Tuesday, June 21, 2016

David Brooks: Nixon Goes To China

Well, not so much "China" as the "China Department at Bloomingdales", but Mr, David Brooks -- Conservatism's own Miss Havisham -- has left his Satis House and ventured out into the world to solve the Riddle of Trump.

Specifically, how the fuck did Donald Trump happen and how did David Brooks -- America's Most Respected Conservative Public Intellectual -- completely miss it?

But instead of finding clues to the Riddle of Trump, mostly Mr. Brooks found the Bedeviled Middle Class and Noble Poor living various places in America and, by some strange miracle, all of them have stories which Mr. Brooks finds a way to scale up into one of Mr. Brooks' preconceived ideas.

For example a women who (like 97% of everybody) is uncomfortable with public speaking --
I met a woman in West Virginia who had just learned, to great relief, that she didn’t have to give an anticipated speech at church. “We’re not word people,” she explained.
-- becomes an indictment of Our Modern Digital Economy
A lot of wonderful people speak through acts of service, but it’s hard to thrive in the information age if you don’t feel comfortable with verbal communication.
A man who is having trouble filling manufacturing and heavy machinery jobs because candidates flunk their piss tests --
If he pulls in 100 possible hires, most of them either fail the drug test or don’t show up for it because they know they will fail.
-- is transformed into a bit-player in a Sermon on the Ravages of Drugs:
You see the ravages of drugs everywhere.
And while there is undoubtedly some truth in this, speaking as someone who worked for years as an expert in the workforce development field with a special emphasis on manufacturing, there even more truth in the fact that...
  1. Since the beginning of time, business owners have always bitched about how hard it is to hire the perfect person.  Always.  And,
  2. Welders (to pick on one group) are not especially "ravaged by drugs".  But they do like to smoke pot, and they know that for every suit who won't hire them because of the THC in their pee, there is someone down the road or in the next county who will put them to work tomorrow in their body shop or warehouse, for cash, no questions asked.
  3.  Apparently Mr. Brooks' interns failed to inform him that Yastreblyanksy at The Rectification of Names took this little anecdote apart back in May when Mr. Brooks originally trotted it out. 
However, mostly Mr. Brooks found the Noble Poor.  

You know, the people that Jesus said would always be with us?  Mr. Brooks has found them!  And by Jiminy, they're plucky and cheerful bunch.
But this kind of tour is mostly uplifting, not depressing. Let me just describe two people I met on Saturday in Albuquerque.

The social fabric is tearing across this country, but everywhere it seems healers are rising up to repair their small piece of it. They are going into hollow places and creating community, building intimate relationships that change lives one by one.
And thanks to the mighty power of Controlling the Narrative, Mr. Brooks "discovers" exactly what you would imagine the Beltway's most stalwart Centrist would discover.  That the answer to every problem in every broken place is not Imaginary Stinky Liberal Socialism or Actual Heartless Conservative Libertarianism but beautiful, beautiful Brooksian Beltway Centrism, arising juuuuust out of everyone's sight except our intrepid reporter:
I know everybody’s in a bad mood about the country. But the more time you spend in the hardest places, the more amazed you become. There’s some movement arising that is suspicious of consumerism but is not socialist. It’s suspicious of impersonal state systems but is not libertarian. It believes in the small moments of connection...
For the record, in his inaugural column on how Donald Trump happened and how he completely missed it, Mr. Brooks does not mention the word "Trump"at all.

However, you can definitely see the outlines of the route Mr. Brooks plans to take on his journey.  

Or, rather, you can see the pre-fabricated destination where Mr. Brooks has already decided he will arrive,  He will skip lightly across the land, seeking out stories which confirm his Both Siderist bias. He will crank out a column every now and then about how the American people have been failed by the Corrupt Duopoly.  By Both Sides.  He will "discover" a brand new Imaginary Centrism alive and well down among the Noble Poor and the Bedeviled Middle Class.  He will explain away the manifest fascism and racism a the heart of his Republican party as a merry mix-up.  A misunderstanding.  An unfortunate but understandable backlash against the Corrupt Duopoly of blah blah blah.

And based on his brave sojourn among the hoi polloi, Mr. David Brooks will inexorably arrive where he planned go all along.  That the last, best hope for America is that a Paul Ryan or a Marco Rubio 2.0 or some other standard-issue Republican tool will step forward and lead some new iteration of David Brooks' oldest masturbatory fantasy -- the  McCain-Lieberman Party -- into our bright, Whig future!

The McCain-Lieberman Party begins with a rejection of the Sunni-Shiite style of politics itself. It rejects those whose emotional attachment to their party is so all-consuming it becomes a form of tribalism, and who believe the only way to get American voters to respond is through aggression and stridency.

The flamers in the established parties tell themselves that their enemies are so vicious they have to be vicious too. They rationalize their behavior by insisting that circumstances have forced them to shelve their integrity for the good of the country. They imagine that once they have achieved victory through pulverizing rhetoric they will return to the moderate and nuanced sensibilities they think they still possess.

But the experience of DeLay and the net-root DeLays in the Democratic Party amply demonstrates that means determine ends. Hyper-partisans may have started with subtle beliefs, but their beliefs led them to partisanship and their partisanship led to malice and malice made them extremist, and pretty soon they were no longer the same people.

The McCain-Lieberman Party counters with constant reminders that country comes before party, that in politics a little passion energizes but unmarshaled passion corrupts, and that more people want to vote for civility than for venom...

Update:   Yastreblyanksy at The Rectification of Names has his usual, learned field day with Mr. Brooks long days journey into blight.


Michael said...

Who the F are the "net-root DeLays in the Democratic Party" he's nattering on about?

dinthebeast said...

"but everywhere it seems healers are rising up to repair their small piece of it."

So what, exactly, were we doing before the "rising up" part? And where, exactly are we rising from? Do you perhaps mean our regular lives, which were oh so meaningless and unexamined-y before you decided to fictionalize them into a co-optable state? Could it be that we were living our uplifting little stories all along, even before you decided you needed to write about us? And I wonder what else we might have been doing all along, for years and fucking years, while you insulted us from your high perch on bullshit mountain... Oh yeah, we were busy being right about you being absurdly wrong about most everything you scribbled about for more money than any of us will ever see in our entire plucky little lives...

-Doug in Oakland

driftglass said...


That would be me, presumably. And you, probably.

Mr. Brooks has a long and profitable history of constantly making whatever imaginary opponents or histories he needs to balance out his Both Siderist equations.

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good afternoon, Mr. Glass.

1. Two days since Game of Thrones, and I see you're still trying to figure out how to insert "Wun Wun Stu" into a post without it sounding too forced. :)
2. Well, Mr. Brooks IS getting out. Credit where credit is due. Though, if you want to figure out where Mr. Trump came from, you don't go to Mother Abigail in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. You go to Randall Flagg in Las Vegas. A few hours at a Trump rally should save Mr. Brooks lots of travel time.

Be seeing you.

Dean C. Rowan said...

On top of the inanity, Brooks is blatantly ripping off James Fallows and his wife, whose American Futures project at The Atlantic has been in operation for something like three years. The Fallows regularly visit cities and towns across America, large and small, to collect evidence--real evidence, not bland interpretative pronouncements--of their strengths and weaknesses, noting especially how locals pursue their lives in ways orthogonal to received DC wisdom. Sure, it's spun as human interest, but the stories are concrete, not glib bullshit about becoming "more amazed."

Neo Tuxedo said...

Though, if you want to figure out where Mr. Trump came from, you don't go to Mother Abigail in Hemingford Home, Nebraska. You go to Randall Flagg in Las Vegas.

"M-O-O-N, that spells Both Sides!"

trgahan said...

Mr. Brooks goes slumming while on some other paid junket in fly over country and it gives him another day's addition to the grand fairy tale he is specifically paid huge amounts of money to tell his Upper East Side bosses and their friends.

Of course he's going to find exactly what he was looking for. Didn't Tom Friedman already corner this market with his mythical cab divers?

Lindsay Thompson said...

MY favorite Brooks column is the one last week in which he anatomized the nature of a mass killer without a single mention of anyone he shot, or that he even did shoot them.

keith gargus said...

The current (pardon the pun) therapy for the cyclic thought process that Bobo suffers from is electro-shock. Probably his synapse is too well ingrained for it to work. But what the hell, I'd pay big bucks to watch the video.

banker puppy said...

y'all will have better luck getting leopards to change their spots.

it's been jolly dumping on the distressed GOP, and few do it better than driftglass. what happens next? do we continue the variations on familiar themes, or is there a bigger point to political blogging and commentary than I-told-you-so and Republican Detachment Disorder?

steeve said...

So according to Brooks, the reason he was so badly wrong the whole time is that he was right the whole time.

Yastreblyansky said...

Thanks for the Driftglass bump, Maestro!

Kevin Holsinger said...

Good morning, Neo Tuxedo.

Now that there is just funny. You win the Internet this week. :)

Enjoy your day.