Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The New, New, New, New, New Right

Are there no magicians in Egypt that you come back to make serpents out of sticks or cause rabbits to appear? I will give your staff a greater wonder to perform. Bear it before your idle people and bid them make bricks without straw.

-- Rameses II, The Ten Commandments
For Monday's 800-words of Centrist dopamine, David Brooks has once again hauled his favorite fairy tale down from it's well-worn nook:
The New Right

 David Brooks
A new manifesto from a group of reform conservatives is the most coherent and compelling policy agenda the American right has produced this century...
Which is better known under its original title, "Horton Hears a Whigish Conservative Renaissance Juuuuust Around the Corner (We are here!  We are here!  We are here!)"

Of course, it is possible that someone out there may not know that Mr. Brooks has built an entire career out of pretending that the actual Anarcho-Conservative Movement he helped build and which howls and snarls and leers derangedly at him daily is, somehow, not the real Conservative Movement:
"Well, I don’t have a machine for peering into the souls of Obama’s critics, so I can’t measure how much racism is in there. But my impression is that race is largely beside the point."

 -- David Brooks, September 17, 2009
No, according to Mr. Brooks', the real Conservative Movement is forever waiting in the wings, perpetually on the verge of springing into action to save the nation from The Extremes on Both Sides (but especially from those "brainless, destructive" Liberals), which is why a few example from Mr. Brooks' rich history of Conservative Renaissance predictive horseshit are probably in order.

For example, did you know that back in 1999, Mr. Brooks forseaw a vigorous Bush/McCain hybrid Conservatism waiting just over the horizon:
How George W. Bush and John McCain -- without quite realizing it -- are creating a new Republican philosophy
SEP 13, 1999
...together, Bush's Compassionate Conservatism and McCain's New Patriotic Challenge are steps toward a fresh vision for the Republican party. Indeed, if you meld the core messages of the two campaigns, you get a coherent governing philosophy for the post-Clinton age.

Or that, in 2002, Mr. Brooks confidently asserted that, under the brilliant command of George W. Bush, the libertarian grip on the GOP ahd been broken!  Huzzah!
The Reemerging Republican Majority
Will Bush's popularity transform his party?
FEB 11, 2002 
...President Bush has broken the libertarian grip on the GOP. 
Which would allow Dubya to continue the reformation of Conservatism along the lines that Mr. Brooks likey-likey!
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary Liberals
JAN 15, 2001
We seem to be entering a period of competent conservatism and reactionary liberalism. George W. Bush has put together a cabinet long on management experience and practical skills. But liberal commentators and activists, their imaginations aflame, seem to be caught in a time warp, back in the days when Norman Lear still had hair...
This transformation would be especially smooth and delightful because, under Dubya's wise and fiscally prudent leadership, we were gonna have fucking tax cuts and surpluses for-evah!
Yes, There Is a New Economy
Thanks to once-in-a lifetime productivity gains, Bush's plans are easily affordable
MAR 19, 2001
It is also a little known fact that, back in 2003, Mr. Brooks strongly hinted that we could all look forward to a New South, full of humane, cosmopolitan, thinking-man's Conservatives like Bill Frist:
Bill Frist's New South
The revenge of the patricians.
JAN 27, 2003, VOL. 8, NO. 19 • BY DAVID BROOKS

THE PROBLEM for a person born into this culture is obvious. Raised in such rarefied air, how to talk to normal people? How can Bill Frist possibly relate to rural rednecks, urban blacks, or even middle-class suburbanites? His background is nothing like theirs.

Some in Nashville say that being a doctor helps. The people he treats come from all walks of life. But that doesn't explain much. In your experience with normal doctors, let alone superstar transplant surgeons, would you say that their life paths have bred in them a simple egalitarian ethos? Of course not. Many doctors, and especially the surgical superstars, see themselves as inhabiting a Mount Olympus of the mind. And yet Bill Frist obviously does relate to people. Like Bush, he does not alienate or cast himself as superior to normal, middle-class Americans. Frist was reelected to the Senate with a wider margin than any other candidate for statewide election in recent Tennessee history, which, given some of the senators the state has produced, is saying something.

Or course, while Conservatives were busy establishing the Permanent Whig Ruling Majority of David Brooks' dreams, Liberals would simply fade away.  We would melt, thaw and resolve ourselves into a nattering background hum of stupid worry-warting about deficits --
The Pelosi Democrats  
Are they going to become the stupid party? 
ARE THE DEMOCRATS about to go insane? Are they about to decide that the reason they lost the 2002 election is that they didn't say what they really believe? Are they about to go into Paul Krugman-land, lambasting tax cuts, savaging Bush as a tool of the corporate bosses? Are they about to go off on a jag that will ensure them permanent minority status in every state from North Carolina to Arizona?
-- and Iraq and the rise of NeoConfederate nutjobs and the corporate takeover of the American political process --
Bush, as Advertised 
What on earth has gotten into the liberals and the media? Perhaps affected by some sort of post-Palm Beach stress disorder, reporters and activists on the left have depicted George W. Bush as the leader of some sort of arch-conservative jihad. They've portrayed his tax plan as dangerously radical, some of his nominees as Confederacy-loving loons, and his voucher plan as a menace to the future of public education. To put it bluntly, this is all deranged. You get the impression that the left has actually started believing its own direct-mail fund-raising letters. 
-- and other suchlike nonsense that no Very Serious Person could possibly take seriously.

So, OK, but why in wide world of sporks lead off this field trip into the Past That Dare Not Speak Its Name with a quote from the Ten Commandments?

Well thanks for asking, because I'd damn near forgotten that's where I'd started.

For the answer to that question, we have to go back to an April 2013 IntelligenceSquared debate on the proposition that "The GOP Must Seize the Center or Die" between Mickey Edwards and David Brooks (for the proposition) and Laura Ingraham and Ralph Reed (against the proposition.)

It was a long "debate" among unsavory types that cannot be compressed into 140 characters. Maybe that's why, when four leading Conservatives sat down across from each other and made it perfectly clear that they know damn well who really makes up the base of the Conservative Movement and the GOP.

Yes, I watch such things so that you won't have to.

And guess what?  It turns out the Movement's rank and file are exactly the same wretched hive of scum and villainy that Liberals have been telling you about for decades -- and the Conservative Brain Caste knows it.  Sure they dance around for awhile,  but eventually Mickey Edwards gets to the point:
The Republican Party we have today could disappear and be replaced by a range of its little subsets, all these other -- a Christian right party, a libertarian party, a no government, no tax party, a gun owner's party, a no gays and no immigrants party, each one with its own small niche of true believers...
And that is the conversation we will never, ever have at the national level.

That is the reason that it doesn't matter how many tea leaves and goat entrails and academic papers David Brooks pores excitedly over to predict his Awesome Whig Tomorrow.

Because you can't make bricks without straw, and you can't make a political movement without people.  And the plain, cold, ugly truth of the matter is that the Right is really nothing but the sum of its parts.

And its parts are grotesque.

And the reason we will never have that conversation is because, floating along at the ippy-tippy-top top of the movement you find people like Mr. David Brooks, busily making an obscenely profitable living by insuring that every time that subject is broached, it is smothered under an avalanche of Both Siderism.

They all know it, and they have known it all along, because they all feed at the same trough -- all depending on the same mob of paranoids and morally truncated imbeciles to pack their pews, pump up their political muscle, read their columns, buy their books, watched their teevee shows and, in general, make it possible for them to enjoy lives of tremendous prosperity and power.

The real difference between them is that Ingraham and Reed want to the GOP to drop the charade and start acting proudly and publicly in the same way they act in private, while traditional Party apparatchiks like Brooks and Edwards are much more deeply invested in the Straussian Noble Lie theory of governance, and are thus horrified by that thought (from Information Clearinghouse):
A second fundamental belief of Strauss’s ancients has to do with their insistence on the need for secrecy and the necessity of lies. In his book Persecution and the Art of Writing, Strauss outlines why secrecy is necessary. He argues that the wise must conceal their views for two reasons – to spare the people’s feelings and to protect the elite from possible reprisals.

The people will not be happy to learn that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior, the master over the slave, the husband over the wife, and the wise few over the vulgar many. In On Tyranny, Strauss refers to this natural right as the “tyrannical teaching” of his beloved ancients. It is tyrannical in the classic sense of rule above rule or in the absence of law (p. 70).

Now, the ancients were determined to keep this tyrannical teaching secret because the people are not likely to tolerate the fact that they are intended for subordination; indeed, they may very well turn their resentment against the superior few. Lies are thus necessary to protect the superior few from the persecution of the vulgar many.
Sure we have the gun nuts and the Fundies. Yes, we have made the Party of Lincoln a lavishly appointed safe house for the racist and the paranoid -- Hell, we've set up an entire politico/media empire designed to do nothing more than flatter them, sanctify their idiocy and feed their bigotry and rage back to them as patriotism and intelligence -- but for fuck's sake, don't talk about so loud it or you'll ruin everything!

Shorter Brooks and Edwards:  See, if you let the rank and file of the tribe that rubs shit in its hair out in public, you'll scare the squares and the kids and we need them to win elections!

Short Ingraham and Reed:  Conservatism was awesome and doing great until Dubya fucked it all up.

Shorter Brooks and Edwards:  But that's not how it happened!

Short Ingraham and Reed:   Reagan! Reagan! Reaganity Reagan!

From the debate transcript:
Laura Ingraham:
Reagan was a great example for me as a young person. I think as time went on, they had some successes obviously in the '90s. Republicans took the House of Representatives for the first time in 50 years in 1994. Seemed like we were back on track. And George Bush -- I mean, I sound like I'm beating up on George Bush, but George Bush comes along, I like him very much. We had an idea that Republicanism...needed to expanded.

The Republican Party turned its back on core conservative principles. Conservatism was never about remaking the world in its image. Conservatism was not about starting wars that we didn't have clear exit paths with. And it wasn't about running up big deficits. Conservatism became that sadly during the Bush years. And it nearly destroyed the Republican Party. It wasn't the Tea Party in 2010. It was Bush from 2004 to 2008.

David Brooks:
I just want to respond to the Reagan revisionism which I knew would come up. It took a lot longer than I thought. So Reagan raised taxes 14 times. He included the biggest tax hike in American history to that point. Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, which was one of the bigger liberalizations of abortion laws. That didn't make him a moderate. It made him someone who was practical politician. And he fought for what he could and tried to get things done, but he was willing to address real problems and not govern on the basis of a prefab ideology.

Laura Ingraham:
Was he a centrist?

David Brooks:
No. But he was someone who was willing to govern.

Laura Ingraham:
He took on the Republican orthodoxy which was made up of centrists. From 1976 onward and years before that, he debated everybody from RFK to Republican -- Rockefeller Republicans, many of whom would probably agree with a lot of the points you're making and you're making well.
And that, in a nutshell, is what the Conservative "civil war" is all about and where its actual future lies: in the outcome of a pissing match between the movement's Upper Class and it's Upper Middle Class over who gets the keys to the Imbecile Base they both conspired to create, and what exactly they want to use that electoral battering ram to accomplish.


bowtiejack said...

"...a pissing match between the movement's Upper Class and it's Upper Middle Class over who gets the keys to the Imbecile Base they both conspired to create,...


That's some good writing there.

Anonymous said...

I initially read "Straussian Noble Lie" as "Gaussian Noble Lie" so my imagination was filled with David Brooks furiously adjusting confidence intervals to make American public opinion fit within his "centrist" bell-curve fantasy.

Anonymous said...


I mentioned in my comment back when you wrote this in the “Even a Broken Pundit” piece: “So I now officially retract 4% of what I have written about Brooks in the past.” That the 4% was too generous, and I think the ‘It’s the new improved Cheer conservative laundry soap’ DFB version of his latest journalism pile should allow you to add back in at least 3% of what you’ve written in the past. As far as the whizzing part goes, I’d probably retract that completely. It’s likely to be a hot summer; you may need that whiz for something more useful.

Chris Andersen said...

With today's conservatives it comes down to a struggle between the Randians and Straussians. They both believe the same thing, that there is a small group of elect that should naturally lead and that everyone else is just grist for the mill of their brilliance. The difference between the two groups is that the Randians think they should proudly proclaim their superiority and that the inferior casts should simply bow and scrape at their heels while the Straussians believe that the inferiors will overwhelm the superiors if they are ever told the truth and that should therefore be tricked into thinking that their opinions actually matter.

I actually prefer the Randians. At least they are honest about their program. You know where they stand. You can have a debate about their policies because they don't hide their policies.

They are still dicks, but they are honest dicks.

Cliff said...

I went and read the piece, and it turns out to be a great example of why I hate Brooks.

Most of the column concerns the manifesto, so it's a boring hash of marginal solutions and Republican boilerplate that's already getting enacted. Basically it boils down to tax cuts and smaller government.
(I bet nobody saw that coming!)

But in the gray cubicle farm* of David Brooks' mind there is always a murderous clown midget lurking somewhere.

And he comes out in the a paragraph midway through:

Today, millions of Americans are behaving in ways that make no economic sense: dropping out of school, having children out of wedlock. They do so because the social guardrails that used to guide behavior have dissolved. Giving people in these circumstances tax credits is not going to lead to long-term thinking. Putting more risk into vulnerable people’s lives may not make them happier.

This is why I detest Brooks.
In this paragraph, he strips out the whole reason for the sudden concern about poverty (the awful state of the economy, now a feature and not a bug), and he strips out the reason conservatives are in trouble in the first place (fifty years of malfeasance topped by eight years of W. Bush) (which is also to blame for the hideous economy).
He instead puts all the blame on single moms having little bastards all over the place.

David The God Damned Brooks, everybody.

Redhand said...


The piece is classic Brooks: A Cliff Notes version of some right winger's fairyland conservative centrism (or in this case a gaggle of them) mixed with a slam at the hoi polloi's lack of "discipline" as the real cause of the problem.

Why Pinch allows Brooks to continue publishing this dreck is a mystery to me. As a "public intellectual," the guy is a joke. Even more pathetic is that Pinch apparently thinks there is a special market for this sh*t: The NYT is now offering special digital subscriptions to the op-ed pages only! Laughable.

Unknown said...

I so enjoy it when you really hit one sweet. Nice shot, sir.