Wednesday, September 10

David Brooks Is Going To Take His Ball And Go Home Now, If Someone Will Please Give It Back To Him

David Brooks, "Surprise Me Most". September 9

OKAY, first: "Surprise Me Most"???? I'd let it pass if it were just the title, on the chance that someone else wrote it, but he uses it twice more. Th' fuck is that? It sounds like a collection of Mickey Spillane's newly-discovered love sonnets.

Mr. Brooks urges our national parties to get weirder. Would that he truly meant "weird"; would that he truly wanted it. By the way, full disclosure: for over forty years almost every mention of the word, outside of Dr. Hunter S's, has caused me to grind my molars. "Weird" is how the suburban grillmeister describes Stravinsky. It's how Lawrence Welk described the British Invasion. It's how David Brooks describes this:
Last winter, Barack Obama succeeded by running a weird campaign. He wasn’t just a normal politician aiming for office, he was going to cleanse the country of the baby-boom culture war mentality. In his soaring speeches, he denounced the mores of both the Clinton and Bush eras and made an argument for unity and hope over endless partisan warfare.

Now then: we are not going to spend much time (this time) with the trite recognition that David Brooks' advice to Democrats might possibly be suspect. This is, at least in part, the other Brooks, the one who occasionally murders a few thousand trees the better to sigh wistfully about the unpleasant necessity of his sharing a political party with huge numbers of embarrassing Neanderthals he'd just as soon would disappear back into the woods after they vote; the sort of people who occasionally provoke a companion's cutting rudeness over cocktails that spoil his entire evening. How grand if we could just return, instead, to those heady days of early winter, when Barack Obama promised to wish them away, along that strident PC Left they're always arguing with, and usher in a new birth of...I'm sorry, of what? Dynamic unfettered Corporatism? What is Brooks' idea of Heaven, anyway? Row after row of neatly-uniformed school children, sitting attentively at their desks, liberally sprinkled with various Credits to their various Races, instructed by non-union teachers, eagerly vying, through hard work and personal merit, to climb right up to the point where the wealthy white people who actually own everything tell the butler to shut the door in their faces? Burghers who pay just enough taxes to keep the US technologically bristling with major weapons systems, and the video-game-trained poorer classes who operate them? The colorful pageantry and native garb of (legal) Ethnics who never forget a Holy Day and can't afford to call in sick? Th' fuck does the man want? If you think that the American culture war is bad, try to imagine the American culture at peace.

It's funny how this When You're Wishy-Washy Upon a Star routine never shares any of the blame for...whatever it is we're blaming. Why don't you Centrists solve the problem for us? You know, the same way you solved Racism by putting Martin Luther King on a stamp, thirty years after you wished Sheriff Clark would stop beating prisoners and Negroes would stop provoking him.

We consciously invoke above the great bugbear of the Mild-Mannered "Conservative" columnist pretending to plea--never sue--for Peace. The third anniversary of Katrina--and a new, scarifying hurricane season--are excellent mnemonic devices for considering just how over Racism we truly are, especially members of Brooks own party. Or don't you read the fun folks at the flagship National Review, Mr. Brooks? Of course, they were Centrist about the whole thing, too, finally allowing as how the government might have acted a wee bit quicker if it hadn't had to stop to shoot all those looters, and how the Negroes of Nawlins were unconscionably tardy in the development of gills. Veritable wellspring of hope for the future over there, they are.

Don't get me wrong; I still will defend to Voltaire's death your right to say any stupid thing you please, but when it reaches the pages of the Times somebody ought to demand you show your work on occasion. If Senator Obama was able to craft a political campaign over this Magical Return to Reaganism, When Everybody Got Along bullshit--aimed primarily at vast numbers of younger voters who didn't know the difference and who have now, apparently, vanished--well, he's a politician; we make allowances.  If that sounds cynical to you it's because you never looked at your own Reaganism from the other side, or considered his accomplishments in cold morning light. Obama is at least subjected to questioning (unfortunately, conducted by members of your own profession); you risk what? I doubt a kick in the shins from Jim Lehrer. Explain to me, just once, how far we are from apodictic: that one side of the Baby Boomer "culture war" supported civil rights, gender equality, reproductive self-determination, economic justice, responsible stewardship of the environment, and an end to US wars of imperialism, whereas the other side wanted to, well, bomb the shit out of everyone it disagreed with. Oh, and in fairness, run the economy well, where "well" is defined as "principally in the interests of the people who have the money in the first place". Now tell me how you rectify this, or how you hoped Obama was going to rectify it, back in those days when his message was so electrifying you didn't notice the cold. By chattering about it on PBS? Presumably you imagine your own side to be at fault, partly. Given your rent-free kiosk in the country's most important opinion mall, what have you ever done about it, besides occasionally stroking your eyebrown twice and frowning like a disappointed uncle? You squirmed in your chair over Schiavo--that curiously revelatory moment among those Republicans who were somehow previously unaware of the Religious Right--and you criticized the response to Katrina. Big deal. There's no distinction between that and the party-preservation instincts of your faction.

So now Senator Obama finds himself in a race, not a speechifying contest; now he speaks to issues, not that Land of Friendly Unicorns where everybody has realized David Brooks was right; and now he sounds like a Democrat. Content yourself with the memory that you once shared the same, beautiful dream, before the fucking alarm clock went off and you had to grub up some reality.
But by campaigning in this traditional way, Obama ceded the weirdness edge to McCain.

The old warrior jumped right in. Think about how weird last week was. The Republican convention was one long protest against the way the Republicans themselves have run Washington.

I'm sorry, do you expect to earn plaudits for recognizing the Republican party's disconnect from reality? In 2008?
McCain’s convention speech barely mentioned his own party. His vice-presidential nominee came out of the blue and seems totally unlike the regular crowd of former eighth-grade class presidents who normally dominate public life.

Right, she seems more like the quiet girl who always wore ankle-length woolen skirts of a medium gray, and a head covering, who you once saw eating handfuls of paste behind her upraised desk top.
McCain’s campaign ideology, exemplified in a new ad released on Monday, is not familiar conservatism. It’s maverickism — against the entrenched powers and party orthodoxies.

Good Lord, no wonder you quoted David Broder; nobody combines Conventional Wisdom and Persistent Vegetative State  quite like The Dean. But, c'mon, the salient feature of the entire McCain campaign to this point--aside from trying to trip up Obama--has been his shameless rush to disavow every last maverickical opinion he'd ever proclaimed, and bring it into line with the Bronze Age wing of the party, which he supposedly despises. Reprising the maverick routine--we note, again, that he is a "maverick" only in the way The Beatles were "weird", that is, strictly to an audience well-accustomed to monochromatic life--may have been good politics, with America, presumably including that portion of the electorate which hasn't completely taken leave of what senses it once had, watching. Or, again, it may have been another of his legendary attacks of the crochets, and a small retaliation for his having been forced to let James Dobson pick his running mate. I have no idea. If Brooks has some insider dope on the thing he has an Excuse Me, Weird way of eliciting confidence in it.

If the Obama campaign seems, belatedly, to have realized that the arrival of November 4 will make the odds on there being a November 5 something of a lock, the scattergun "weirdness" of the McCain campaign has, basically, assured that he'll have no means of governing come next January. Which is weird, since he'll be the first Republican in forty years who might actually have preferred to do so.


Gary said...

...and bring it into line with the Bronze Age wing of the party, which he supposedly despises.

I think you're giving them too much credit. Their lizard brains are barely capable of generating a coherent fight or flight response, let alone producing metal alloys. They sure are good at marketing, though.

R. Porrofatto said...

Zing. Maybe Brooks is hoping that Surprise me most! catches on with his fellow pundidiots รก la, "Palin's revelation of her lesbian dominatrix moonlighting is another one of those Brooksian 'surprise me most' moments in this election." Kind of like the way his "rank-link imbalance" faux mot took the discourse by storm a while back.

yellojkt said...

Yeah, Obama should have jumped right into that town hall briarpatch. Brooks is full of suspect advice even Republicans should be wary of.

Blister said...

Mr. Buzzkill.

You're all like, "they've fucked us up the ass just as I always knew they would, let's lie down and die and feel existential or something."

No, no, man. You got to "get up in their grill." like, fight back! All this whining and moaning won't do it.

On the other hand, maybe you're mostly right, it is time to lie down and die. But even so, the Beatles were weird. With those "mop-tops" and all? And those funny collars under the suit jackets? Pretty damn weird, you ask a middle-America guy, whatever your coast-side analysis might conclude.

James Stripes said...

Brooks has already told us that his vision of Paradise is an Ubermom in an SUV. Be that as it may, I was reading Hunter last night and you're right on the money in the deployment of weird. Hunter's mantra in Hey Rube offers the suggestion that we should be taking bets on whether "Swine of the Week" should go to McSame or The One and what color lipstick it will be wearing.

Keifus said...

"Weird Tales" sort of weird is still an okay usage, right? And I think I might want to keep "weirdo" too--I promise to reserve it for old men in filthy overcoats and that sort of thing.

I can never decide whether Brooks is highly intelligent or some kind of Republican savant. Does he consciously write those reasonable-sounding constructions, burying the nastiness under a closer required reading, or does he just riff on conservative themes as if his cognitive centers are and he's got some mild form of Tourette's that makes him softly spout the same conclusions regardless of the evidence? Since he often reports that countervailing evidence, you may think he understands it, supporting the genius theory, but he also relies on terrible truisms to make what passes for his arguments.

Maybe the dude's just lazy, or just burnt out. Which is understandable, but it doesn't explain the sinecure. I love to see him batted around like this.

McWyrm said...

Shorter D.H. Riley:
"Get these straw men off my lawn!"