America was great, once (in November 2008).
Nov 1, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 07 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
No one has been more jilted than Frank Rich. Here’s Rich rhapsodizing about America the Beautiful just after Obama’s election:
There was lots more where that came from. In November 2008 Frank Rich was, for the first time—or at least for the first time in a long time—proud of his country. “The actual real America is everywhere,” he sang.
These days, Rich is rediscovering the nation that elected Nixon, Reagan, and the Bushes. Taking stock of New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, Rich warned that
Rich goes on to warn Times readers about death threats against the president and an increased danger from man-caused disasters (domestic militia division). “Don’t expect the extremism and violence in our politics to subside magically after Election Day,” Rich whispers, “no matter what the results.”
The actual real America? She was glorious while she lasted.
For his part, President Obama has resisted such excitable over-readings of his fellow citizens. In fact, his appraisal of the public has remained reasonably constant. Sure, Obama explained a couple weeks ago that “part of the reason that our politics seems so tough right now and facts and science and argument does not seem to be winning the day all the time is because we’re hardwired not to always think clearly when we’re scared. And the country’s scared.”
But Obama was never completely sold on the soundness of the body politic. Recall that when he first let slip his view that people “get bitter” and “cling” to their “guns” and “religion,” it was April 2008. He wasn’t talking about Republican mouth-breathers—he was talking about Democratic primary voters. And even after Americans got with the program and voted for him, Obama still wasn’t convinced the country had changed.
In his Inaugural Address he sighed, “On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics. We remain a young nation. But in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things.” In other words, just because Americans voted him in, he wasn’t ready to let us off the hook for being a bunch of petty, lying, childish nincompoops.
We probably had it coming.