“It all started off with stirring speeches, Greek columns, the thrill of something new. Now all that’s left is a presidency adrift, surviving on slogans that already seem tired, grasping at a moment that has already passed, like a ship trying to sail on yesterday’s wind.” –Paul Ryan
Day Three of the Republican National Convention is over but my goosebumps tingle on. Paul Ryan’s speech was one of the most amazing I have ever heard, and I was paying attention in 2008. From channeling President Reagan on moral clarity and spiritual conviction to reminding Young America that he gets where we’re coming from, I witnessed a meteor rising in the aspiring Republican veep. My ears are still ringing.
Of course, Ryan was only the finale—a dessert transformed into a full meal. For our appetizers, Condi Rice waxed professorial in her edifying policy proposals and musings on America’s place in a rapidly changing world. Her paean to the transcendent promise of American Exceptionalism rang a glorious note only the woman born in a segregated world could hold. And the phenomenal reach of her vision shines brighter against the backdrop of a sitting administration long depleted of even the hope for new ideas. Rice’s understanding of education as the civil rights struggle of our time hearkens back to Chris Christie’s valiant charge against the teacher’s unions and the need to be respected before we can be loved. Hers is the lifted voice of a life testifying to the ultimate truth that all conservatism begins with loss and the will to rise and wrestle with the faceless gods of atrophy, grievance, and entitlement for control of our destiny.
As a chaser for Rice, Governor Susana Martinez offered up the simple truths of American conservatism. That welfare is a brace meant to heal, not a lifestyle. That a state expands on the backs of its citizens until their promise is consumed in its service—a new master-slave dialectic for a society deformed into Lost Boys and Last Men. That the wages of dependency are decay and oblivion. That these are the stakes. This election is not ultimately about budgets, healthcare, Medicare, unemployment rates, or tax minutiae. To be sure, these issues matter and must be dealt with. But in the end, our takeaway is that ideas and the visions built upon them matter. We should be wary of leaders who explain more than they govern.
From the rapturous reception of Condi Rice to the Martinez homage to the conservative story to Scott Walker’s enraptured tears at the Ryan oration, we see the promise of America at this Republican convention. These are what leaders look like. This is how they sound, how they resonate, how they cut through passé talking points about tax returns, murdered seniors, and the siren song of identity politics.
Take note, Mr. President. These are the bearers of the vision that will bury you. Like Atlantis and all the vainglory of its imagined pomp and circumstance, your empty promises will go the way of your squandered mandate and the broken promises of yesteryear.
“They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left.”