"In the changing of the times, they were like autumn lightning, a thing out of season, an empty promise of rain that would fall unheeded on fields already bare."—Shosaburo Abe, on the decline of the samurai
If you don’t understand honor, if you don’t communitarian decency, if you just don’t get solid guy-hood, you will not grasp the significance of what Scott Brown had to say in last night’s acceptance speech.
I go to Washington as the representative of no faction or interest, answering only to my conscience and to the people. I’ve got a lot to learn in the Senate, but I know who I am and I know who I serve.
I’m Scott Brown,
I'm from Wrentham,
I drive a truck, and I am nobody’s senator but yours.
This speech followed his historic upset victory over Martha Coakley, in a special Massachusetts Senatorial Election, to fill the people’s seat vacated by the late Edward Kennedy. By conventional measures of political reality, this never could, should or would have happened. It’s the sort of gob-smacking occurrence that puts the meaning into a shop-worn NFL cliché, “On any given Sunday….”
I tend to view this almost metaphysically. It happened here and now by happenstance, but it would have happened somewhere, sometime soon, by sheer predestination. It was too necessary, too right and too inevitable to be prevented forever. Our national governance had grown far too corrupt and insular over the last six years for this to have been avoided forever.
I also think it had to be some person, (and I’ll be reviled as a male chauvinist pig on this one, but here goes) in particular some guy, like Scott Brown. Raymond Chandler describes the why of it in his depiction of his favorite protagonist – Phillip Marlowe.
"Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. … He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it." — Raymond Chandler, in "The Simple Art of Murder"
This is why Scott Brown could stare down the SEIU machine. This is why he felt the burning desire to compete in the supposedly hopeless game of Massachusetts politics. This is why the guy does what he does better than any GOP candidate for the past ten years. It’s also why the most you’ll ever get out of him is the rather humble description he offered us above.
The truck, the trappings, the lightning fast wit and the brilliant political gamesmanship that David Axelrod properly admired don’t make Scott Brown. Nor do they make the Tea-Party Movement; nor will that alone make the GOP. And if the GOP doesn’t wake up and get it; Scott Brown is not the type of guy who gives a seminar.
The most you’d get out of a properly humble man of honor is something along the lines of what Sam Spade explained to a questioner in Daschelle Hammet’s masterpiece The Maltese Falcon
"You’ll never understand me, but I’ll try once more and then we’ll give it up. Listen. When a man’s partner is killed he’s supposed to do something about it. It doesn’t make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you’re supposed to do something about it."
The motivation is really simple. Scott Brown, Marco Rubio, The Tea Partiers fight Obama Noir as a governing philosophy because fighting this ideology is the honorable thing to do. Yet, in an important and uplifting way, what Scott Brown does differs from the heroics of the Noir protagonist.
As C.S. Thompson wrote in his brilliant essay “A Thing Out Of Season: Honor In The Noir Universe.” The noir hero holds onto honor for no discernible material reason. He does what’s right for the purely abstract reason that he believes it to be righteous. This is both good and noble; but for flesh and blood men like your humble blogger, there has to be a reward for virtue beyond virtue itself.
Now J.D. Johannes may have exaggerated the greatness of Scott Brown’s victory by claiming that the recession ends today, but Scott Brown performed a tangible amount of good. Jim Webb and Barney Frank did not climb down from the Obamacare ramparts and offer peaceable discussion and reflection out of good will. Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts has effected our politics of today the way Benedict Arnold’s win at Saratoga effected The Revolutionary War.
Like after Saratoga, a previously demoralized force now finds victory a reasonable expectation. Like after Saratoga, a previously arrogant and self-worshipping elite is licking its grievous wounds.
Scott Brown gave our political culture something that it had previously lacked. We now have a legitimate debate. The contending sides, both Democrat and GOP will now have to marshal their arguments, prove their points, and fight the next year to prove that the wants and needs of ordinary Americans at least ping back on their various radar screens.
What Scott Brown represents is something older and better than what comes from Washington, DC today. He comes from a strain of America culture that many of us had given up for dead. Like Shosaburo Abe, we viewed our old way of caring about the people our political issues effected every day as a thing out of season.
Yet a lion has roared in our national winter and his virility perhaps represents the dawning of a better American age. But this only happens if we realize what Scott Brown is. He doesn’t root for Team GOP® because he likes the jersey color. He does not champion our cause for a bushel-full of earmarks. He hears what people say about demanding that the government return to the people.
The “Progressives” have already blamed their failures on “Ungovernable America.” If we are stupid enough to continue electing Progressives, that prophecy becomes imminent and self-fulfilling.
To capitalize upon the cheap venality of our progressive bettors, the GOP cannot blame the problems of the world on the people. It needs to build an agenda that solves the problems besetting the American People. If we do that, as a way of building on Scott Brown’s Revere-like ride through the hustings, than in no way will his victory last night be described as a thing out of season.