Tom Cotton, Ben Sasse. Remember those names. Not just newly-elected Republican Senators, but two new political stars with the potential to lead the Republican Party to victory in the 2016 presidential election.
Here is what they are: outstanding young men, relatively new to politics, Ivy League brilliant but with extraordinary records of relevant experience and achievement in the real world, thoroughly in command of economics and national-defense and foreign policy issues, and endowed with appealing personalities. Energetic and attractive individuals who ran stunningly successful political campaigns leading to landslide victories, one of them (Cotton) un-seating an incumbent Democrat. Perhaps most importantly, each is an authentic Reagan conservative, enthusiastically conversant in the Friedman/Hayek school of free-market economics and extremely knowledgeable about the intricacies (and flaws) of ObamaCare. They are comfortable with the Tea Party and are appreciated and respected by the Tea Partiers, but their range is far broader than just the social issues that have come to identify – and sometimes limit – the TP. And did I mention that they are young and energetic.
Here is what they are not: old (think Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and just about anybody else the Democrats appear to be thinking of putting forward), tired (see previous item), and burdened with enough baggage to prevent a 777 from becoming airborne. Also, neither can be blamed for either the current state of our economy or the enfeebled state of our national security apparatus, nor can they be associated with George W. Bush – except in the sense that Tom Cotton devoted five of the prime years of his young adulthood to serving as an Army officer in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star as a member of the 101st Airborne Division. Let’s see the Democrats match that.
Why would the country still care that her candidates are not just qualified, but young and attractive? Because the very concept implies innocence and idealism. Because America, especially America, has never quite resigned herself to the cynical expectation that all politicians are incurably corrupt and narcissistic, and because hope springs eternal. In the case of Republicans, this latest election is vivid proof that we do not want crony capitalists whose stock in trade is cutting favorable deals with government, we do not want cultural Republicans or one-issue Republicans, we do not want candidates who rail against government but cannot explain the difference between the functions for which government is needed and appropriate and those for which it is not. What we want, but rarely get, is the real thing, and we sense that the odds are better when we go with unspoiled youth.