Tuesday, May 05, 2009


In today's New York Times, David Brooks talks about Republicans' fondness for the romanticized individualism found in Westerns, then argues that his party-mates should take a closer look at the Westerns of John Ford, which, he says, "didn't really celebrate the rugged individual. They celebrated civic order."

At this point he leaps to an utterly absurd and ill-informed conclusion about the logical, sensible course the GOP would take if only its members interpreted Westerns properly:

Today, if Republicans had learned the right lessons from the Westerns, or at least John Ford Westerns, they would not be the party of untrammeled freedom and maximum individual choice. They would once again be the party of community and civic order.

They would begin every day by reminding themselves of the concrete ways people build orderly neighborhoods, and how those neighborhoods bind a nation. They would ask: What threatens Americans' efforts to build orderly places to raise their kids? The answers would produce an agenda: the disruption caused by a boom and bust economy; the fragility of the American family; the explosion of public and private debt; the wild swings in energy costs; the fraying of the health care system; the segmentation of society and the way the ladders of social mobility seem to be dissolving.


When it suits them, Republicans already ask what threatens Americans' efforts to build orderly places to raise their kids. And they come up with the same answers they have for every other political question. We're endangered by rampant gays! And high taxes! And government-run schools! And the war on Christianity! And border-crossing Mexicans! And weak-willed terrorist-coddling Democrats! And naive gun-grabbers! And the UN!

When gay marriage is attacked, for instance, it's almost always on the basis of its alleged threat to the larger community. Never mind the fact that we've all read and heard a dozen different explanations of why the marriage of two same-sexers has an impact on other people and none of these explanations make the slightest bit of sense -- Republicans just keep trying to make the argument that gay marriage is bad because it hurts non-gays. It's a threat to the community!

Republicans are actually quite fond of making distant threats seem concrete by talking about communities in peril -- remember Reagan saying that failing to overthrow the Sandinistas in Nicaragua "would mean consolidation of a privileged sanctuary for terrorists and subversives just 2 days' driving time from Harlingen, Texas"? In the present day, we have right-wingers arguing that if the U.S. ratifies the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, "government would assume the primary role of rearing your children." We have right-wingers arguing that illegal immigration from Mexico means we're all gonna die from swine flu. We have right-wingers arguing that schoolkids and parishioners die in killing sprees because schools and churches tend to be gun-free zones.

See? Right-wingers do care about community! Their one-size-fits-all short list of solutions isn't just for individuals!

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