In sauce that’s good for the goose is good for the gander news, Bill Kristol’s editorial at The Weekly Standard, “Critical but not Serious” reads like a list of great moments of schadenfreude for the Left. He identifies the problem for the Democrats:
The left isn’t serious. It’s in meltdown—but as resistant as ever to serious reflection on why. It’s been in the driver’s seat for so long, culturally and institutionally, and it so enjoyed its eight years of control of the White House that it can’t now come to serious grips with its critical situation. After all, if you’ve got a lot of faith in History, and if the arc of History now bends toward Trump—what’s a progressive to do?
OK, so the Left isn’t serious, and the Democratic Party has a huge political challenge ahead of it, and they’ve only got their intransigence to rely on. That, surely, gives Kristol the deep tingly schadenfreudens! OK, so how does it look for thoughtful and serious Republicans?
For those committed to constitutional government as opposed to administrative control, to self-government as opposed to the nanny state, to free markets as opposed to centralized power, and to strength and leadership abroad as opposed to weakness and retreat, the Republican party has been the organization (more or less) seriously advancing these principles.
Is it still? It’s true that Donald Trump, no adherent to traditional Republicanism, managed to effect a hostile takeover of the party at the presidential level in 2016. President Trump is a problem for Republicans seeking to be serious; a problem sufficient, perhaps, to prevent much that is serious from being achieved in the next four years.
Oh, that sounds bad, too. If only Republicans had control of, say, one or two houses of government. Then they could, you know, move forward with their thoughtful legislative agenda. Or exercise some control over the overrreach of a President they don’t agree with. That would take, you know, a serious person. But, as Kristol sees it, that’s politically impossible.
The spirit of our age is hostile to serious men. That spirit is a strange combination of cynicism and hysteria, of irony and bombast. It would be soberly inspiring if some in the Republican party would stand up against that spirit and show themselves to be the hommes sérieux of our time.
Yes, but, you see, the fact that one must make such a rallying cry is evidence that no such people have (or are likely to) show themselves. But if it’s not the case, one can always just say it’s “the spirit of our age” that prevented such people from coming forward.
Notice the double standard of the situation here. And notice that the Democrats have plenty of people who’ve come out to criticize and resist the Trump agenda on the basis of their conscience. That’s not serious by Kristol’s lights (for whatever reason); however, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have positions of leading Congress, and they seem too afraid of the President to do anything. Kristol’s view is: The Zeitgeist Diddit.