For you new Brooksology students, welcome to my introductory seminar, "WTF? How The Hell Is David Brooks Still Employed By Anyone To Do Anything?"
It's a good question. A deep question. And apparently, an eternal fucking question.
(Yes, you in the back, there will be swearing, which is why this course is taught for free here at The Learning Annex and not by a tenured professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.)
And by way of an answer, it's helpful to think of Mr. Brooks as the leader of a kind of End Times cult.
A very profitable End Times cult.
See, Mr. Brooks is in the business of predicting the imminent arrival of an American Conservative Renaissance: that great, Comin' Home to Reagan day of glory when every Conservative tear will be wiped away. When there will be no more Rush or Coulter or crying or pain, for the old order of things will have passed away.
Like the leader of other End Times cults, Mr. Brooks is always wrong.
(Yes, you in the back, this will be on the final.)
It is a business he has been in for a long, long time, so after a decade or two of always being wrong, you may to wonder why, despite the fact that Mr. Brooks is always wrong, he continues to be feted and revered by the Beltway as a Very Serious Thinker and rewarded with a Job For Life as America's Most Ubiquitous Conservative Public Intellectual with forever-gigs at The New York Times, NPR, PBS, "Meet the Press", Yale, the Aspen Institute, etc.
Again, a fine question. An important question. And a question which no one who wants to keep their own job at at The New York Times, NPR, PBS, "Meet the Press", Yale, the Aspen Institute, etc. dares to ask,
But here at The Learning Annex, we're fucking fearless, so let me vouchsafe to you the real answer to that question.
(Yes, you in the back. "Vouchsafe". v-o-u-c-h-s-a-f-e. Look it up.)
And the answer is this: since the cult Mr. Brooks leads is filled with myopic Beltway 1%-ers and Acela Corridor True Conservatives just like David Brooks, he is allowed -- nay, encouraged -- to pretend his previous pronouncements never happened and simply reset the Niebuhrageddon Countdown Clock every time another one of his stupid prophecies fails to come to pass.
Back in 2003 the New Conservatism was gong to rise from the fertile soil of Bill Frist's (remember him?) New South:
Bill Frist's New SouthThe revenge of the patricians.
But before that, sometime between 1999 and 2001, we learned that there was no need to wait any longer for a New Conservatism, because...
Pabulum with a Purpose... the Day of Jubilee ...
Beneath the much-mocked superficiality of the Philadelphia convention is a serious effort to transform the GOP
AUG 14, 2000
The GOP is not intolerant...
ONE NATION CONSERVATISMHow George W. Bush and John McCain -- without quite realizing it -- are creating a new Republican philosophySEP 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.
... was at hand!
Competent Conservatives, Reactionary LiberalsJAN 15, 2001
Yay!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...
So let us now o'erleap the next 14 fucking years and alight in November of 2014 -- just 24 months ago -- where we learn that while the Wingnut Millennium was maybe not as, uh. RightHereRightNow as Mr. Brooks had promised back when he had hair (see what I did there?) is was definitely Right Around The Corner!! (emphasis added):
The big Republican accomplishment is that they have detoxified their brand. Four years ago they seemed scary and extreme to a lot of people. They no longer seem that way. The wins in purple states like North Carolina, Iowa and Colorado are clear indications that the party can at least gain a hearing among swing voters. And if the G.O.P. presents a reasonable candidate (and this year’s crop was very good), then Republicans can win anywhere. I think we’ve left the Sarah Palin phase and entered the Tom Cotton phase.As I said, Mr. Brooks has been in this very profitable business of lying about Conservatives and Liberals and lying Republicans and Democrats for a very long time. His specific genre of pathological lying is at the very core of his Great Project:
...it is now painfully clear that Mr. Brooks is engaged in a long-term project to completely rewrite the history of American Conservatism: to flense it of all of the Conservative social, political economic and foreign policy debacles that make Mr. Brooks wince and repackage the whole era as a fairy tale of noble Whigs being led through treacherous hippie country by the humble David Brooks.It's also why predicting which way Mr, Brooks will jump as the Movement he spent his professional life buttressing collapses around him --
Looking forward to David Brooks' deep insights into his shitpile of a party.— driftglass (@Mr_Electrico) October 11, 2016
Predict he'll whittle and talk about Edmund Burke's dog Pixie.
-- is so damn easy for many of today's leading Brooksologists. From today's New York Times:
I feel very lucky to have entered the conservative movement when I did, back in the 1980s and 1990s. I was working at National Review, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. The role models in front of us were people like Bill Buckley, Irving Kristol, James Q. Wilson, Russell Kirk and Midge Decter.
These people wrote about politics, but they also wrote about a lot of other things: history, literature, sociology, theology and life in general. There was a sharp distinction then between being conservative, which was admired, and being a Republican, which was considered sort of cheesy...
Of course, from time to time even David Brooks can get anxious and bored waiting for the Day of Jubilee to really, really, for-reals arrive. That's when he starts jerking off into a Ronald Reagan Commemorative Tube Sock (it's near-mint!) and thumbing through his old stash of "A Both Siderist Third Party Will Save Us!" porn (From 2006):
Party No. 3There are two major parties on the ballot, but there are three major parties in America. There is the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the McCain-Lieberman Party.
All were on display Tuesday night.
The Democratic Party was represented by its rising force — Ned Lamont on a victory platform with the net roots exulting before him and Al Sharpton smiling just behind.
The Republican Party was represented by its collapsing old guard — scandal-tainted Tom DeLay trying to get his name removed from the November ballot. And the McCain-Lieberman Party was represented by Joe Lieberman himself, giving a concession speech that explained why polarized primary voters shouldn’t be allowed to define the choices in American politics.
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...
But inevitably he will return to his core competency: lying about the Glorious Future of Conservatism for money.
Finally, since the gist of Mr. Brooks' column today --
A Trump defeat could cleanse a lot of bad structures and open ground for new growth. It was good to be a young conservative back in my day. It’s great to be one right now.
-- is basically a lazy, dog-eared mimeograph of the same, contrived chipperness of Mr. Brooks' column from just seven month ago --
The Post-Trump EraAs awful as Donald Trump is, it will be exciting to witness the coming re-creation of the Republican Party...
This is a wonderful moment to be a conservative. For decades now the Republican Party has been groaning under the Reagan orthodoxy, which was right for the 1980s but has become increasingly obsolete.
-- it really doesn't merit any further analytical effort than I sank into it back then ("David Brooks: The Great Project, Volume II -- The Panglossing").
I mean hell, if David Brooks of The God Damn New York Times gets to draw a paycheck for turning in old work as "new", I see no reason why we here at The Learning Annex need to waste our valuable time field stripping it again and showing how all the parts fit together again.
(No, you in the back. Field stripping a David Brooks column and showing how all the parts fit together, will be on the final. I was just making, whatchacall, a "point".)
However and in conclusion, I would add this.
After whittling and nostalgizing about the glory days of the Good Old Conservative Movement --
I feel very lucky to have entered the conservative movement when I did, back in the 1980s and 1990s.
-- Mr. Brooks fingers some of the enemies of the true faith who apparently sneaked into the Grand Old Conservative Movement under the cover of darkness and fucked everything up. They include --
...talk radio, cable TV and the internet [which] have turned conservative opinion into a mass-market enterprise. Small magazines have been overwhelmed by Rush, O’Reilly and Breitbart.
-- "social conservatives" for whom --
...faith sometimes seems to come in second behind politics, Scripture behind voting guides.
-- and "most white evangelicals" because they:
"...are willing to put aside the Christian virtues of humility, charity and grace for the sake of a Trump political victory."
True to form, Mr. Brooks simply omits the inconvenient fact that Rush Limbaugh did not beam in from a parallel universe ten minutes ago to take a Bircher dump in his Burkean punch-bowl: Limbaugh was product of those glory days, returning to talk-radio 1984 and being nationally syndicated in 1987, mere moments after Ronald Wilson Reagan garroted the Fairness Doctrine with the able assistance of Robert Bork and Antonin Scalia:
In 1984, Limbaugh returned to radio as a talk show host at KFBK in Sacramento, California, where he replaced Morton Downey, Jr. The repeal of the Fairness Doctrine which had required that stations provide free air time for responses to any controversial opinions that were broadcast by the FCC in 1987 meant stations could broadcast editorial commentary without having to present opposing views. Daniel Henninger wrote, in a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Ronald Reagan tore down this wall (the Fairness Doctrine) in 1987 ... and Rush Limbaugh was the first man to proclaim himself liberated from the East Germany of liberal media domination."
That was 30 years ago. Three fucking decades ago. My goodness, where oh where has Mr. Brooks been hiding all of this penetrating insight and righteous indignation all of these years?
Mr. Brooks also skips right on over the fact that the Reagan Conservatism of the 1980s supercharged the Christian Right movement into a political behemoth led by exactly the kinds of hypocritical, Christopath zealots which Mr. Brooks weeps over in his column today:
...Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich stated that Falwell launched the Moral Majority political action committee during 1979 to aid the Catholic public protest against legal abortion in the United States in response to U.S. President Jimmy Carter's "intervention against Christian schools" [the IRS intervention began during the Ford Administration] by "...trying to deny them tax-exempt status on the basis of so-called de facto segregation".The Moral Majority became one of the largest political lobby groups for evangelical Christians in the United States during the 1980s. The Moral Majority was promoted as being "pro-life", "pro-traditional family", "pro-moral" and "pro-American". and was credited with delivering two thirds of the white, evangelical Christian vote to Ronald Reagan during the 1980 presidential election.
Mr. Brooks also redacts most of the 1990s. The Rise of Newt Gingrich and GOPAC. The coronation of Rush Limbaugh as the GOP's "majority maker". You know, all the icky stuff that would make David Brooks look like either a complete imbecile or a craven con artist. And all of it reached full maturity and running wild long before George W. Bush personally purified the GOP.
Long before Bill Frist saved it again.
And McCain saved it after that.
And then John Thune, right?
Conservatism’s best ideas are coming from youngish reformicons who have crafted an ambitious governing agenda (completely ignored by Trump).
Sorry, but over the decades, Mr. Brooks' Good Time End Times cult has had so many Designated Redeemers that even we world-renowned Brooksologists here at The Learning Annex have a little trouble keeping track of them all.
And yet, after all these years, he's still making out like a fat rat on that sweet, sweet Zorp Flute money.
And yes, every bit of this will be on the fucking final exam.
Behold, a Tip Jar!
For those interested in extra-credit, you can also head over to Vox for more on the same column:
David Brooks says conservatism has failed, but he misses the biggest reason: race