David Brooks has long vacillated between culture mode and political mode and sometimes he splits the difference, as he does here.
When politics is used as a cure for spiritual and social loneliness, it’s harder to win people over with policy or philosophical arguments. Everything is shaped on a deeper level, through the parables, fables and myths that our most fundamental groups use to define themselves. . . . If politics is going to get better we need better myths, unifying ones that are built on social equality.
Like me, and ironically like the late Andrew Breitbart, Brooksie mostly ends up in places where culture trumps politics. That is the case with this column. And so I am sympathetic with it for the most part. I don’t doubt that various cultural ailments can and do drive political passions, with the passionate not always fully aware of the cause of their discontent, or why politics in the end does not work as the salve they would like.
That said, it would be nice if Brooksie were a little more balanced in his analysis. True, when he gets all abstract about it he says that idolatry can arise on both left and right as a result of the fraying of the cultural fabric. But when he discusses the matter in concrete terms the anomie is happening in middle America and the morbid symptoms are seen among Trump supporters. Is it too much to ask Brooksie to level with his own sophisticated audience that they are in this thing too?
Indeed a case can be made that many of the ailments afflicting middle America have come at the hands of smartypants who are willfully blind to the effects of their own actions and preferences on others. Am I mythologizing too much to suggest that, to put it crudely, globalists do not give two shits about deplorables? Some of the anomie felt in middle America is surely related to the perception of being sidelined, neglected and disrespected.
And what is the reaction of Brooks’s Times readers to all this? Double down on afflicting the uncomfortable and go into high dudgeon panic mode 24/7. There’s a lot of myth visible here, too. Let’s hear you, Brooksie, describe to your own readers in your best reasonable prose the extent to which their actions are driven by unseen demons.
All well and good to pine for moderation–the winning side always calls for that when they have their foot on your neck. I await the day that Brooksie-think meets Bannon-think to hash things out. Civil Wars–even ones fought out with ideas and on paper–have a way of bringing people together. C’mon Brooksie, you can do it.