Bryce Harper is a conservative hero. The star rookie for the Washington Nationals has woken up Major League Baseball, and watching it unfold has reminded me of nothing so much as the collapse of the old political paradigms and the inevitable and upcoming rebirth of conservatism in November.
This became clear to me on May 26 of this year. The Nationals were playing Atlanta, and in the fifth inning Harper, with his team leading by two, singled to right. The ball was hit to Braves right fielder Jason Heyward. Heyward strolled up to the ball as if he were walking to the corner for a paper.
Harper promptly headed for second base. Heyward suddenly woke up and fired to second base, but too late.
More than one sports writer has noted that this moment was no small thing for baseball. It was like the part in the movie “Awakenings” when the guy who was asleep for 30 years wakes up.
To me, the play carried even greater symbolic importance. Heyward’s bungle showed a complacency, if not indolence, that Harper threatens to destroy, but it also could be a metaphor for the collapse of the old liberal order. Heyward was like one of those public school teachers who, because they are a union member, can’t be fired and so are relegated to the “rubber room” to sit and read the paper and gather a check for the rest of their lives. Or even Obama, who went from Hawaii to Harvard to the White House and never seems to have had to slide head-first into a base his entire life.
Then there was Harper’s recent retort, which went viral, to an idiot question asked by a member of the media: “That’s a clown question, bro.” Chris Matthews’ career in five words.
Watching Bryce Harper play is like listening to an economic speech by Paul Ryan: It’s long on reality and short on excuses. Harper has slapped baseball awake, and every time he steps up to the plate, years of crusty baseball routine no longer apply. He swings the bat with a blinding snap of force, and in the outfield dives for balls that bored veterans would let go. When he hits a double he usually tries to stretch it into a triple. Manager Davey Johnson tries to bench him for being hurt, and Harper confronts him and says, like a person with enough dignity to refuse welfare: Let me work. Then he wins the game with a crucial hit.
Harper also adapts. When pitcher Livan Hernandez froze the 19-year-old Harper with a slow curve ball, Harper adjusted his batting and next time up Harper hit a game-winning home run.
Ironically, it is modern conservatives who have embraced change more than liberals, who are dogmatic in their adherence to old ways of doing things. The left, like Jason Heyward dozing in the outfield, sees nothing wrong with the way things have worked, or even not worked, for the past 40 years. Teachers should never be fired, no matter how incompetent. It is anathema for public-sector union members to pay for even a small percentage of their own health care. Sex-ed taught without reference to the human soul can only do good, and has nothing to do with promiscuity and the collapse of female self-esteem. And we can spend all the money in the world and never have to pay it back.