While everybody else is writing about the results of the New Hampshire primary, I can only follow my contrary nature and write about the forgotten man of American politics.
Because of a self-imposed Christmas truce, I have not written about him for several weeks. So much time has passed, I now find that I can barely remember his name. This strikes me as very good, although admittedly it could be a sign that my mind has closed down out of respect for my recent 60th birthday.
Of course, I could Google the name of the forgotten man using certain unflattering terms, but that would offend the sacred code of the columnist that requires research be limited to a few trips to convivial taverns.
Who is this forgotten man? As much as I remember, he lives in a big house in the nation’s capital. It is painted white and has a rose garden. I believe the man who lives there holds the title of confounder in chief. He has a lot of power for a forgotten man, but that is why people want to forget him. Unfortunately, he is not yet an invisible man (give it a year or so).
Sure, I could find out the name of the forgotten man, but the truth is that nobody wants his name to be remembered. Everybody is profoundly sick of him. Even rabid radio-talk-show hosts seem to be pained when they have to speak his name, and speak it they must, presumably because of a pact they made with the devil. It goes to show that just because you are a blowhard doesn’t mean you don’t get sick of defending the indefensible.
Almost all other Americans recoil in embarrassment when they hear his name. To be sure, a few deluded souls are determined to resemble those fanatical Japanese soldiers who holed up in the jungles on Pacific islands refusing to believe World War II had ended.
To this desperate bunch of American dead-enders, the forgotten man is their emperor. There’s nothing we can do for these pitiable cases except be very kind to them, knowing that nothing makes them more irritable.
In their irritation, they may claim that they are not as cerebrally decayed as I am and boldly insist they know the name of the forgotten man and can say it as easily as they can denounce the idea of global warming or the notion that poor children should be able to get health insurance. Well, bully for them. I knew it once upon a political time — and that’s quite enough for anyone.
What they cannot convincingly deny is that we have a forgotten man in our national midst, a lame duck, a cooked goose — call him what you will. The proof is in the very primaries that have now begun to unfold.
Who is the Republican candidate who says, “I wish to take up the mantle of (the forgotten man) so that America can continue on its present course”? None, to my knowledge. True, being loyal to a fault, most don’t criticize him directly, but they aren’t jostling to pass themselves off as him.
They are too busy trying to pass themselves off as the new Ronald Reagan, who ironically set the standard for the amiable out-to-lunch presidency that the forgotten man once sought to imitate before he went and became forgotten.
It is true that the candidates hew to some of the policies of the forgotten man, especially on the necessity of keeping up the funding of the forgotten war with a king’s ransom of tax dollars that otherwise could have gone to meet forgotten needs. That is because they don’t know much about foreign affairs, but, fortunately for their constituency, they do think that evolution is a crock.
The forgotten man tries his pathetic best to be relevant in his changed circumstances. He has a little veto pen, which was lost for a long time, and he threatens to use it. He makes concerned noises about the forgotten economy, which threatens to become memorable now in a very bad way. But mostly it appears that he exercises and talks to his nice librarian wife about the books he forgot to read.
But every primary is another fitting by the political undertakers who have come to inter his career, and every candidate debate is another measuring of the drapes in that white house of forgotten hopes.
The forgotten man might be pitied. But, fortunately, enough of the American people remember what he did and what he didn’t do.
That much they can’t forget in the light of a new political dawn.
(Reg Henry is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. E-mail rhenry(at)post-gazette.com.)