Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Stuck in the Muddle with You

Image via 2Cats&Chloe.

David Brooks ("What Moderates Believe") identifies the great questions:

Donald Trump is not the answer to this nation’s problems, so the great questions of the moment are: If not Trump, what? What does the reaction to Trump look like?
"If not Trump, what?" is a question that can be asked only by those who thought it was likely that Trump was the answer to this nation's problems and have since become uncertain about it. I think the great question is what the fuck was wrong with those people?

"What does the reaction to Trump look like?" Well, it looks like a red. red rose that's newly sprung in June. Or maybe it creeps in on little cat feet.

For some people, the warriors of the populist right must be replaced by warriors of the populist left. For these people, Trump has revealed an ugly authoritarian tendency in American society that has to be fought with relentless fervor and moral clarity.
Gods forbid we should have any moral clarity. That's just so obnoxious.

I don't know why recognizing the ugly authoritarianism Trump exemplifies (not "reveals", you should have known about it long before) entails demanding "warriors of the populist left". I'd think it would entail looking for less authoritarian ways of going on.

For others, it’s Trump’s warrior mentality itself that must be replaced. Warriors on one side inevitably call forth warriors on the other, and that just means more culture war, more barbarism, more dishonesty and more dysfunction. The people in this camp we will call moderates.
Ah, there we go. It's the good old there-are-two-kind-of-people template. There are two kinds of reactions to Trump: those who are bothered by the authoritarianism, who are bad, and those who are bothered by the "warrior mentality", who are Brooks.

Unlike us commoners, they have the good taste to be against culture war, barbarism, dishonesty, and dysfunction. The Brooks are very different from you and me, who would never make such classy objections.

So you know where he's going. Nothing can be changed anyway (if there are warriors one one side there are "inevitably" warriors on the other, and all the bad things that result from that—note by the way that that's the exact bothsiderism for which Trump was so roundly condemned last week). So we can adopt the let's-do-nothing modesty of Burkean conservatism, the smiling, humble, morally muddled authoritarianism aimed at preserving the authority of our traditional religious and class institutions, and call it "centrist".

It's "centrist" because Brooks just built a nice bothsides framework around it, but it's conservatism 101.

I'd like to think about whether there are any political means to the construction of a less authoritarian society, but it wouldn't involve cutting a large number of people out of the discourse because they choose sides and that makes them "immoderate", especially when the self-glorifying "moderates" are covertly choosing the soft-authoritarian side themselves, even as they claim they're not taking sides at all. We don't need to read any more of this. Check Driftglass by all means. And Andrew Johnston's uncharacteristically brief preview from last week.

Cross-posted at The Rectification of Names.

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