“Exhausted. From what I see, that’s how a lot of Democrats feel. They’ve turned silent, too, like people who witnessed a car crash and can’t talk anymore about the reasons for the accident or how many were injured. This election is more and more shaping up into a contest between the Exhausted and the … Enraged.” —Peggy Noonan, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 25, 2010
(That was the quote of the day yesterday at PunditWire, a new group blog that's really got it going on; it's all speechwriters and ex-speechwriters, and it's pretty smart.)
Noonan, who usually writes better than she thinks, has misinterpreted the relative quiet on the left, I think. It's not exaustion.
It's the least fashionable, least common (and perhaps also least useful) political emotion there is.
I feel it, anyway.
Patience is what I felt the other day at a New York diner drinking coffee with an ex-Dem speechwriter and a current administration scribe. They chewed (and chewed) over whether Obama had or hadn't compromised too much on healthcare, should or shouldn't have focused first on jobs. These were very bright guys who watch this stuff closely and care deeply about it. I should have been interested. But, honestly, my mind wandered. Not believing I or anyone else can analyze this stuff in real time (or anything like it), I'm content to let things play out.
Patience is what I felt a couple days ago when a pal with whom I have argued about politics since the 1992 election sent me something to read about the administration "in case we ever get to the point where we can talk about Obama." Maybe I'll read what he sent, maybe I won't. But I don't believe President Obama is destroying the nation, and I don't want to talk with anyone who does believe that for at least two more years, and really not for another six. (Actually, 10 would give us some real breathing room. Let's make a date!)
And patience is what I feel—and often feel with reluctance, which contributes to my quiet—when gay friends point out that Obama ought to be bolder on DADT, when my hard-assed liberal friends say he's being a pussy about financial reform, and when most of my friends say that we ought to get our asses out of Afghanistan, and pronto. I agree with my friends on these issues. But I voted for President Obama. And I like President Obama. And I trust President Obama. And actually, so do most of my gay, hard-assed, anti-war friends. They're willing to wait too.
Until I actually witness Noonan's make-believe "car crash," or at least hear screeching tires, I'll wait, watchfully, to see what the administration can accomplish in some very difficult cirmumstances.
I think of Obama as a feller who thinks kind of like me—he likes reading, writing, cities, daughters, hoops and golf too!—only a lot better. (He's not a big drinker, but nobody's perfect; at least he smokes.) There's never been a president whose mind I thought I understood as well as I think I understand Obama's. During the rabid election year of 2008, I allowed that I'd probably hate him by now. But I don't. I still admire him.
I'm not saying my patience should be your patience. I've been in situations where I couldn't stand the boss and others thought the boss was OK. They saw my points, but they shrugged. What could they say? To them, he was an OK boss. They'd had worse, and this guy, they could deal with. Their patience was infuriating to me. But I didn't explain it away by saying they really were upset, but just too "exhausted" to complain.
My own quiet, and I suspect the quiet of many others: It's not exhaustion. It's patience.