It's been so long now that Nooners and her ilk have been paid, and celebrated, for being professionally disingenuous that they must find it impossible to be anything else, assuming there's some reason they'd try. The requirement of speaking to a new set of circumstances in American political life has proven beyond them, and they've retreated into some stock of half-remembered schoolyard taunts, or, in Peggy's case, into a McGuffey's Reader version of an America she was, in fact, too young by a matter of decades to have actually lived through. By the time Peggy was old enough to think about these things for herself such an America was not just dead, but had died in a collision with Reality: the Great Depression ended the debate over laissez-faire capitalism, WWII ended the debate over racial discrimination, and the Pill had ended the debate over reproductive freedom. All, that is, at least to the extent that it was necessary to accept in some degree that one was a crackpot, or worse, to cling to the contrarian view, just as one must make some sort of accommodation in being a Biblical literalist, anti-evolutionist, or reader of professional reader of pet auras. Noonan, naturally, talks the talk:
In the Old America they were not enlightened about race and sex
because they always do. Admitting that one understands the basis for the destruction of the Old Order is important for appearance's sake, and allows one to maintain the whole thing was a Well-Intentioned Mistake, or a Crazed Act of Mass Trendiness, or the Malicious Vandalism of Nattering Nabobs.
We're not suggesting that "debate" doesn't rage on on all these "issues", just as it does over Evolution. Peggy Noonan may have said goodbye to girlhood in the late Sixties as if leaving the cloister, though she claims a later political awakening (they always do!). She could have found her Old America at the time by looking around, but it's more likely she found it by keeping her eyes closed.
We're close enough in age we may well have used the same history text in high school, and I distinctly remember learning about post-Great War isolationism, labor unrest (not the whole story, mind you), Progressivism, robber baronage, the exploitation of Chinese labor and the New York Draft Riots. I'm pretty sure Eugene Debs, Shay's Rebellion, Abolitionism, the Klan, a bowdlerized Helen Keller and a well-scrubbed Margaret Sanger strode the boards there, too. It can't have taken Peggy much of an effort to realize that what she's describing--regardless of how much of it qualifies as non-fiction--is the artifact of an era--in fact, an mish-mash of eras--which had already begun crumbling by the time she was a girleen. And that, of course, the situation may have looked very different were one observing it through the other end of the social, racial, or economic microscope (or were one a middle-class Catholic schoolgirl at a time or place when that was less than popular).
But the one that frankly stopped me in my tracks was
Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it.
We've said it too many times to remember, but it seems, if anything, to become even more accurate as time passes them by: this is the result of talking to yourselves for three decades. You've lost the ability to construct an argument and whatever cortical function it is that's supposed to make you care. The damage is, alas, permanent; some of your cohort may manage a fairly normal-appearing life by pretending to support New America and the promise of personal robots and the survival of bodily death. For the rest, hope is at hand: if we can just get you to admit the whole Reagan thing was a canard, and you were never meant to be anything but a cracked minority, it's possible you may find happiness hating Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the duration of your second childhood.