Public radio yesterday carried an account of the works of George MacDonald Fraser, who has just died. Fraser wrote a series of books about Harry Paget Flashman, the bully and coward featured in Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857). The original portrayed Tom Brown as an upstanding, though according to the reviewer boring, Christian hero, who through virtue and teamwork overcame Flashman’s evil deeds. But Fraser, writing in our times, turned Flashman into an anti-hero, a deceitful womanizing coward who somehow continuously comes out on top—the devil defeating virtue. Fraser wrote novels for our times. The NPR reviewer loves Fraser’s series.
To me, the NPR rave about Flashman sums up the media’s love for the storyline of the 1960s—rebellion against established order, mixed with misbehavior that offends those who should be offended. The storyline seemed to prevail when youthful media persons helped end an unpopular war and then drive Nixon from office. But the destruction of the old order brought mostly Republican victories in its wake. Americans wanted something more positive. They wanted good to defeat evil. They wanted hope. Yet today’s media still cheers for a domestic recession (now that Iraq no longer produces black headlines) that will drive Americans away from Republicans. And they may get their wish. But is this the right road to power?
Into this dark world of media cheering against America comes Barack Obama. His stunning victory yesterday suggests Democrats may return to their roots in the Roosevelt politics of optimism that embraced America's virtues. Could it be that the country, like Iowa, hungers for an end to the politics of division, the politics we have known over the nearly five decades since Kennedy’s uplifting “Time for Greatness” 1960 campaign for president?