Calm, Cool, Collected?
May 12, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 33 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
It's mature to be calm. Republicans are nothing if not mature. It’s chic to be cool. Republicans yearn to be chic. It’s a sign of gravitas to be collected. Republicans have gravitas. And so Republicans, from candidates to consultants to commentators, cultivate a calm, cool, and collected affect. Keep calm and carry on, they say soberly and sagely to each other.
AP PHOTO / LEDERHANDLER
Which is fine if you’re in the midst of the struggle, and your forces are already fully committed to the fight. But if you’re rallying your troops, and trying to persuade others that they need to join the fight, it’s not so great to be calm, cool, and collected. You need energy more than sobriety. You need blood, sweat, and tears. You need a punching bag more than a yoga mat.
Republicans are on the eve of the fight of a lifetime. Winning control of the Senate in November is necessary to mitigate the damage the Obama administration can do in its final two years. And winning the presidency in 2016 is everything. Because it’s really not clear that limited and constitutional self-government at home, and American world leadership, can survive a third Democratic term in the White House.
That is an alarming prospect. So it should be permissible for Republicans to sound alarmed. It won’t even make them unrespectable. Paul Revere was a well-established and well-regarded businessman. He wasn’t embarrassed to sound the alarm that awakened his fellow citizens to impending danger, and it didn’t hurt his subsequent reputation.
Bill Buckley was an elegant writer and a gentleman. But in 1955 he founded National Review, announcing that it would stand athwart History, yelling Stop. Not whispering Stop. Not recommending Stop. Not making the case for Stop. Yelling Stop.
Ronald Reagan was the most successful Republican and the most successful conservative politician of recent decades. He was friendly and avuncular. But that didn’t make him a shrinking violet. Here he is, accepting the Republican presidential nomination in 1980:
That’s a call to arms. Some might even call it a bit alarmist. Reagan won the election—and America won the Cold War.
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