William Kristol rather eloquently expresses American conservatives’ yearning for a decisive, game-changing victory next year, a decisive victory capable of renewing both the country’s morale and economic prospects and delivering the country for another generation from socialism and the misrule of sophisters, calculators, and economists, but warns that the fates are not going to be as kind as we would wish.
For every Southern boy 14 years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armstead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a 14-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago . . .
—William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust
For every American conservative, not once but whenever he wants it, it’s always the evening of November 4, 1980, the instant when we knew Ronald Reagan, the man who gave the speech in the lost cause of 1964, leader of the movement since 1966, derided by liberal elites and despised by the Republican establishment, the moment when we knew—he’d won, we’d won, the impossible dream was possible, the desperate gamble of modern conservatism might pay off, conservatism had a chance, America had a chance. And then, a decade later—the Cold War won, the economy revived, America led out of the abyss, we’d come so far with so much at stake—conservatism vindicated, America restored, a desperate and unbelievable victory for the cast made so many years ago against such odds.
But that was then, and this is now. Now is 2012, and it seems clear that 2012 isn’t going to be another 1980.
He’s right. We haven’t got a Reagan. I think we are going to have to hope that any Republican can decisively defeat Barack Obama and that any Republican (even one from Massachusetts) will be obliged to run and govern as an arch conservative. While we will not have a Reagan, we can have an administration, like Reagan’s, drawn heavily from the Conservative Movement and dedicated to bringing about a fundamental change in direction.
Fortunately, the democrats have not the ground, the advantage in strength, or the artillery that General Meade had, and if 2012 is not going to be 1980, I think we can feel safe that neither will it be July 3, 1863.