The President, in his speech today said this:
Let me close with a word to the people of the state of Texas. (Applause.) We have known each other the longest, and you started me on this journey. On the open plains of Texas, I first learned the character of our country: sturdy and honest, and as hopeful as the break of day. I will always be grateful to the good people of my state. And whatever the road that lies ahead, that road will take me home.
Jonah Goldberg responded Texas, Schmexas:
Folks, I have nothing against thanking Texas. I thought that was right and good. Heck I like Texas (one of the best summers of my childhood was spent in Temple, Texas). But I thought it was a weird way to end the speech. It just struck me as a discordant note to strike when you’re trying to be a uniter of the whole United States.
I disagreed and sent Goldberg (pretty much) the following:
Bush said no matter where the road takes him, it leads to home. He is saying, when this is over, I’m done, I’m going HOME. He is signaling that politics is not everything, that he HAS A LIFE. He is telling us he is a real person from a real place, for whom Washington is not the center of the universe, for whom Washington is a place of business that you leave when you are done.
You are wrong that the invocation of Texas was somehow not consistent with “trying to be a uniter of the whole United States.”
Any universal appeal which is effective cannot come from speaking in generalities. Universal appeals, in politics or in art or literature, arise from invoking the specific. If I say, “family values” that might not mean much. But if I say “Laura is the love of my life” and I act like that is true, I don’t need to talk about family values too much. If I love my home, I can be trusted to defend the Homeland. Because the Homeland is not an abstraction, it is a real place. Bush is saying Texas is my home, it’s my state, where my ranch is, my land, my neighbors, my garage with my truck and my tools in it. That’s what I’m defending. And everybody has something like that, their own specific place. Bush knows it, and he doesn’t pretend to be some Godlike being above it all. It is sincere and it is effective for that reason.
Kerry could not have sent that signal because he doesn’t feel it or live it or understand it. He could not talk about Massachusetts this way, even though there are people from there who could, like my family. Kerry talks in generalities because he is alone and comes from nowhere and lives among servants and lackeys in hotel rooms. Kerry is the classic rootless cosmopolitan, and that is a sad defect in him personally and a political weakness as well.
Blood-and-dirt love for and loyalty to America is something a majority of people in this country have. And it is based on particular backyards, particular neighborhoods, or particular stretches of open road. Bush has this and conveys it by his demeanor, and by reference to specific things. I was a little too tough on Kerry, maybe. But he seems not to have this feeling in his bones. This dichotomy is real, and it is a source of strength for Bush. In fact, in his concession speech Kerry talked about how he got to know America for the first time running for President. Better late than never.