T. Coddington Van Voorhees VII
Conservative Intellectual At-Large
Such are the vicissitudes of our current political zeitgeist that Homo Republicanus is each day forced to endure a fresh assault on his intelligence somehow more insulting than the last. Doubly insulting, as you no doubt imagine, when the Homo in question is me. Contrary to what you may assume, the gift of intellectual acuity and foresight can in times like these prove to be an almost unbearable cross; I shall not use this space to recount the many unheeded warnings I have issued to fellow Republicans regarding the growing menace of the soi dissant "Tea Party" faction, other than to note that as a Cassandra I have, if anything, proven to be insufficiently alarmist.
The latest proof of this assertion came with Wednesday morning's grapefruit and New York Times, borne as always on the old family serving cart by Farquhar the old family butler. According to Van Voorhees lore the sterling conveyance was acquired by T. Coddington II during some long-forgotten 19th century Panic, from a newly destitute Albany canal boat nabob to whom he had lent a small ransom. Unable to repay his bonds, the man offered great-great-great grandpapa the serving cart in a desperate act of supplicancy to stave off a well-deserved thrashing from TC2's diamond-tipped swagger stick. Although it would not so avail him that day, the old tarnished trolley now serves as a handsome household heirloom. And, if the appraisers of Sotheby's are to be trusted, a lasting tribute to the Van Voorhees' famed financial clairvoyance. As for Farquhar, I would note that he has become in his own way an equally treasured family keepsake, having now faithfully served four generations of Van Voorheeses without complaint and without once taking a holiday. Though well into his late nineties and afflicted with the St. Vitus Dance, the old Irishman continues to do so today. As a lad I once queried my grandfather as to Farquhar's remarkable loyalty; in reply he explained that Farquhar was a penniless immigrant beggar waif when TC5 first discovered him at the Cunard docks in 1921; a wretched urchin possessing neither passport nor prospects, and with a Sinn Fein bounty on his head. In pity TC5 remanded young Farquhar to the custody of his household staff, who tutored him in the fine points of servantry and US deportation laws. Although his duties have for the most part been delegated to other members of our current household staff, I still request that he bring me my morning paper and grapefruit; for even as Mariska complains of his smell, the sight of the dear old chap hobbling into the breakfast room with the old serving cart provides a comforting reminder of a saner era when living was gracious and Republicans knew how to comport themselves.
But I digress. I was, as you might imagine, eager to read the results of the previous evening's Republican U.S. Senate primary in Delaware. Normally I would have followed the returns by live television, but Mariska and I were otherwise engaged as hosts of a black-tie fundraiser for our new charity program, Inner City Badminton, along with our dear friends from the firmament of conservative punditry, Kathleen Parker and David Brooks. Together we passionately believe that by introducing the "grand old pastime" to the hiphop community, we will in some small way begin to repair the incalculable damage done to Republican-African American relations by the racially tactless Tea Party idiots. Spirits were quite festive, especially after Parker, Brooks and the Rev. Sharpton became entangled in a badminton net during a Tom Collins-fueled limbo tournament. By the time they were freed we were all too giddy and exhausted to worry about election returns. Indeed, why should we? For the most part, the damage inflicted by the Tea Partyists has been confined to the hinterlands west of the Alleghenies and south of Washington, so it seemed somewhat absurd to suggest that their benighted candidates might actually find success in one of the better states like Delaware. Yes, I am aware of Mr. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, but as I have noted before, that particular electoral fluke can be readily explained by Brown's erotic appeal to his state's famously nymphomaniacal womenfolk. Once Senator Adonis suffers the ravages of time and gravity, I have every confidence Massachusetts will return, chastened, to its traditional progressive heritage. But Delaware? With its long record of electing deep, gravitas-laden men such as Joe Biden (who, despite suffering over 1500 sun strokes, cerebral infarctions, and hematomae over the last 10 years, retains a reputation as one of Washington's brightest minds) the 'First State' seemed the last state to be seduced by the Tea Partyist's inane lowbrow "smaller gubmint" hillbilly bunkum.
Thus I assumed when the Delaware Republican party approached me last week requesting high-level strategic advice it was in regards to the November general election. Mr. Biden's elevation to the executive branch created an open Senate seat and, mercifully, a rare moment of kismet for moderate and intellectual conservatives; here, at last, the right kind of seat, for the right kind of state, and the right kind of candidate in Mr. Mike Castle. With his nomination a forgone conclusion and a voting record scarcely distinguishable from Mr. Biden's, Mr. Castle would be undoubtedly competitive in November and could be supported by a better stripe of conservative without fear of Washington social embarrassment. Better yet, his nomination would represent a return to the rational conservatism which has been all but eclipsed by the dark moon of Tea Party lunacy. All that remained to formulate a strategy to position Mr. Castle further to the center for the general election, and to make arrangements for cocktails; two task for which I am eminently qualified and brimming with ideas. Instead, I was mortified to learn from party officials that they were in fact seeking help in parrying a primary challenge to Mr. Castle from a dark horse Republican who was in the midst of a last minute charge in the polls.
Who was this mysterious rival, I inquired - some heretofore unknown Machiavellian prodigy from Harvard poli sci? An old-money interloper from the Philadelphia Mainline? Neither, they said. The challenge, they explained, came in the form of one "Christine O'Donnell," a financially destitute 37-year old Tea Party schoolgirl whose intellectual heft by comparison made even la Palin look Obamanesque. I then watched in abject horror as they played a video of her crusading against teenage onanism. I admit no great pride in my own occasional participation in that unseemly adolescent pastime, but what sort of person declaims it on MTV? And what sort of party allows her name to appear on an official primary ballot? And that is when it struck me: I was obviously now witnessing the premise of an elaborate practical joke. Delawareans have long been known as the irascible pranksters of East Coast Republicanism, and to be selected as the target of their good-natured japery is in some fashion an honor. Even though the stunt nearly led to his untimely demise, the very first T. Coddington Van Voorhees himself reportedly enjoyed a hearty laugh after his waggish Delaware friend E. I. du Pont replaced his trusty dueling pistol with a replica that egested a comical "BANG" flag. Not wanting to spoil their fun, I did not let on to the Delaware party officials that I was wise to their little joke. Instead, I played along and counseled them to run a last minute, no-holds-barred negative media blitz against their impossibly fictional "Tea Party candidate."
And thus I awaited with wry anticipation as Farquhar slowly traversed the breakfast room with the cart bearing the punchline to the Delawareans' clever prank. This was followed by gales of riotous laughter when I discovered the wags had printed an entire mock edition of the New York Times announcing their satirical "Miss O'Donnell" had actually won the race! I was so overcome with mirth that I kicked over the cart, spilling grapefruit across the marble. As Farquhar trembled back to the kitchens to retrieve the mop, I reached for the ringing telephone prepared to hear the voice of the Delaware GOP chairman crowing about his ingenious drollery. Instead I was greeted with the panicked entreaties of none other that Mr. Castle himself, joined by the Republican National Congressional Committee brain trust, insisting against all rational evidence that Miss O'Donnell was in fact real and that she had indeed won the contest. I conducted an incredulous review of the cable news channels, which confirmed their wild story. I called the kitchen intercom and bade Farquhar fetch me a stiff drink on his way back with the mop.
What followed, I will state with no small amount of confidence, was the birth of a mighty counterrevolution to wrest the cause of conservatism back from the would-be mobs.
"Gentlemen, at long last it is time to draw a line in the sand," I announced. "For too long we have stood by idly while these insipid cretins - the Palins, the Limbaughs, the Becks - have run roughshod over our once proud party, making it a mockery and ruining our social standing, advancing the insane notion that years of Washington experience and good breeding are somehow trumped by idiotic pledges to dismantle the very government on which their very existence depends. Well, my friends, I say unto you, with this Delaware disaster they have gone a bridge too far. Today we begin the counterattack, and we will make it plain to the insurrectionists that they shan't see another dime of our inheritances."
The polite huzzahs and claps emanating from the speaker-phone indicated to me that my call to arms was striking a chord within the heart of traditional Republicanism. Heartened, I pressed on.
"If it is a fight the Jacobins want, then it is a fight they shall have," I added with a pugilistic flourish. "And let this be their warning - I once took 4th place in the East Hampton Silver Gloves boxing tournament."
My battle cry was greeted, as you might imagine, with a lusty cheer the likes of which had not been heard since the eve of Agincourt. And justly so; for in the course of human events, there comes a time when a well bred man must roll up his cashmere sleeves, grab the old family swagger stick, and remind the rabble of their proper place.
Take Farquhar, for instance. I swear the old fool just offered me an obscene gesture.