Tuesday, September 08, 2015


David Brooks is troubled today because voters don't seem to like political parties anymore:
This summer three American politicians have risen to the fore, and they all sit outside or at the margin of the party they are trying to lead.

Donald Trump didn’t even swear allegiance to his party’s eventual nominee until last week. He is a lone individual whose main cause and argument is Himself.

Ben Carson has no history in politics and a short history in the Republican Party. He is a politically unattached figure whose primary lifetime loyalty has been to the field of medicine.

Bernie Sanders is a socialist independent, who in the Senate caucuses with the Democrats.
Even though these three candidates (or at least Trump and Sanders) seem to have inspired movements, those movements aren't really connected to the parties with which the candidates are nominally linked. Therefore, according to Brooks, they're mere exercises in narcissism:
These sudden stars are not really about governing. They are tools for their supporters’ self-expression. They allow supporters to make a statement, demand respect or express anger or resentment. Sarah Palin was a pioneer in seeing politics not as a path to governance but as an expression of her followers’ id.
I don't know what this has to do with parties. Palin is a Republican. She's been a Republican as long as she's been a national figure. She ran on a Republican ticket, chosen by a presidential candidate who was part of the Republican Establishment. If she was a "tool" for her "supporters' self-expression," it's because of her nature, not her loyalty to the party. I don't understand what Brooks is talking about here.

Maybe I'll understand if he explains what's so great about parties:
There has always been a tension between self and society. Americans have always wanted to remain true to individual consciousness, but they also knew they were citizens, members of a joint national project, tied to one another by bonds as deep as the bonds of marriage and community.

As much as they might differ, there was some responsibility to maintain coalitions with people unlike themselves. That meant maintaining conversations and relationships, tolerating difference, living with dialectics and working with opposites....

But in the ethos of expressive individualism, individual authenticity is the supreme value. Compromise and coalition-building is regarded as a dirty and tainted activity....

Maybe this is a summer squall and voters will get interested in the more traditional party candidates come autumn, the ones who can actually win majorities and govern. But institutional decay is real, and it’s what happens in a country in which people would rather live in solipsistic bubbles than build relationships across differences.
Here's the problem: It was the Republican Party that taught Trump and Carson voters to feel the way they do now. Over the years we've seen Republicans refuse to compromise even when voters had clearly rejected their extremism. The GOP Congress ignored the losses in the 1998 midterms and went ahead with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. George W. Bush ignored his popular-vote totals in the 2000 presidential election and decided not to govern from the center, going full speed ahead on tax cuts, deregulation, and eventually the Iraq War. In 2006, after a midterm congressional blowout tied to disgust with the war, Bush defiantly responded with a troop surge.

Then, when Barack Obama and a Congress with large Democratic majorities were elected in 2008, Republicans dug in their heels. Aspects of the Obama agenda could be enacted, but they'd get through with few or no Republican votes (the stimulus, Obamacare), via the courts (gay marriage), or through executive action (partial immigration reform). In the states -- Wisconsin, Kansas, and North Carolina, for instance --Republicans after 2010 engaged in scorched-earth no-compromise legislative revolutions.

So if Republican voters are turning to candidates loosely affiliated with the party because they think those candidates won't compromise, it's because they learned that compromise was evil from their party. And if Democrats are turning to Sanders, it's because we learned that there's no compromising with the Republican Party.

David, it's really not that hard to understand.


More on the absurdity of this column from Yastreblyansky.


flipyrwhig said...

Doesn't it seem like a good 85% of David Brooks's output over about 20 years consists of handwringing about how people don't form happy Burkean little platoons anymore? Get a new act, Bobo.

John Robinson said...

"David, it's really not that hard to understand."

It is for him. He's really a fool. He's either a fool in real life, and this is really what he thinks, or he's a professional fool, who foolishly thinks that writing this burble will make him respected by his paymasters. Either way, he simply finds it impossible to understand this and things like this.

Victor said...

If our DC politics were a coloring book, Bobo would feel that his job is to change the colors and lines that are provided - Red for the GOP, and Blue for the Dem's - and somehow eliminate the lines and make everyone and everything varying degrees of purple.

Of course, his tears muddle everything up.

mathguy said...

One of the most offensive things about the column is the grouping of Sanders with the crazies Trump and Carson in this way: "These four anti-party men have little experience in the profession of governing." Sanders being a mayor, congressman and a senator apparently doesn't qualify you. Just lazy, stupid and wrong.

Paul Canning said...

Everything you said about Palin being GOP etc applies equally to Corbyn - who I am enjoying reading about from American commentators who have a clue not.

Ten Bears said...

It's just Bobo licking Regan's balls, again.

Gotta' admit, though, that this is really entertaining.

Never Ben Better said...

My word, how that man does blather on, eh? Such a scintillating simulacrum of profundity, thanks to his penchant for pontificating verbosity!

gocart mozart said...

"David, it's really not that hard to understand."

It is if your paycheck depends on you not understanding.

retiredeng said...

Brooks' writing is baroque bullshit.