The Truth Be Told

opinion and analysis

Peggy Noonan, an author who served as a speechwriter in the Reagan administration, wrote an article titled “Dem Problems: A Great Political Party Can’t Thrive on Snob Appeal” that appeared in the March 3, 2003, Wall Street Journal, and as a chapter in Crossroads: The Future of American Politics (Random House), a collection of essays edited by Andrew Cuomo on the political environment circa 2003.

Noonan wrote the piece from her perspective of what was wrong with the Democratic Party at the time. Reading the piece now, it is rather amazing how accurately it describes today’s Republican Party. In fact, it was probably closer to an explanation of Republicans at the time it was written than of Democrats.

We include the exercise below to show how the original piece would read if the author’s use of party names was switched. Specific examples are excluded from the original piece, and the piece is shortened for inclusion here. What is included is a word-for-word replication of the original excerpts with only the switching of party names and, in one case, substituting “rightist” for “leftist” (third to last paragraph).

Has Noonan inadvertently captured today’s Republican Party?

All political parties have problems—infighting, internal dissent, philosophical disagreements. But the modern Republican Party has problems that are essentially different from that, and could actually do it in.

The first is what seems to me a lack of a constructive spirit within your party. Great parties exist in part to give us markers for the future. They offer a rough map that will get us to a better and higher destination. In the Republican Party now, and for some time, I have not perceived that they are trying to get us to a good place. They seem interested only in thwarting the trek of the current president and his party, who are, to the Republicans, “the other.” When the president is a Republican you now support him no matter what. You support him if he doesn’t have a map, and isn’t interested in markers, and is only interested in his own day-to-day survival.

I am not saying you are too partisan. Partisanship is fine. But Democrats by and large don’t suffer from blind loyalty or blind antagonism. They would think it irresponsible to the country. They will bolt on one of their own if he insists on a route they think is seriously wrong. They will kill his presidency if they conclude he is essentially destructive.

The Republican Party will now stick with its guy forever, no matter how harmful he is. Perhaps you call that loyalty, and perhaps there’s something to it, but a bigger part, I believe, is that you have come to think that winning is everything—that victory is the purpose of politics.

If the purpose is just winning, you can do anything to win. And you can do anything to stay. You never give an inch. But people who never give an inch sometimes wind up occupying tired and barren terrain.

You have grown profoundly unserious. This is the result of the win-at-any-cost mindset.

The modern Republican Party is unserious in other ways. In the 1950s and ‘60s the party included many obviously earnest and thoughtful liberals who supported goals that were in line with and expressions of serious beliefs. They believed that America was an exceptional country. Because it was exceptional it needed to remain strong.

The Democratic Party still manages to cohere around principles…The Republicans are not cohering. They are held together by a gritty talent for political process—message discipline, for instance. But what good is message discipline if there’s no serious and coherent message?

There is another problem. You have become the party of snobs. You have become the party of Americans who think they’re better than other Americans.

I see the modern Republican Party as the party of snobs. I wonder why your much-proclaimed compassion is distributed on such a limited basis—to this pressure group, that minority group, this special interest group.

The Republicans seemed motivated not by general principles and beliefs but only the need to win, which left you protecting your market share by bribing groups you’d once been able to champion. You’ve become confused as to your purpose, your reason for being.

This is the Republican paradox: You want so much to run America and yet you seem not so fond of Americans.

One wishes the Republicans well if for no other reason than the Democratic Party will be at its best only when it faces a worthy and vital competitor.

So here’s my advice: Look at the clock. Know what time it is. Half the country is wondering if we are in the end times. (Excuse me, I mean they fear man may be living through a final, wrenching paroxysm, the result of man’s inhumanity to man and of the inevitable culmination of several unhelpful forces and trends.) So wake up and get serious. Get your heart back, and your guts. Be constructive, not destructive. Help.

Be pro-free-speech again. Allow internal divisions and dissent. A vital political party should have divisions and dissent.

Develop a new and modern Republican rationale—the reason regular people should be Republican again. Stop being just the We Hate Democrats Party. That’s not a belief, it’s a tic.

Stop being the party of snobs. Show love for your country and its people—all its people. Stop looking down on those who resist your teachings.

Stop the ideology. A lot of Republican Party movers and intellectuals have created or inherited a rightist ideology that they try to impose on life. It doesn’t spring from life; it’s forced on life, and upon people. Stop doing that—it’s what weirdos who are detached from reality do. Have a philosophy instead of an ideology, hold it high and dear, and attempt to apply it, not impose it.

Respect normal Americans again. We’re all touched by grace, we all deserve a voice, and you could learn a few things if you’d listen to those who’ve had to struggle through life.

You’re still one of our two great political parties. Show some class, the good kind.


This exercise was conceived and compiled by Michael D. Evans, who serves as the copyeditor for the Community Alliance newspaper.


0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x