I completely reject the defamatory belief, cherished by many a progressive, that the reason the Republican base detests Obama so deeply is that he is black. I’ve spoken to many, many Republicans about Obama over the past seven years, and not once has the man’s race been even a subtext in the conversation. What has rattled Republicans so badly, rather, is the swiftness with which American political culture has moved leftward and the wanton way in which the president and his administration have abetted it. Many Republican voters simply have not come to terms with this reality. They believe the president has put the nation on the “wrong track” and that it can be put back on the “right track” by some fearless personality whose views are uncompromising and whose regard for contrary opinions is minimal.
Let me put it in a different, more unpleasant way. Republicans need to acknowledge that America is in decline. It is, by their own criteria. The U.S. economy is fast becoming a European-style regulatory state; neither the country’s political class nor its voters seem to care that the national debt has reached literally incomprehensible levels; and its cultural arbiters are hopelessly obsessed with microscopic grievances and therapeutic political gestures.
If all this is true, then America is in decline, and there’s nothing any politician or political insurgency can do to reverse it. A republic in decline doesn’t need a leader who will try to force its electorate to be something it isn’t, or who will insult and berate its leaders into doing things differently. What’s needed, rather, is a president who will behave like an adult — someone whose words and actions do not routinely contradict each other; someone who will stand against the excesses of modern liberalism without entertaining the vain hope of obliterating it; someone who likes the country as it is, without trying to transform it or make it “great.” Someone, in short, who can manage the decline of a great nation without making things worse.