THESE BRING their own rich rewards. But they do keep me from the satisfaction of writing each day about the things that interest me. And, necessarily, keep you from the enlightenment that would follow from your visits to "Unca Darrell."
Today, however, inspiration drives me yet again to the dusty keyboard, not to share my own musings but to point to the quite brilliant and painfully true musings of another. I serve today as James Boswell for the Samuel Johnson of our very own place and time, namely . . .
. . . radio host Michael Berry.
Whatever you think about him is probably wrong -- certainly wrong if you work for The Houston Chronicle or belong to the small and declining cohort that attends to its self-righteous, unTexan, hard-left opinions -- but there's no point in arguing with you about the matter.
On Monday morning, however, Mr. Berry delivered the best analysis of political reality in the Trump era that I have heard or read anywhere else. Here is the podcast. It requires registration with iHeartRadio, unfortunately, but it's worth the sacrifice.
The whole thing runs about an hour, forty-five, which may be more than you can spare. I'll give you some tips below on where to set the slider for the best stuff.
Listen or not, as your spirit leads.
My promise is this: If you do listen, you will get a perspective on the politics of the Obama and Trump era that is better than you will find anywhere else -- brilliant in its analysis, depressing in its conclusion.
If there's a thesis, it is that constitutional conservatives -- he being one, Unca D another, and you, one hopes, yet another -- have misread the tea party leaves. He argues that the national elections we regarded as evidence of conservative resurgence (2010, 2014 come to mind) were in fact evidence of much broader opposition to President Obama, Democrats, and the Republican establishment.
And what inspired this opposition, he says, was not support for "conservative theory" -- smaller government, lower taxes, lighter regulations, free trade and all the rest. Rather the opposition grew from nationalist and populist impulses. He then explains the sources and nature of this populism better than any other analyst I have heard.
The best thing you could do is listen to the whole broadcast, but it is a leisurely walk past a lot of potentially distracting subtopics. To get the heart of his argument -- "What does all this mean? -- tune in about 62:00 on the time line.
Once he gets past this part of the argument, Mr. Berry chits and chats about the state of conservative media, with well-delivered critiques of Breitbart, Hannity, and Coulter. This is inside baseball, however, so consider jumping forward to 76:30.
He explains how conservative media patted themselves on the back for feeding what constitutionalists saw as a hunger and thirst for conservative theory. But the Trump candidacy has revealed something that is "not pretty" about the reality of these victories.
At about 78:00 he talks about the resulting depression among serious conservative commentators, as they come to grips with the nature of the broader "anti-" coalition.
Voters are not inspired by constitutional conservatism, he said. They're more nationalist. They're more populist. And that's disappointing.
Starting about 80:00 on the timeline, he considers the nature of Trump-style populism, a vesting of all hopes on a "daddy figure," the fallacy that large crowds "justify everything." Mr. Trump's appeal is an indulgence, a getaway, a comfort food for the harsh realities of life. (About 84:00.)
"It's almost like Jesus," he says. "You can put your worries at his feet and walk away." (About 87:00.)
"This is great fun. And it's going to be great fun. Until it's not."
* * *
Mr. Berry does not use the vocabulary of declinism. This is the idea, which I hold, that America has abandoned its finest principles and, without them, is bound for a slow (if we're lucky) religious, cultural, political, and economic decline, already well along. And that the decline is not just national; it's civilizational.
Mr. Berry expresses muted optimism. If all goes right, he says, Senator Cruz -- a constitutional conservative of the first water -- could still win the nomination. But the overall tone of Mr. Berry's disquisition is elegiac. (For extra points, listen to the words of bumper music.)
We can hope the optimism is justified, but I have my doubts. Declinism is the reality, in my view, and the troubles Mr. Berry describes are the sound of a receding Western and American tide rattling the dreary stones of Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach."
* * *
One last thought. Whatever else one may think of Mr. Berry, give him points for courage. His audience is filled with Trump supporters. He offends his own base when he calls out Mr. Trump as an arrogant, unprincipled, bully. How much easier it might be to follow the shameful Rush Limbaugh model and maintain an air of studied neutrality toward the Trump candidacy.
Another thing about Mr. Berry's courage: Long-form essays like the one Monday morning offend the gods of radio. Ratings come from a series of darting jabs, first here, then there, then a word from our sponsor. Ratings come from being a radio incarnation of Mr. Trump: a name-caller, an over-simplifier, a panderer.
In his remarks Monday morning (and in much else), Mr. Berry follows a great Texas tradition: doing what's right and damning the consequences. See, e.g., the Alamo.