No Surrender

People whose families did not arrive in America yesterday or the day before yesterday are likely to discover, some time or another, among their parents’ and grandparents’ effects small, faded campaign buttons advocating Coolidge for President, or FDR, and later larger and more elaborate buttons promoting Eisenhower-Nixon, or Stevenson-Kefauver, Kennedy-Johnson, Goldwater-Miller, Reagan-Bush, and perhaps Clinton-Gore.  Since about the mid-90’s, however, the button has been disappearing from American political campaigns, replaced by the bumper sticker—which so far in the current election season seems much less prevalent than it was in 2012.  Its absence can be explained partly by the fact that 2016 is the Year of the Unpopular Candidate; yet surely there is more to the thing than that.  In 1964 many supporters of Barry Goldwater were dissuaded from affixing Goldwater stickers to their vehicles for fear of possible sabotage, and it could be the same is true of enthusiasts for Donald Trump.  As for Mrs. Clinton, who has no enthusiasts whatever, the dearth of Hillary stickers on the road may simply reflect the latest poll (as of this writing) indicating that only 36 percent of the American public likes and trusts her.  But, once again, that is obviously not the full story.

When it comes to politics—and, increasingly, other things as well—Americans today are like Mae West: They...

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