Let’s have a lit­tle per­spec­tive, please

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY WES­LEY PRU­DEN

Woe is us. But next time, the woe will be for the other guys. Keep­ing that in mind is the se­cret of sur­viv­ing the morn­ing af­ter.

Los­ing an elec­tion al­ways hurts; win­ning hurts the other guys, which is why win­ning is so sweet. This one hurts con­ser­va­tives a lot, and it’s par­tic­u­larly painful for those with un­re­al­is­tic great ex­pec­ta­tions.

Pes­simists abound. Rep. Ron Paul, who holds the North Amer­i­can fran­chise for pes­simism, says we no longer have to worry about the “fis­cal cliff” be­cause we al­ready lie in the rocks and weeds at the bot­tom of Grue­some Gulch. Rep. John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House who promised de­fi­antly on elec­tion eve to hang tough on the Repub­li­can mantra of “no new taxes” even if the pres­i­dent were to be re-elected, now sounds not so sure.

Some of the more prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tive pun­dits are on their way to New York in search of a build­ing high enough to jump out of. Rush Lim­baugh went to bed on elec­tion night “think­ing we had lost the coun­try, I don’t know how else you look at this.” Sean Han­nity told his Fox News au­di­ence that he wouldn’t suc­cumb to de­pres­sion, but it looks to him like Amer­ica is “no longer the cen­ter-right coun­try that it once was” and “has been con­di­tioned to be an en­ti­tle­ment so­ci­ety.” If that’s not de­pres­sion, it’s a rea­son­able fac­sim­ile of it. When Ann Coul­ter, the pro­lific au­thor and pun­dit who writes ex­clu­sively in pur­ple ink, told talk-show host­ess Laura In­gra­ham that the na­tion is now in­ter­ested only in hand­outs: “There is no hope.”

Miss In­gra­ham told her: “Pep up; move for­ward, girl.” Good ad­vice. It’s easy for any­one to be mis­led by the me­dia, whose pa­tron saint is Chicken Lit­tle. The me­dia cover pol­i­tics the way tele­vi­sion “jour­nal­ists” cover the weather: all panic, all the time. They can’t help it; it’s all they know. The cov­er­age of­ten re­minds me of my de­vout grand­mother, be­yond el­derly when she called me in tears one day many years ago to tell me that “God is dead. They just an­nounced it on the tele­vi­sion.”

We’ve read obit­u­ar­ies for the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and philoso­phies be­fore. The Repub­li­can Party was doomed to an un­mourned grave af­ter LBJ dis­patched Barry Gold­wa­ter in 1964; eight years later Richard Nixon won 49 states, and the Republicans and Democrats traded places in obliv­ion. Jimmy Carter was the au­thor of Demo­cratic re­nais­sance in 1976, but the re­nais­sance faded in just four years, and Ron­ald Rea­gan won 49 states in 1984. The Democrats were sent back to the grave­yard. Any­one who be­lieved ev­ery­thing he read would have imag­ined the land­scape lit­tered with the bloated corpses of the two not-so-great po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The corpses al­ways got up to dance again.

The prob­lem with lugubri­ous morn­ing-af­ter anal­y­sis is that it’s nearly al­ways wrong. Ev­ery­thing al­ways looks dif­fer­ent later. Barack Obama is en­ti­tled to a lit­tle bask­ing — he won, fair and square — but he’ll need the re­mem­brance of how good it once felt. Sec­ond terms are never as much fun as pres­i­dents ex­pect them to be. You could ask Richard Nixon, Ron­ald Rea­gan and Bill Clin­ton. Nixon was chased out of of­fice, Iran-Con­tra ex­ploded in the Gip­per’s face like a trick cigar, and Bubba was im­peached with only the con­so­la­tions of a comely White House in­tern.

Con­ser­va­tives mis­led them­selves about what Amer­ica thought of a pres­i­dent who had in­her­ited a bad econ­omy and made it worse. Amer­i­cans have re­treated to two echo cham­bers, where ev­ery­one com­petes to see who can say the most in­cen­di­ary things about the op­po­si­tion.

Some con­ser­va­tives couldn’t give up the no­tion that the pres­i­dent is a se­cret Kenyan com­mu­nist; lib­er­als couldn’t give up the no­tion that ev­ery­one who op­poses the pres­i­dent is a se­cret Ku Kluxer, lis­ten­ing for the dog whis­tle to send them into the streets in search of the lynch mob.

The echo cham­ber where ev­ery­one gets his “news,” fil­tered through ig­no­rant and of­ten in­ex­pe­ri­enced “jour­nal­ists” un­chal­lenged by an ed­i­tor with a blue pen­cil and look­ing for op­por­tu­ni­ties to use it, re­in­forces silly no­tions.

The elec­tion did not set­tle much of any­thing. We’re still a cen­ter-right coun­try with a pres­i­dent of di­min­ished pop­u­lar­ity (his 7-point vic­tory in 2008 shrank to 2 points this year), a closely di­vided Se­nate where Republicans can still work the rules to de­rail rad­i­cal leg­is­la­tion, and a House with enough Republicans to pre­vail against the worst that Democrats can de­vise.

The game is still on. Con­ser­va­tives have the per­sua­sive case to make, but in­vec­tive, in­sult, rant and rave won’t do it. Rea­soned ar­gu­ment will. This goes for Democrats, too. They should re­mem­ber the in­fal­li­ble Pru­den Prin­ci­ple: Noth­ing re­cedes like suc­cess. His­tory proves it.

Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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