Peggy Noonan cannot believe they are letting the riffraff have a say in how this country is governed. Her latest op-ed, published in the Wall Street Journal, is a series of would-be observations that only hang together on the common thread that is her barely stifled outrage that we will let just anyone vote these days. You'd think this country was a democracy, it's gotten so out of control!
After a little preliminary longing for Joe Biden to get into the race to nudge that crass woman Hillary Clinton out of the lead, Noonan really digs into her hell-in-a-handbasket theme. "The 2016 primary is a rush to the left," she frets. "We are now not embarrassed to argue America should be more like Denmark, we are proudly socialist or severely progressive, and by the way Republicans are the enemy." Oh no, not Denmark, a country no doubt full of unembarrassed vulgarians. They probably wear white shoes after Labor Day, you know. Noonan doesn't know, but she can probably guess. If Sanders likes them, they must be an uncouth country full of bike-riding hippies.
But what really puffs Noonan full of indignation is this ridiculous business of Democrats acting like Republicans are the opposition. "Asked which enemy she was proudest to have made, Mrs. Clinton mentioned the NRA, the Iranians, some others and 'probably the Republicans.' She was smiling, but if any GOP hopeful declared 'the Democrats' to be on his enemies list he would be roundly condemned as polarizing," Noonan huffs.
Well, no one can deny that Noonan is a master class in self-delusion, that's for sure. It takes a lot to get to the idea the Republicans are the polite, cooperative party and that the Democrats are the conflict-stoking partisans. It's not the Democrats who have made attempted government shutdowns in service of partisan temper tantrums a multi-annual event. "If Hillary feels free to speak of the Republicans as enemies it’s because she knows there is a portion of the base that is angry, polarized and ready to respond to an aggressive tone," Noonan whines.
Oh dear, they probably don't wipe their feet before they come in the house, do they? This feigned alarm at people responding to passion in politics isn't fooling anyone, of course. This is Concern Trolling 101, an attempt to shame Democrats, especially Clinton and Sanders, from speaking frankly because she knows in her heart that this kind of progressive talk is actually reaching people. Anyone who genuinely cares about politeness in politics wouldn't give a hoot about the Democratic debate, which was a model of how to disagree without getting ugly or personal about it.
Noonan does have some words for a Republican---Donald Trump, of course. Not because he's racist or rude to women, naturally. Self-appointed manners scold Noonan can't be bothered to worry about someone calling Mexicans rapists or making period jokes to put women in their place. No, just as with her outrage over Clinton's light joke about Republicans, Noonan is solely focused on tutting at people who she feels say indelicate things about Republican politicians, something Trump most certainly does.
But Noonan wants to believe that Trump's vulgar bleating isn't really speaking to Republican voters, who she longs to see as too genteel for such things. "Talking to Trump supporters this week I’m getting a sense of stalling or slight deflation," she writes hopefully. Sure, it's not showing up in poll numbers but she can "hear a certain wavering." Keep clapping, Peggy!
Donald Trump, with his baseball caps and ugly combover, does do serious damage to Noonan's long-standing fantasy reducing American politics to mannered Republicans vs. loutish Democrats. Resolving this cognitive dissonance requires finding some way to reclassify Trump as a Democrat, so she can retreat back into her world where all Republicans know which fork to use when and only Democrats say the F-word in mixed company. Getting there requires a leap of logic that is impressive even compared to Noonan's addled history: "There are many reasons we’re at this moment, but the essential political one is this: Mr. Obama lowered the bar."
Don't worry, Noonan has a cover story about why it's not racist to sniff about how putting a black man in the White House is just ruining the neighborhood, something about how Obama "was a literal unknown, an obscure former state legislator who hadn’t completed his single term as U.S. senator". Of course, Donald Trump was anything but a "literal unknown." He's been in the public eye for decades now, making headlines back when Obama was still just a college student. So no, they don't have that in common.
But that's okay, Peggy. We all know that was just a feint to cover up your real argument, which is bemoaning that "Anyone can run for president now" that Obama has the White House. The text may be something something "state legislator" but the subtext is screamingly clear here.
Isn't that what this country is supposed to be, a place where any kid can, if they have moxie and intelligence, grow up to be President? The irony is that Trump himself is on the same page as Noonan, full of outrage that someone like Obama actually made it to the White House. Trump downplays it now, but one of the big reasons he started getting so politically aggressive was that he refuses to believe that Obama is eligible to hold office. Trump has been a long-time advocate of birtherism, a conspiracy theory that allows racists to sneer at the idea of a black president by hiding behind "questions" about Obama's birth certificate. Trump is running not because anyone can run for President, but because he opposes that kind of democratic idealism with every fiber of his being.
Maybe Noonan should reconsider her opposition to Trump. It seems that they have a lot more in common than she would like to admit.