On Nov. 11, a mere five days after the presidential election, the cruise ship Nieuw Amsterdam pushed off from Fort Lauderdale for a Caribbean jaunt. Aboard were nearly 600 emotionally tattered Republicans, most of whom had been expecting a Republican victory of Rovian proportions — surely they had all read Karl’s prediction in the Wall Street Journal — and now were about to cruise 750 miles to nowhere, just like the party they so adored. The Nieuw Amsterdam was 86,000 tons of painful metaphor.
The cruise was sponsored by National Review, the magazine founded by William F. Buckley and for years the most important and probably the most readable journal in all of American conservatism. As with other such magazines — the Nation, a liberal journal, does the same thing — a group of columnists and other well-known movement types get piped aboard so that along with the flambeed everything comes a dessert of political instruction, faux insider stuff and the usual warnings that civilization (as we know it) is coming to an end.
The difference between this cruise and others like it was the (paying) presence of Joe Hagan, a writer for New York magazine. To his considerable credit, Hagan abstained from shooting these particular fish in their barrel and instead portrayed them as dismayed and somewhat disoriented refugees from an America that used to be. Not only had they been unprepared for Mitt Romney’s loss, but it was dawning on them that their tribe — mostly affluent, elder whites — had lost the election as well as the demographic battle that had preceded it.
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