It Was (Nearly) 20 Years Ago Today...
David Brooks, March 1997:
A RETURN TO NATIONAL GREATNESSA Manifesto for a Lost CreedMAR 03, 1997 | By DAVID BROOK...Worse, under the influence of the New Left, the personal became political. Private concerns came to eclipse the larger public realm. At a time when a teenager's haircut was a political statement to be adjudicated by the Supreme Court, all the issues of the private realm -- smoking, methods of raising children, sexual preferences -- began to overshadow the traditional subjects of the public realm: subjects like order, justice, and the distribution of wealth. Americans have almost forgotten what the public realm is and how it differs from the sum of private concerns...
And after 20 years of highly-focused, lavishly-funded, unrelenting Conservatism pounding the shit out of the American dream?
The Banality of ChangeDavid Brooks NOV. 4, 2016A few weeks ago I met a guy in Idaho who was absolutely certain that Donald Trump would win this election. He was wearing tattered, soiled overalls, missing a bunch of teeth and was unnaturally skinny. He was probably about 50, but his haggard face looked 70. He was getting by aimlessly as a handyman.
I pointed to the polls and tried to persuade him that Hillary Clinton might win, but it was like telling him a sea gull could play billiards. Everybody he knows is voting Trump so his entire lived experience points to a Trump landslide...
20 years ago, in a nation at relative peace, enjoying relative prosperity and accruing a healthy national budget surplus after digging out from under crippling Republican deficits, Mr. Brooks could not find a single complementary thing to say about Bill Clinton:
Consider Bill Clinton. He longs to be a great leader, but cultural liberalism has robbed him of any way to realize his dream. The national- greatness ideal of the 19th century was based first on the vigorous virtues, but cultural liberalism mistakes virility for sexism and the oppression of women....And so, at the end of liberalism, we find Bill Clinton. Longing to personify greatness but too easy on himself, trained to discard the qualities that comprise it, he is the opposite of vigorous, the opposite of reticent, the opposite of self-disciplined.
Now, after 20 years of Limbaugh/Gingrich/Atwater/FoxNews Conservatism being pumped into the groundwater of American politics, Mr. Brooks gets a chance to see what an actual vortex of rapacious egomania looks like:
Now, if you wanted to design a personality type perfectly ill suited to be a change agent in government, you would come up with Donald Trump: solipsistic, impatient, combative, unsubtle and ignorant.
20 years ago, Mr. Brooks didn't care what Gummint did, as long it was ginormous --
...It almost doesn't matter what great task government sets for itself, as long as it does some tangible thing with energy and effectiveness. The first task of government is to convey a spirit of confidence and vigor that can then spill across the life of the nation. Stagnant government drains national morale. A government that fails to offer any vision merely feeds public cynicism and disenchantment.But energetic government is good for its own sake. It raises the sights of the individual. It strengthens common bonds. It boosts national pride. It continues the great national project.
-- and driven by powerful individuals, and not stinky Gummint "collectives":
The national mission can be carried out only by individuals and families -- not by collectives, as in socialism and communism. Instead, individual ambition and willpower are channeled into the cause of national greatness. And by making the nation great, individuals are able to join their narrow concerns to a larger national project.
20 years later, and David Brooks doesn't seem capable of facing the fact that his long-ago prayer to the gods of Conservative Greatness has actually come true.
With a vengeance.
Mr. Brooks' party is now led by a billionaire egomaniac who has indeed promised to do gargantuan things like building a giant wall and blowing up the United States government. Who has indeed allowed the millions of individual bigots and imbeciles who make up the base of Mr. Brooks' Republican Party to "join their narrow concerns to a larger national project" of jailing his political opponents, bulldozing NATO, banning Muslims and on and on and on.
Hell, even Trump's stupid motto, plastered across every wannabe-klansman's ball-cap and double-wide in the land -- "Make American Great Again" -- is an almost word-for-word answer to Mr. Brooks prayer for a "Return To National Greatness".
Trump is exactly to sort of whirlwind of wild, world-stomping power and insatiable ambition for which Young David Brooks beseeched the heavens 20 years ago.
How hilarious, then, that 20 years later -- without ever once admitting that those dirty Liberals have been right all along -- Mr. Brooks now offers his readers a punch list for the effective administration of a complex advanced democracy that sure looks a helluva lot like the resume of every competent Liberal public official I have ever met:
...Let’s start with what “change” actually means. In our system, change means legislation. It starts with the ability to gather a team of policy experts who can craft complex bills. These days, bills often run to thousands of pages, and every bad rookie decision can lead things astray.Then it requires political deftness...Craftsmanship in government is not like craftsmanship in business. You can’t win people with money and you can’t order people around. Governance requires enormous patience, a capacity to tolerate boredom and the skill of quiet herding...Change in government is a team sport. Public opinion is mobilized through institutions — through interest groups, activist organizations, think tanks and political parties...In the real world, the process of driving change is usually boring, remorseless and detail oriented...
You know, if Mr. Brooks had actually learned a single fucking thing from being horribly wrong about everything for the last two decades and had applied what he had learned in the service of his readers, then I would happily put down my pen and never speak of him again.
But he hasn't.
He simply slithered from one, highly-profitable Beltway media scam -- Liberal Idiots Are Destroying Murrica! -- to another, even-more-highly-profitable Beltway media scam -- Why Oh Why Can't Both Sides Something Something! -- when he saw which way the wind was shifting.
And now, once again Mr. Brooks is doing his part to advance the Conservative cause by making sure he gets it on the record that, should she be elected, Hillary Clinton will be responsible for "gathering majorities" --
Passing legislation next year is going to be hard, but if Clinton can be dull and pragmatic, and operate at a level below the cable TV ideology wars, it’s possible to imagine her gathering majorities behind laws that would help people like that guy in Idaho: an infrastructure push, criminal justice reform, a college tuition program, an apprenticeship and skills program, an expanded earned-income tax credit and a bill to secure the border and shift from low-skill to high-skill immigration.
-- from a Republican Party (his Republican Party) that has already spent the last eight years ruthlessly and single-mindedly sabotaging Obama Administration at every turn, and have now begun openly laying plans to use whatever legislative power they can lay their filthy hands on to block Clinton Supreme Court nominations forever, witch-hunt her to extinction and begin impeachment proceedings almost before she has finished her inaugural address.
You know, it's almost like David Fucking Brooks doesn't even read Paul Krugman :-)
Who Broke Politics?Paul Krugman NOV. 4, 2016As far as anyone can tell, Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House — and the leader of what’s left of the Republican establishment — isn’t racist or authoritarian. He is, however, doing all he can to make a racist authoritarian the most powerful man in the world. Why? Because then he could privatize Medicare and slash taxes on the wealthy.And that, in brief, tells you what has happened to the Republican Party, and to America...So how did all our political norms get destroyed? Hint: It started long before Donald Trump.On one side, Republicans decided long ago that anything went in the effort to delegitimize and destroy Democrats. Those of us old enough to remember the 1990s also remember the endless series of accusations hurled against the Clintons.Nothing was too implausible to get on talk radio and get favorable mention in Congress and in conservative media: Hillary killed Vince Foster! Bill was a drug smuggler!Nothing was too trivial to trigger congressional hearings: 140 hours of testimony on potential abuse of the White House Christmas card list. And, of course, seven years of investigations into a failed real estate deal. And, of course, seven years of investigations into a failed real estate deal.When Mrs. Clinton famously spoke of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” out to undermine her husband’s presidency, she wasn’t being hyperbolic; she was simply describing the obvious reality...