Winter Soldiers: Win, Lose or Draw
In the heat of a political election people use all sorts of crazy metaphors. Joe Biden has coined the phrase “Dark Winter” —which sounds a little Game of Thrones-ish to me. The phrase may backfire on the Biden campaign… the Trump campaign cut a few commercials with Joe Biden talking about the “dark winter” and footage of burning and looting in Democratic controlled cities in this bleak Summer of 2020. Like a lot of the Trump campaign commercials they are bleakly funny and very on point. The Biden commercials by contrast don’t seem to have a point. But maybe that is the point of 2020.
From my perspective a few hours before election day officially begins (I already voted) the presidential election of 2020 is an eerie choice between Trump and non-Trump. And for a lot of people that is o.k. Few of the Biden voters I know are actually voting for Joe Biden. They are voting against Donald Trump. And they hate Donald Trump so much they don’t care about the scandal involving Hunter Biden and influence peddling, they don’t care about the fact that Big Tech has been committing the MOST overt act of political censorship in American history, and they don’t care that no one really seems to think Joe Biden has much of a future.
Nine months ago the smart political money —I’m a huge fan of Tucker Carlson and think there are few smarter political commentators on television— didn’t think Joe Biden would be a contender in 2020. Because back in January Joe Biden already seemed confused and out of touch. Admittedly Joe Biden has seemed confused and out of touch for most of my lifetime. But in 2020 Joe Biden seems to have crossed a line. I genuinely feel sorry for Joe Biden. I will feel more sorry for America if Joe Biden is somehow dragged across the finish line. But I do feel sorry for Joe Biden. His golden years have turned dark and now he is campaigning —quite possibly to keep his son from becoming the biggest disgrace in American history since Benedict Arnold— to “lead” a party that doesn’t take him seriously. A party that is overt about using him as a “transition” figure. American presidents aren’t supposed to be figureheads, but Joe Biden is running —or being run— as a feel-good innocuous figure head for the revolutionary arm of a political party that still bears the name “Democrat.”
I really hate the language of 2020. Not in the way that Never Trumpers tremble over the “unseemly” crudeness of having a candidate who is the guy who OWNS a golf club instead of having a candidate that just hangs out at the golf club. I hate the apocalyptic language of 2020. I hate the concept of a “Dark Winter.” I also hate the mindlessness of “Resist” --because resistance may not be futile, but I live in Marin County surrounded by people who have been stridently resisting for years. Most of all I detest the fact that for millions of Americans our country and our Constitution have become the enemies.
The language of 2020 has been nothing short of insane. Back in 2016 loads of well to do Leftists, minor celebrities and ambivalently employed perpetual college students threatened to flee to a “civilized country untainted by Trump” if Trump won. In general they didn’t. They just hunkered down to complain, sow division and hate America. Oddly, although I like Donald Trump and I am a Republican, I don’t mind if people “hate” Donald Trump. (Everyone needs a hobby.) I do mind if people hate America. And right now millions of Americans hate America. They hate our freedoms, they hate our traditions, they hate their neighbors, they hate the fact that it has, traditionally, for centuries been o.k. to have different opinions.
And so here we are on election day…. I’ve voted, I’ve volunteered, I’ve campaigned, and I’ve worried. But win, lose or draw I have never stopped believing in America. And I won’t. There may be a decisive victory one way or another tonight. Trump may run the field. Biden may run the field. There may be a painfully tight election. We may not know which candidate won for weeks. I’m actually betting on a decisive victory tonight. Hopefully for Trump. I know some conservatives who are convinced Harris will win. (Oddly they will be at a watch party tonight —utterly enraged that I threatened to out their feet of clay perspective to their fellow Republican party-goers. I will be home, watching the returns and tracking the counties the way I usually do… in my pajamas, with my laptop and some decaf.)
I’ve indulged in a bit of excessive language myself this year. It is easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole of the internet. The most extreme language I have used however was a response to Joe Biden’s “Dark Winter” phrasing… Like a lot of Americans I fear a Biden administration would usher in a Dark Winter of censorship, lessened opportunities for ordinary Americans —probably phenomenal opportunities for Chinese lobbyists, elite members of the New Left, and unelected political hacks— and a rising tide of Socialism and urban violence. But I still believe in America. I always will.
One of the reasons I believe in America is because of the picture at the top of this page. I’m not a journalist… so I occasionally bury the lede. So I’m going to tell you a story and I'm going to indulge in one last piece of extreme language during this odd presidential election cycle. Before the polls close I’m committing to America. Win, lose or draw, I will be a winter soldier. If you don’t know what a “winter soldier” is…. well, it is the opposite of what a summer soldier is… Think George Washington at Valley Forge. Historians say America was born in that harsh winter… Going on campaign in the heat of summer is one thing, settling in for a winter and committing to keeping the faith no matter what… that is a different matter. I visited Valley Forge once. It was early April. The wind was blowing and the rain was just slightly too warm to be needle fine hail. To a Californian like me it was chilly and bleak, I can only imagine what it is like to camp out there for a full winter, half starving with minimal supplies. But when I think of Winter Soldiers I don’t think of Valley Forge, I think of the picture at the top of this page.
I couldn’t tell you the names of anyone in that picture. I suspect I am, in some distant complex way, related to at least half of those people. The photograph was taken almost a hundred years ago in a beautiful summer in the far north of Europe. A small village on the bloody fringes of what was once the Tsarist Empire. The kind of place where winter is ten months long and summer is brief and glorious. This photograph was taken in high summer, probably the longest day of the year, when everyone dressed up and the village band played and a photograph of EVERYONE was taken for those who had gone away. Away to America. This was the village of my great grandmother. She, and her siblings —all orphaned young— were among those who “went away” to America to live the American dream. A life of freedom and choice and opportunity. A life they couldn’t have in that village on the fringes of Empire where ethnic minorities would always be part of the collateral damage of war. It was of course, as is often the case for an emigrant, a life of grindingly hard work, persistent homesickness, and constant sacrifice for future generations. But they weren't afraid of hard work. The work had always been hard in the northern villages.
Most of the people in this picture became Winter Soldiers. Literally. Within twenty years of this summer day armies marched and villages burned and the snow turned red with blood. They were Winter Soldiers in a real war. Not a metaphorical war.
Politics in America this year have been extremely metaphorical. (Reality has been nothing short of bizarre, and disturbingly violent. My closeted conservative friends are closeted because they are afraid. Afraid of being socially ostracized, punished in business or physically assaulted —it has been a crazy year.)
We’ve been talking about a “Dark Winter” a lot these last few weeks. I know some of my Leftist acquaintances will descend into a state that is nothing short of shrieking madness if and when Donald Trump wins. A list of celebrities has already threatened to abandon the country if Biden isn’t elected. But I would never make a threat like that. Ever. Because I still think the promise of America is worth enduring anything for. I still like to imagine America as it was for these ghosts in a photograph. My relatives from another era. They faced a real winter —literally every year— and they also faced a true winter war the likes of which few Americans can even imagine.
And so… before the polls close… win, lose or draw… I will commit to being a Winter Soldier. I won’t blame the closeted conservatives who are frightened of being outed and tomorrow may be putting a Kamala sticker on the backs of their cars. (I won't even deride them if in a few hours at a watch party they start declaiming that they ALWAYS knew Trump would win easily.)
Believing in America is eternal for me. As eternal as the ghosts of the North. So… win, lose or draw… Tomorrow or next week or next month I will still be a winter soldier. And yes, I voted. Because I believe in America.