It is a strange feeling of returning to your place of birth and finding that most everyone who lives here now is from somewhere else. Except for my hearty neighbors of extended families from
Most people from the deeper South still today can usually tell a Virginia Episcopalian from an eastern Kentucky Pentacostalist or a tar heel Baptist by language and manner – differences are still as rich and distinguishable as local flora and fauna in parts away from the cities. But when my dentist across from the Haverhill Common moves into retirement this spring there will be only two actual Yankees left up here on my count. And I believe my quiet and soft-spoken friend Burt, whose father and grandfather farmed the river banks here with teams of horses, is the only one today who still speaks proper mountain
Ulysses S. Grant wrote that prior to the Civil War the great mass of Americans were satisfied to remain near the scenes of their birth.
“So much was the country divided into small communities that localized idioms had grown up, so that you could almost tell what section a person was from by hearing him speak and studying his manner,” he wrote.
The sameness of people today is the great victory of federalism. But that is the price of federalism as well.
To a large extent we Americans have become people without places. What I find to be a sad phenomenon today is the current trend of people retiring in the towns where they went to college rather than where they or their families were born and reared. Such dislocation between generations contributes to the disintegration of family. An item in today’s paper tells of European legislators whose family ties go back to the days of Shakespeare. How many Americans today can even name their great grandparents? How many have no cousins or kin of any kind that they know of?
Instead of ties of blood, love and friendship, increasingly we have come to connect through ideas. And ideas, be they good or bad, are cold, calculating and contentious. And they don’t last.
So I was pleased to read a speech the other day by Mark Warner, Governor of Virginia, who seems to be considering the Presidency, when he spoke of the small-town
We can’t take a pass on region or religion, said Warner.
“We’ve never believed that some people count and some people don’t,” he said. “So we need to stop acting that way. That’s not who we are, and we’ve got to make that clear.”
The Democrats are particularly vulnerable to ideas and the vicissitudes of what I would call genre politics – identifying with a theme rather than with a place. Like my new neighbors here in the mountains, they seem to increasingly resemble the transitory direction of the English department, disconnected and disassociated in spirit, and held together in their opposition to power in a strange amalgam of lesbian, ethnic, gender and transgender studies. Increasingly identifying with the discontent of every stripe and at every turn, rather than with the civilization. But the will of the intentionally discontent only makes the power it opposes grow stronger.
The fate and failure of genre politics should be foremost on the mind of Democrats as a new and very critical Presidential race opens upon us. Warner correctly looks at the race in a 30 and 40 year framework. First and foremost, Democrats should recall that in the last 30-some years they have twice lost the Presidency by 49 states to one state. One more such a performance and the Democrats will have gone the way of their effete and self-righteous ancestors, the Whigs. And that is where I see them going.
Howard Dean has lead the way to Magic Mountain politics for the Democrats. Recall, The Magic Mountain was a novel written by Thomas Mann about the retreat of the middle clas in Germany from political responsibiliy. Dean's comments today set the benchmark. As he said to the San Antonio, Texas, radio station WOAI that "the idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong."
“We have already won this war,” he said. “Now we are losing the peace.” We should declare the war won, much as Bush did when he declared, “Mission Accomplished” all dressed up in a Commander-in-Chief flight suit on the deck of an aircraft carrier, and come home.
Now I’ve heard it again, the same phrasing repeated verbatim by Rep. John Murtha of
It sounds great, but it is not true. We have not won the war in
“We should follow the lead of Congressman John Murtha, who has put forth a plan to make
As far as I know, Warner has not made any major statements on the war on
It was markedly different from what I’ve been hearing from a
Invariably, the situation in
This is the ugly reality of warfare even in civilized nations. But in most cases, the revenge kill comes only after the situation has been neutralized, as a punishment to the enemy. That terrorist threat in case has not been stabilized and instead has become increasingly complicated because of the war on
Although it does not compare in scope and tragedy and historical consequences, there is one aspect of this war in
The point has been made that we were not prepared to fight this war and it is clear now that we were not. Still the situation persists and it must be dealt with.
But this war will not follow as
It should have been the original work and the object in the war on terrorism. But like it or not, it is still work that needs to be done.
Warner and any other fledgling Presidential candidate should know that there is hope and there are other options. There are, in fact, two Democratic positions, but only the cry of retreat from Dean, Murtha and Pelosi, is heard loudest. And the call to cut and run comes increasingly from Republicans as well.
The other option is from Wesley Clark. There is much that would appear to bring these two men together, Warner and Clark, and perhaps there is here even a fork in the road for the Democrats.
General Clark’s position should be the Democratic Party’s position and it should be the country’s position. It took two years of chaotic fighting in random surges and retreats before the North truly faced the situation in the Civil War. It took several years of conflict abroad and a direct attack on Pearl Harbor before
When he signed the register to enter the
“In the old, familiar fashion, mounting
From the onset, he says, we needed a three-pronged strategy in
Clark calls for a public
Countries far away like
“The growing chorus of voices demanding a pull-out should seriously alarm the Bush Administration,” writes
General Clark literally came home from
The Democratic Senators who voted for the war on
Both Warner and Clark represent a new kind of politics for the Democrats, a politics that sees management solutions to problems and comes from the world of management. We live today in a descending quagmire of interacting crises and in a politics of denial and revenge, but in the end it comes down to a crisis of management.
It is only these two among the Democrats who propose a management solution.