It's the debates, tonight, and he has to look perfect. He is wearing the suit, and didn't it take him a long time to scratch up the money for it. (He wasn't that kind of conservative, like many of the rest, no old money for him.) Grey flannel, Brooks Brothers (of course), the cut a vintage from the 1950s, and he'd have taken earlier, if they would have made it. It looks just like the ones he had seen in the black & white photos from the dusty book in the library.
He'd worn the suit the last time, but even then, it wasn't perfect. There was something too quick in his actions, and yet also too studied. He moved with confidence, but too much purpose, the way he leaned slightly to indicate his displeasure at the speaker's ideas, the way he crinkled his nose (and didn't it take him forever to think of an ineffable expression), the way he casual swirled his Glenlivet on the rocks-- it had force, of course, but that was only enough back in high school. Now it was all a little too much, too many hints of effort. That wasn't how the conservative man, how his kind of man, did things. He had resolved to be more natural.
He's buttoned the buttons, his tie pin is precisely one third the way down the length of his staid tie, the white of his shirt cuff extends exactly so from his jacket. His grandfather's watch was safely in his pocket-- no, the old man didn't fight in World War II or Korea, and more's the pity-- but no watch chain extended gaudily out; he had seen such things on his mates, but he was a man above such affectation. No, they would have to tell what kind of a man he was by the shine of his shoe, by the broadness of his shoulders, the squareness of his jaw, and by God, his handshake. He liked to think that they sat a little more upright when he walked in the room, but of course he was above caring about such petty vanities. They knew he had done all the reading, he knew that he was worthy, and he had achieved, through no small force of will, the status of idea man. He was no leader, but he despised titles anyway, and there was always next year. He was far happier being the man who stood on the right side of every issue, was given due deference in conflicts of policy, and was very proud of his corpus of opinions. (He even liked to imagine that he had just the right kind of derision towards Jews-- not anti-Semitism, nothing so crass, and, Lord knows, he defend the state of Israel with the best of them; he simply wanted the kind of genteel, low-key mockery he had seen and admired. But then Gemma was Jewish. It was best not to think of such things.)
There, he says, one last look in the mirror, one last straightening of his dark crimson tie. It's perfect, he's perfect, he's ready. No one could mistake him for anything else but what he was, no one could doubt his bona fides. Even the leftists, he knew, respected him, and many of his peers feared him, which he liked. And beside his bearing, he took pride in one facet of his near perfect persona: his double-breasted sincerity, foursquare and proud.
Now, he thinks, wiping an imagined crumb from his lapel, looking into the mirror and permitting himself a smile. This is tradition.