple of renegade cats can cause you to cough up fur balls. Too many fur balls and you ball up your ability to make a long term impact.
The Demographic Factor:
Which brings up demographics and how they allegedly doom the GOP. Perhaps this issue was over-stated this time around, but at the moment they still do not favor Mr. Trump and a little higher turn out here and there among the Democratic Party faithful and we would now be talking about the enduring legacy of the Clinton Family and how their power allows them to join the five families of the New York Mafia. Andrew Jackson – the populist – ultimately rode the crest of long term 1830’s demographic changes that favored his party. Meanwhile, Mr. Trump – the populist – encounters demographic changes – at least as understood now – that do not favor his party. Mr. Trump has turned many rules of thumb on their heads. Here is another one he will need to upend.
The Hillary Revulsion Factor:
Which brings up Mrs. Clinton. She stinks. A lot of people think she stinks. People that voted for her thinks she stinks. Even John Podesta thinks she stinks. According to the WikiLeaks goons Mr. Podesta said that Mrs. Clinton smelled like “cabbage, urine and farts” which are not three winning attributes for any candidate. There were large groups of people that held their nose and voted for Mr. Trump and not because they liked him. It was because on a pungency scale of 1 to 10, he rated an 11, but Mrs. Clinton rated a 14. Voting for someone and then throwing up after you emerge from the voting booth is not the recipe for a long term relationship. In fact, I hereby declare that if the bland but apparently honest Democrat Evan Bayh – who got trounced in the Indiana senatorial race – had been the Democratic candidate for President, he would have won.
None of this is to say that Mr. Trump cannot be transformative; in fact there appears to be some post-election energy generating in Republican and some conservative quarters. But grinding down some of his harder edges might go a long way in supplementing the Trumpian ranks and as a starter I recommend that the Trump Transition Team hire the Clinton minion who used a hammer to smash Mrs. Clinton’s BlackBerry phones to perform the same act with Mr. Trump’s Twitter devices. My dart throw guess is that 30% of American voters view Mr. Trump as a Satanic Nixon with Hitlerian tendencies who dines on live baby seals for supper. About 20% don’t like him but are mad at the Democratic Party for forcing them the pull the lever for Mrs. Clinton. Around 20% voted for Mr. Trump, but were then compelled to go home to take a shower. That leaves roughly 30% who are all in and have signed up for Cult Trump. He is going to need more people in his corner to give him staying power. More people means a bigger tent which means more compromises which means risking dampening the enthusiasm of his base. Yet Mr. Trump’s gravity defying Teflon suit has worked wonders so far…
Most events are beyond the control of a U.S. President, but they can take advantages of opportunities and situations to “make” their own luck. Much will depend on whether Mr. Trump truly possesses Reaganesque strategic judgement and Rooseveltian political navigation skills as to how history views him: Will it be like the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution or the 1932 Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Proclamation?
Ultimately, we may need to get Carrot Top’s opinion.
Richard J. Lowery Jr.
- One recalls the inane Lincoln Steffens remark upon his return from a visit to the USSR during the era of the Stalinist genocidal purges and collectivist economic ruin: “I have seen the future and it works.” Poor Mr. Steffens, people like me are always bringing up this quote when we want to illustrate the sophisticated blockheadedness of our intellectual betters.