Friday, September 24, 2010


David Brooks today:

On the one hand, voters are completely disgusted with Washington. On the other hand, they have not changed their fundamental views on the issues. There has been some shift to the right over the past two years, but the policy landscape looks mostly the way it did over the last few decades.

David Brooks on June 22, describing recent events in the past tense:

...the country wasn't swinging to the left; it was swinging to the right!

Surveys showed public opinion drifting rightward on issue after issue: gun control, abortion, global warming and the role of government. Far from leading Americans, Democrats were repelling them. Between 2008 and 2010 the share of voters who considered the Democrats too liberal surged from 39 percent to 49 percent, according to Gallup surveys.

So, um, which is it? And if Brooks was wrong on June 22, and that Gallup poll was unrepresentative of public opinion, shouldn't he own up and admit it? Shouldn't the Times issue a correction?

Of course, those poll numbers were invoked in the June 22 column -- which imagined a liberal Dr. Faustus -- so that Brooks could make a larger point about (wait for it) ...his favorite subject, values:

Bitterly and too late, Dr. Faustus saw that liberals can't have their way and still win elections in places like North Carolina, Ohio and Missouri. Bitterly and too late, Dr. Faustus recognized that economic policies are about values. If your policies undermine personal responsibility by separating the link between effort and reward, voters will punish you for it.

And the completely contradictory reading of the public-opinion tea leaves in today's column is provided so that Brooks can make a larger point about -- yup -- values:

...when you listen carefully, you notice the public anger doesn't quite match the political class anger. The political class is angry about ideological things: bloated government or the predatory rich. The public seems to be angry about values.

This isn't writing. It's ticcing.

It seems to me that "bloated government," real or imaginary, is prescisely what teabaggers are angry about. Over on the left, yes, we're angry about the predatory rich (and the predatory GOP).

But in the middle, the only values most people are upset about are the values of things they'll never be able to afford, or can't afford to keep (like their houses), because they don't think they'll be able to hold on to their jobs, or because they've already lost them and don't think they'll ever work again.

But writing a column about that wouldn't allow David Brooks to sound like a seventeenth-century New England school primer, would it?

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