Friday, May 20, 2016

The Brunch Davidians

He loves the smell of Portuguese baked eggs in the late morning.

2007 was a bad year to be Beltway pundits or a Professional Reasonable Conservatives,  The serial and spectacular failures of the Bush Administration were flaying all of their pretty words to confetti, and the Democrats -- who were supposed to have been drive from power for 1,000 years -- were suddenly back in control of Congress and setting their sights on the White House.

Leading this mad dash away from his own long record of unstinting support and praise of the Bush Administration was David Brooks, who suddenly rediscovered Edmund Burke on his way down the fire escape, across the alley and into the Emergency Both Siderist All-Occasion bunker, there to wait out the conflagration in comfort.

In that column, the early onset of Mr. Brooks' own Republican Detachment Disorder are clearly evident here, along with his trademark sweeping ideological generalizations of people -- "suburban, Midwestern and many business voters" -- who Mr. Brooks has never actually met:
To put it bluntly, over the past several years, the G.O.P. has made ideological choices that offend conservatism’s Burkean roots. This may seem like an airy-fairy thing that does nothing more than provoke a few dissenting columns from William F. Buckley, George F. Will and Andrew Sullivan. But suburban, Midwestern and many business voters are dispositional conservatives more than creedal conservatives. They care about order, prudence and balanced budgets more than transformational leadership and perpetual tax cuts. It is among these groups that G.O.P. support is collapsing.
Those Republicans.

 Over there.

 Who were, at the time, not so much worried about parsing the distinction between creedal and dispositional conservatism as they were about why the hell Barack Ahmadinejad Obama hates Murrica so much that he refuses to wear a flag pin! Huh! Huh! Riddle me that, college boy!

Many of us had already been writing about the inexplicable professional longevity of David Brooks for years using various tropes and methods, but it turns out that we were doing it all wrong! It turns out that if you want to be taken up to Pundit Asgard where the Very Serious People live, you are best served by 1) having access to a very large platform operated for the delight and edification of America's upper-class white supremacist community and, 2) you should begin your very limited and respectful critique of Mr. Brooks' work with a big glob of flattering ego lubricant:
David Brooks is a national treasure. He is perhaps our most gifted spotter of trends, and his pop-sociology seems moved by a genuine curiosity, and so is often blissfully immune from the draw of familiar categories and conventional wisdom. He has taught us more about the life of the contemporary middle class than anyone, and most weeks he is the only reason to read the New York Times. 

But as a spotter of trends, Brooks is also a generalizer, and tends to advance a simple, coherent, well packaged aphorism as an explanation for large events and ideas. It is the columnist’s fate, of course, but this tendency to push a clever observation to its breaking point does have its shortcomings...
Thus began Yuval Levin's October 5th column in the National Review, and, over the years the results have spoken for themselves.

You'll land on elite Manhattan Institute panels of "Whither Conservatism" moderated by David Brooks.

Your career will be promoted in national columns by David Brooks:
Burkean Revivalists. This group includes young conservatives whose intellectual roots go back to the organic vision of society described best by Edmund Burke but who are still deeply enmeshed in current policy debates.

Yuval Levin, the editor of National Affairs is one of the two or three most influential young writers in politics today. He argues that we are now witnessing the fiscal crisis of the entitlement state, exemplified most of all by exploding health care costs. His magazine promotes a big agenda of institutional modernization...
And your ideas will be touted in national columns by David Brooks, especially when those ideas help David Brooks butter his Both Siderist bread
The final Sidney Award of 2014 goes to Yuval Levin’s moral meditation, “Taking the Long Way,” in First Things, a journal of religion and public life. Levin argues that both left and right are committed to flawed visions of liberty. The left is committed to the ideal of the freely choosing individual, while conservatives are committed to an ideal based on secure rights, especially property rights.
You will, in turn, validate and admiringly reflect David Brooks' gliding-above-all disconnected and dissociated world views -- 
A career immersed in those issues, even at the highest levels of journalism, was not as fulfilling as planned. One close friend is Yuval Levin, whom the New Republic calls “the right’s new favorite intellectual” and who Brooks calls a mentor. Levin says Brooks has come to believe “ultimately, it isn’t really politics that shapes an advance toward justice. It’s moral improvement.”
-- and postulate reforms which the actual, real Republican party as it exists here-and-now is not interested in in any way:
David Brooks' "Conservatism of Skeptical Reform" Is a Daydream


January 10, 2014
David Brooks has put down the joint he’s been toking in his boutique hotel room. His Friday column extols what he calls the “conservatism of skeptical reform.” Taking off from the new issue of National Affairs, edited by conservative intellectual and policy entrepreneur Yuval Levin, Brooks begins by juxtaposing the ideas of “conservative policy wonks” in NA with the GOP—that is, with the only political vehicle that could promulgate and implement these ideas—and he concludes that the reform conservative agenda will have a pretty much frictionless ascendancy within the party...
Which brings us to today's David Brooks column, in which Mr. Brooks once again postpones his journey to the dark heart of Murrica in favor of one more C- "Murrica: A Land of Contrasts" book report, this time about his friend Yuval Levin's latest offering.

Instead of turning his platform over to the genuine voices of actual Americans living in pain and rage and fear out beyond the Acela corridor, Brooks offers one more long, melancholy, detail-free Brooksian sigh about our parlous modern times.  Instead of a sharply observed hike through a real country where most of us live, Brooks takes one more slow plod through a wading pool of tepid inoffensive tapioca, which you can read for yourself if you are so inclined.

Mr. Brooks will never leave the clean, well-lighted circle of his Brunch Davidians to see for himself what is actually going on out here in the wild.

It would shatter him.  


dinthebeast said...

"They care about order, prudence and balanced budgets more than transformational leadership and perpetual tax cuts. It is among these groups that G.O.P. support is collapsing."

That or perhaps the groups themselves might be, how shall I say this, fictional.

-Doug in Oakland

Robt said...

Yet Brooks provides a needed service.
His labyrinth of flowered words connected to one another. Injects a dose of conscience numbing. Allowing the gated planet creatures of superior selective genetic elitism.
The justification, it all evolves around them existence.
Must be why I do not read him. Although his dreams and nightmares are reprinted in most places.
Brooks should understand the mystical magical invisible hand of a free market economy.
For Brooks is not really needed to write any of his conscious diluted scribbles to sway or enlighten. As we are well aware, the invisible hand of economics will resolve it without providing Brooks his private area to flatuate.

Neo Tuxedo said...

The pundit class will not change their tune until their floating island crashes to Earth and they start encountering consequences they can neither talk nor buy their way out of. (See also this week's installment of "Retrotopia" over at the Archdruid Report.) Unfortunately for the rest of us, by the time the shit hits the fan in a way they can't Febreze away, the rest of us will be up to our necks. Oh well, at least we'll get to stand on their shoulders...

nanute said...

Robert, The invisible hand can't wave that stink away either.

RUKidding said...

To quote the Emcee in Cabaret:


Just missing the two ladies. Maybe that's DFB's problem?

Let's face it: DFB ain't never never never gonna journey to the heart of darkness outside his Acela bubble world.

"The horror!... the horror!! ... the horror!!"

bowtiejack said...

". . . it isn’t really politics that shapes an advance toward justice. It’s moral improvement.”

EXACTLY! What's needed (as I believe Dr. Pangloss first pointed out, not to take anything away from Brooksie) is the right attitude, not a lot of taxes and "regulations". If we just think the right thoughts, everything will work out for the best. And if it doesn't, we have only ourselves and our wrong attitude and bad thoughts to blame.
It's so simple!

Karen Crosby said...

That title! A work of true genius, sir!

bluicebank said...

"Well, Brooks wasn't a bad Both Siderist, I guess. He loved his imaginary Conservatives, and he felt safe with 'em. He was just one of those pundits with that weird light around him. He just knew he wasn't gonna get so much as a scratch in his bunker."

-- Col. Benjamin Willard

marindenver said...

What Karen Crosby said!