WRVA's John Reid Says What Everyone Is Thinking

WRVA’s John Reid Says What Everyone Is Thinking

By: August 4, 2022

John Reid calls out the men without chests. Good on him for doing so.

Most people can read, yet very few of us are literate souls.

Like most people, we can perform the functions of a thing. Yet there is no organization in what we do or why we do it. We want the result without effort. Popularity without leadership, goodness without virtue, credentials without education — the list continues ad infinitum.

We are all guilty of it to some degree. Yet it seems far more prevalent today and nowhere near as omnipresent as in politics.

Which is part of what C.S. Lewis was warning about the presence of a counterfeit masquerading for the real thing, or better still, why such men without chests are counterfeit in the first place:

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

— C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (1944)

That is the problem John Reid tackled on WRVA.

. . . and he is absolutely right.

Let’s start with the good news up front.

Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin’s approval rating is at 49% in Virginia, in contrast to Democratic President Joe Biden’s paltry 39% in Virginia and 40% nationally — with 55.4% of all respondents viewing Biden unfavorably.

Meanwhile, the generic ballot has Republicans up by 0.3, which doesn’t seem like much until you realize that most GOP tidal waves show Republicans up by a smidge until the real numbers come in.

Sometimes and in some things PR firms and public relations officers (PAOs) get a bit ahead of their skis. In short, they drink their own Kool Aid and demand that others do likewise.

The problem with this sort of groupthink is that it isn’t thinking at all. Yet there is a sentiment that exists in Virginia political circles that Youngkin’s political handlers — Axios Strategies among them — manufactured a strategy for victory out of whole cloth.

It is pure nonsense, of course.

First and foremost, Virginia’s fortunes rise and fall with Washington. The old adage “if you’re in, you’re out” holds mostly true for Virginia politics. Youngkin was in trouble most of the month of August until Biden unilaterally withdrew from Afghanistan. When Biden’s numbers cratered, Youngkin’s numbers rose. Even then, the margin of victory in Virginia was 50,000 votes — not exactly a landslide or a repudiation of the political left.

Second, honest observers will recognize that most of what unites Virginia Republicans is the mendacity of the political left. There is a center-right wave coming in 2022. But much like 2010 and 2014, this wave consists of a righteous anger that knows what it is against rather than what it is decidedly for. Critical Race Theory, gender ideology, Drag Queen Story Hour (TM) and the litany of horribles that the Democrats continue to champion are all signs that they have taken ground and will not concede a single inch.

Third and perhaps more sobering? Republicans are not in a position to restore sanity — not even a little bit. In the General Assembly? We hold the House of Delegates but not the Virginia Senate. In the Executive Mansion? Youngkin might live there, but the bureaucracy opposes him tooth and nail. The media castigates him, public education fights him, academia is already stonewalling Board of Visitors appointments and community college reforms. In short, it’s not the politicians; it’s the institutions.

Which brings us to WRVA’s John Reid, who had the guts to say what too many Republicans have been whispering to one another — that the Youngkin administration seems to more concerned with pouring oil on troubled waters rather than making waves:

I’m disappointed . . . I’m sorry it’s come to this. And I debated whether I should say this on the radio, it’s kind of dangerous for me to speak this way on the radio. But you know what, to hell with it, I’m going to do it anyway. I’m just not going to keep my mouth shut about things like this . . . I’m not trying to attack Glenn Youngkin, I still support him. But this is concerning.

Don’t give in to these leftists, because you’re never going to make them happy. They will always attack you. They will always stab you in the back, and these days they are stabbing him right in the chest. 

At least he sent Sen. Lucas a free fleeced Glenn Youngkin vest, he didn’t even do that for Ann McLean, for God’s sake.

This after three Youngkin appointees have either been pushed out in the face of left-wing criticism, Ann McLean for — of all things — objecting to the mob destruction of Richmond’s Monument Avenue.

Dr. Colin Greene who was castigated by the Washington Post was forced to endure additional censure from the man who appointed him — Glenn Youngkin. The inestimable Jim Bacon over at Bacon’s Rebellion points out the contradiction of the claims rather succinctly:

If I were so inclined, using the logic of the left, I could string together cherry-picked data proving that Virginia’s healthcare is systemically racist against Whites. I don’t do that because I don’t believe it to be true. Yet “progressives” do exactly that in proclaiming — with great self-righteousness and indignation against anyone who dares disagree — systemic racism favoring Whites.

Social reality is complex. Healthcare is complex. If there is bias in the system, it’s socio-economic bias favoring individuals who benefit from employer-based insurance coverage. But, frankly, I’m not sure how important that is compared to lifestyle factors such as nutrition and exercise. Of this I am confident: Viewing the healthcare system through a prism of race alone does violence to reality. Insofar as the rhetoric of grievance persuades minority groups that they are victims of hostile forces, it is likely to inspire counter-productive avoidance of the healthcare system.

As for Casey Flores? Who actually cares?

One might even be so bold as to say that Republicans owe zero explanations to a media and political party who actively excuses stuff like this:

Maybe we don’t have to consider the opinions of people who stand on a pile of dead babies and dare to scold the rest of us on social justice — right?

Better a vest than a hood. Or was it blackface?

Yet in three instances, Youngkin was advised to throw his own appointees — all Youngkin loyalists — under the bus.

That’s just bad advice.

Of course, there’s a counterpunch to this. Despite the outward appearances of the Youngkin persona, the fact of the matter is that Youngkin isn’t as popular as his handlers want others to believe. This isn’t to say that Youngkin isn’t a fantastic guy, but it is to say that the political environment and the resistance from the institutions themselves simply do not play to Youngkin’s strengths even a little bit.

Which is why John Reid is absolutely right.

Virginians have gotten to know Youngkin for the better part of a year after his nomination for the GOP slot for governor. Yet what most Virginia politicos still haven’t figured out about the man is what — if anything — Youngkin is willing to bleed for politically.

Certainly, it is not the right to life. Certainly, it is not even banning CRT or gender ideology. Certainly, it is not for his own appointees (though wooing the bureaucracy with $5 food vouchers seems to be a worthy pursuit).

Yet in the effort not to be criticized for doing something, Youngkin is in danger of doing nothing.

Which is not what those of us on the center-right want to hear.

Fact of the matter is that Reid is 100% correct — the left is going to criticize us for anything we do that might retract the gains they had made during the McAuliffe-Northam era. Yet even with oppositional General Assemblies, both McAuliffe and Northam were able to impose much of their agenda.

The institutions held in thrall to the left are always going to be critical. Yet in order to avoid the vulgar instinct that says if one is being criticized then one must be right, the opposite position of doing nothing so as not to be criticized should be held in equal contempt.

Of course, Youngkin instinctively knows that he can only do so much given the political environment. Contrary to the public image of an invincible and popular governor, the fact of the matter is that Republicans are hanging on to power by our fingernails and not with both hands firmly on the wheel.

Which means that Republican expectations should be tempered to some degree, if for no other reason than the hour is much later than most of us think.

The longer ideologies such as Critical Race Theory and gender inclusivity (sic) remain embedded in the institutions, the harder it will be for common sense and basic ontological truths to pry them out.

When Republican influencers — and Reid isn’t the only one — start voicing publicly what they have been airing privately for months, that’s a failure in intelligence gathering — or what veterans of the George Allen era used to call running your campaign from a swivel chair.

What Youngkin has to decide — and he is the only one who can decide this — is whether or not he intends to preserve his political capital for an eventual 2023 push to establish an agenda, or whether or not he intends to telegraph the punch earlier in order to establish some confidence on the ground.

One might even be so bold as to advise standing by your appointees when the Democrats — the party of dead babies and scolds, mind you — criticize your own hand-picked Republican supporters?

Democrats love picking off Republicans. Why in God’s name should we do their work for them?

Plump minds — “heads no bigger than the ordinary” — are going to wave the banner of hypocrisy here. After all, isn’t all of this critical of our Republican governor as well?

Perhaps the persona, but not the man.

Look — no one is asking him to be a knife fighter with fast hands and no conscience. Politics rewards people like that too easily. Yet one does expect Youngkin to stand by the people who stood by him. More than this, Virginia Republicans do expect Youngkin to stand for something — and soon.

Otherwise, it is fear of the Democrats that is keeping everyone nodding and happy for now, but it is wasted time. Maybe that is enough to unite some Republicans, and it might even be enough to beat the likes of Terry McAuliffe with the likes of Joe Biden in the White House.

Yet Virginia sorely needs action and leadership as opposed to persona management. If folks are looking for the secret as to why Virginia’s Democrats aren’t demoralized by even the slightest degree, it is because they too know that the hour is later than most Republicans realize — and they’re right.

Acta non verba.

So why did I start this with C.S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man and his criticism of men without chests? The Romans reminded their conquerors tempus fugit, memento mori. Those of us who are opinion writers and critics — and I am being critical here — should remember that our criticism is an inferior sort of advice that should be teased out a bit. After all, none of us are in the catbird seat.

Lewis expands on what he means about “men without chests” in his preceding four paragraphs before condemning the heartless men:

The operation of The Green Book and its kind is to produce what may be called Men without Chests. It is an outrage that they should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so.

They are not distinguished from other men by any unusual skill in finding truth nor any virginal ardour to pursue her. Indeed it would be strange if they were: a persevering devotion to truth, a nice sense of intellectual honour, cannot be long maintained without the aid of a sentiment which Gaius and Titius could debunk as easily as any other.

It is not excess of thought but defect of fertile and generous emotion that marks them out. Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath that makes them seem so.

And all the time—such is the tragi-comedy of our situation—we continue to clamour for those very qualities we are rendering impossible. You can hardly open a periodical without coming across the statement that what our civilization needs is more ‘drive’, or dynamism, or self-sacrifice, or ‘creativity’.

For the sake of context, this Green Book was a call to relativism and is probably only read because Lewis elected to call it out some eight decades ago. Tempus fugit, indeed.

What I hope this is not is a call for more ardor, drive, dynamism, self-sacrifice, and so forth in the cynical sense. Yet the wider point that we — and perhaps I — am clamoring for qualities the world renders impossible remains apt. After all, politicians can only do what we as citizens give them the latitude to do in the public square.

Which is why Lewis gives us the final observation:

In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.

The wider question is — should Youngkin or any other Republican act — is it mere function for its own sake? Or is there an organistic whole where the body politic might react and join him in the effort?

Maybe his own polling is telling him that it’s not there. Which is a certain failure on our part to reinforce our values in the public square.

Which is to say that the “men without chests” might not always be our politicians. Such individuals might very well be us.

Yet politicians can and very much do provide that catalyst, provided it is actually a catalyst. No one is waking up in the AM for a 15-week ban on dead babies much less a $300 tax refund. Much of Youngkin’s “Day One” plan was low-hanging fruit we should have gone after, but what Reid et al. are echoing here — and he is right — is that what we really require is a little bit more heart.

I think that’s right. I hope you do as well, Governor.

Shaun Kenney is the editor of The Republican Standard, former chairman of the Board of Supervisors for Fluvanna County, and a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia.

~~Reprinted with permission. See the original article here and leave some comments! 

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