Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Today In Both Sides Do It: O Tempora! O Mores!

It's not possible for David Brooks to face the fact that Donald Trump exists because Mr. Brooks' Republican party is functioning exactly as designed -- that Donald Trump is the perfect manifestation of the political movement Mr. Brooks has spent a lifetime championing.

And because it is not possible for David Brooks to own Donald Trump, Mr. Brooks once again leads his readers a merry chase through the dark forest of Both Siderism, their path lit only by the light cast from...
... a study of racial tension in Canarsie Brooklyn in the 1970s
... a book on class divisions from 1975, and
... something Walter Lippmann said in 1927
Which makes a weird kind of sense.  After all, as the past 20 years have conclusively demonstrated, Mr. Brooks' infantile understanding of economics and commerce is almost perfectly Coolidgian --
The business of America is business.

Four-fifths of all our troubles would disappear, if we would only sit down and keep still.

Advertising ministers to the spiritual side of trade. It is great power that has been entrusted to your keeping which charges you with the high responsibility of inspiring and ennobling the commercial world. It is all part of the greater work of the regeneration and redemption of mankind.
-- and his opinions about American Conservatism were stuffed and mounted around 1981, so why wouldn't Mr. Brooks try to hide out from his unhappy present by building a tree-fort out of the past?

You see, while Trump may be impossible to stop, he really isn't that hard to figure out.  As every Liberal with a keyboard has pointed out, he is the monster the GOP created, built exactly to spec:
How did this monster get created? The decades of GOP lies that brought us Donald Trump, Republican front-runner

Donald Trump did not happen overnight. He's the product of a dangerous, cynical GOP strategy that dates back years

How did America get to such a place that someone like Donald Trump can command a lead in the Republican primaries? Trump is the product of a deliberate Republican strategy, adopted by Richard Nixon’s people in 1968, to attract voters with an apocalyptic redemption story rather than reasoned argument. It has taken almost 50 years, but we have finally arrived at the culmination of postmodern politics in which Republican leaders use words to create their own reality.
But this simple story is one which Mr. Brooks dare not tell.  As the High Priest of Political Centrism, Mr. Brooks' knows damn well that his acolytes (ably described here by Dr, Paul Krugman)
Pundit centrism in modern America is a strange thing. It’s not about policy, as you can see from the many occasions when members of the cult have demanded that Barack Obama change his ways and advocate things that … he was already advocating. What defines the cult is, instead, the insistence that the parties are symmetric, that they are equally extreme, and that the responsible, virtuous position is always somewhere in between.

The trouble is that this isn’t remotely true. Democrats constitute a normal political party, with some spread between its left and right wings, but in general espousing moderate positions. The GOP, on the other hand, is a deeply radical faction; even its supposed moderates are moderate only in tone, not in policy positions, and its base is motivated by anger against Others.

What this means, in turn, is that to sustain their self-image centrists must misrepresent reality.

On one side, they can’t admit the moderation of the Democrats, which is why you had the spectacle of demands that Obama change course and support his own policies.

On the other side, they have had to invent an imaginary GOP that bears little resemblance to the real thing...
-- would riot and cast him out into the cruel world of working-for-a-living if he ever told them the truth.

He knows damn well that the only reason his very wealthy, very cowardly congregants come to his church and fill his coffers is his promise to explain away the scary realities of the world over and over again with simple, treacly "O tempora! O mores!" homilies about the poor, deluded masses.

On Both Sides!

In today's episode, the Great Unwashed are all skittery and pissed.  And because of this the Serious Candidates are having a hard time getting traction.

This climate makes it hard for the establishment candidates who normally dominate our politics. Jeb Bush is swimming upstream. Hillary Clinton may win through sheer determination, but she’s not a natural fit for this moment. A career establishment figure like Joe Biden doesn’t stand a chance. He’s a wonderful man and a great public servant, but he should not run for president this year, for the sake of his long-term reputation.
Of course pairing Clinton and Bush in this context is fucking absurd, but we cannot tarry and ponder because Mr. Brooks has dashed ahead to make another, idiotic point,

You see, while the Serious candidates are all having exactly the same kind of trouble (except they're not), the nutty, populist, "bumper car" candidates are making hay.

On the other hand, bumper-car politicians thrive. Bernie Sanders is swimming with the tide. He’s a conviction politician comfortable with class conflict. Many people on the left have a generalized, vague hunger for fundamental systemic change or at least the atmospherics of radical change.

The times are perfect for Donald Trump. He’s an outsider, which appeals to the alienated. He’s confrontational, which appeals to the frustrated...
Got that, Liberals?  Your interest in Bernie Sanders' policies has nothing to do with any genuine concern for the environment or radical economic inequality or universal health care or the terrible, unchecked power of organized money.  It's really just your "generalized, vague hunger" for "atmospherics".

Stoopid Liberals.


According to the Centrist Book of Common Prayer, Donald Trump simply cannot be the inevitable end produce of decades of dumbing-down and Foxifying the base of the Republican party to the point where they will believe any damn thing any yahoo says as long as he's rich, bigoted and will tell them that science is bunk, the media is controlled by Liberals, and the cause of all their problems is the traitorous Kenyan Usurper and all of his timid RINO handmaidens in the GOP leadership.  

Also there cannot be any acknowledgment of the obvious fact that there is no candidate like Trump (or Paul, or Cruz, or Carson, or Fiorina, or Huckabee, or Santorum, or...) exists within the Democratic party.

Instead, for the sermon succeed, the High Priest of Centrism must recast Trump as some harbinger of wider social trends and deeper maladies which transcend mere political parties.  For the sermon to succeed, the High Priest of Centrism must explain that we are all somehow equally to blame for Donald Trump.

And once again, the High Priest of Centrism delivers the comforting fiction his benefactors pay him to crank out:
In the Trump mind the world is not divided into right and left. Instead there are winners and losers. Society is led by losers, who scorn and disrespect the people who are actually the winners.

Never before have we experienced a moment with so much public alienation and so much private, assertive and fragile self-esteem. Trump is the perfect confluence of these trends. He won’t be president, but he’s not an aberration. He is deeply rooted in the currents of our time.


Kathleen O'Neill said...

The official Village talking point (based on what Shuck Todd told Matt Lauer on the Today Show this morning) appears to be that Donald Trump is "tapping in" to "anti Washington" sentiment. Both Shuck and BoBo obviously got the memo.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

The Right must use apocalyptic redemption stories rather than reasoned arguments, because reason would tell us non-elite palefaces that the vast majority of us will never be rich, and so our best interests lie in the establishment and maintenance of a Scandinavian-style social welfare state for the common citizen--which, of course, the rich (with a handful of sensible exceptions) do not want, even though it would make the rich far safer, if slightly less rich.

However, giving up a little money to establish that welfare state would mean giving up Power, and Power makes heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and orgasm all look like pale placebos.

(Insert Drifty's wordplay about "WOWGASM scrimshawing a new Prime Directive on the inside of the skull" here)

NOTE: I say "welfare state for the common citizen" because the USA maintains an obscenely generous welfare state for the rich, most of it disguised as "War On Crime" (aka "War On *some* Drugs"), and "War On Terror" (aka "War On Uppity Brown Furriners Who Won't Let Our Rich Enslave Them Without A Fight, Even Though Our Rich Are Ordained By Either Divine Will Or Superior Darwinian Fitness To Use All The Rest Of Us As Slaves").

bowtiejack said...

O tempora! O mores!
Senatus haec intelligit. counsul vidit.
Sed vivit! Vivit?

And hey, that's from memory in high school 60 years ago.

Unknown said...

Poor BoBo. The pressure of keeping his alternate reality current is obviously getting to him. I won't read the whole column and am relying on dg's excerpting talents here, but it appears as though Brooks was unable to fit in his standard "blahblah both sides blahblah, but really it's all the damn Hippies' fault" coup de grace. I mean, I'm sure, somehow, the Trump phenomenon can be directly traced to Ted Kennedy's tirade against Bork, right? Or something Abbie Hoffman said 40 years ago? Come on Bobo, you're slipping.

chautauqua said...

Brooks is running dangerously low on reactor coolant. Or maybe someone stole the cooling rods. In any event, the outcome is entirely predictable: torches and pitchforks.

dinthebeast said...

It looks like Dr. K went full Driftglass again last night. Maybe you two should have tea some time...

-Doug in Oakland

DeboT said...

I read the first third of the Books column before I succumbed to Brooksian Overload. I was hoping someone else would tod the hard work and Lo and behold, Driftglas to the rescue. Thanks. Thanks for reading the whole thing so I don't have to.

Unknown said...

To select one small point among many, why the fuck, if you are qualified, if you think you have the stuff and the will to do the job and you think you could win (if, say, the press turns the ephemera of mails into an albatross so heavy even Hillary can't dislodge it), would you not run for president for the ``sake'' of your ``reputation?'' Just what the fuck is he on about?

John said...

"Oh, tempura! Oh, morays!"
--Lament of a Japanese chef