Tuesday, September 25

History Is Written By The Victors. Then Forwarded To The Ad Writers For Punching Up.

David Brooks, "The Conservative Mind". September 24

EVEN David Brooks…
When I joined the staff of National Review as a lowly associate in 1984, the magazine, and the conservative movement itself, was a fusion of two different mentalities.

I'd just remind everyone that a couple decades later, having joined the staff of the New York Times as an overrated opinion writer and finding his party in a very different sort of quagmire (aka the Bush Administration), a quagmire it had marched into in lockstep while shouting "Traitors!" at everyone who disagreed, David Brooks informed us that we had it all wrong, that there were hundreds of "conservative" factions, all debating discussing the wisdom of Edmund Burke all weekend.

You'd imagine, really, that if that cacophony of metaphysicians had developed in such a short time, over precisely the professional careerspan of one David Brooks, that his work would provide us with a timeline and an explanation. Someone wanna locate that for me?
On the one side, there were the economic conservatives. These were people that anybody following contemporary Republican politics would be familiar with. They spent a lot of time worrying about the way government intrudes upon economic liberty. They upheld freedom as their highest political value. They admired risk-takers. They worried that excessive government would create a sclerotic nation with a dependent populace.

You could put it that way. Or you could say they spend a lot of time polishing turds like Supply Side Economics and the Trickle Down Theory so that they, or their masters, could seal the triumph over Franklin Delano Class Traitor Roosevelt they imagined Reagan had begun. And fighting, then as now--something else someone following "contemporary" Republican politics will find familiar--against labor, organized and disorganized, the underclass in general, environmental and fiscal regulation, a sensible Defense posture, and academia.

By the way, I'm kind of a shut-in, so maybe I've missed some, but the next "conservative" I meet who is actually concerned about a social safety net creating dependence will be the first. I know quite a few who are terrifically concerned that a small fraction of their tax dollars, if any, might buy someone a sandwich or some insulin, but, frankly, if you could figure out a way to get China to foot the bill for Big Macs and meth for every poor person who wanted to sign up they'd be fine with it. Thrilled, in fact, so long as the cages were escape-proof.
But there was another sort of conservative, who would be less familiar now. This was the traditional conservative, intellectual heir to Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, Clinton Rossiter and Catholic social teaching. This sort of conservative didn’t see society as a battleground between government and the private sector. Instead, the traditionalist wanted to preserve a society that functioned as a harmonious ecosystem, in which the different layers were nestled upon each other: individual, family, company, neighborhood, religion, city government and national government.

In other words, Mr. Brooks, you're having a spot of trouble with your party at present, (or, more accurately, with its prospects), and need somewhere to hide, preferably well-stocked with principles you can use to hurl the exact same Republican crap at people after another defeat/disaster/metaphysical depantsing.
The two conservative tendencies lived in tension. But together they embodied a truth that was put into words by the child psychologist John Bowlby, that life is best organized as a series of daring ventures from a secure base.

The economic conservatives were in charge of the daring ventures that produced economic growth. The traditionalists were in charge of establishing the secure base — a society in which families are intact, self-discipline is the rule, children are secure and government provides a subtle hand.

Lemme just repeat, for those of you who came in late, that where Nabokov once opined that "reality" was the only word which should always appear in quotes, I believe that "conservative" should join in when speaking of the American post-war variety. And Mr. Brooks has just explained why.

This is like having a three-legged stool where each leg is on a different plane. Paleoconservatives (no, sir, I don't care for the term either, but y'all gave it to yourselves, and well-earned it was), who supported, acquiesced, or just stood around complaining about the temperature of the sherry while international corporate piracy took over their party, proved themselves to be nothing but political hacks with an inordinate fondness for Latin derivatives. It ain't like the Nixon administration wasn't enough fucking warning. And there's nothing, nothing whatsoever which is conservative about Daring Ventures, LLC. Traditionalists went through the Great Depression, too. Even those who didn't suffer personally saw the result of unfettered Capitalism. They saw the absolute need--whether or not they admitted it--for disciplined markets, legally enforced. They'd seen, while we're at it, the shame of war profiteering (and they'd seen a lot of those responsible held legally accountable, another thing no contemporary political observer will be much familiar with). And once tens of thousands of their fellow citizens--and tens of millions of Godless Soviets--had disposed of Germany and Japan, they looked around and asked themselves how they could get back to making an extra buck off it.
Ronald Reagan embodied both sides of this fusion,

"When Stupidity Met Cupidity". Yeah, he's to "Conservatism" what Ronald McDonald is to cuisine.

And by the way: like Fun he did. Reagan, or, in the interest of accuracy, his handlers, ran screaming every time imposing "traditional conservatism" clashed with Daring Ventures and Large Sums of Cash. Reagan--meaning Reagan Idolatry--is the very reason you're in this mess today. There was no "traditional conservatism" left by the time he and Mommy left Washington. Just the slime trail from everyone who'd been gorging himself at the public trough for eight years. If you wanna reform the Republican party, there's your place to start. And Godspeed.
and George W. Bush tried to recreate it with his compassionate conservatism.

Translation: there's a paper trail, or I'd deny I ever heard of him.
But that effort was doomed because in the ensuing years, conservatism changed.

No it didn't. It ran to its extremist elements in the 60s because it was afraid of the Negroes. And eventually, with Reagan, the money boys found a way to affect a leveraged buyout.
It’s not so much that today’s Republican politicians reject traditional, one-nation conservatism. They don’t even know it exists. There are few people on the conservative side who’d be willing to raise taxes on the affluent to fund mobility programs for the working class. There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock. There are very few Republicans who protest against a House Republican budget proposal that cuts domestic discretionary spending to absurdly low levels.

It’s not so much that today’s Republican politicians reject traditional, one-nation conservatism. They don’t even know it exists. There are few people on the conservative side who’d be willing to raise taxes on the affluent to fund mobility programs for the working class. There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock. There are very few Republicans who protest against a House Republican budget proposal that cuts domestic discretionary spending to absurdly low levels.

The results have been unfortunate. Since they no longer speak in the language of social order, Republicans have very little to offer the less educated half of this country. Republicans have very little to say to Hispanic voters, who often come from cultures that place high value on communal solidarity.

Y'know, Dave, I agree with you. And here's the thing: I agreed with you in 1980, before you ever thought it.  It took you thirty years to notice? Bullshit. You were converted, not by St. Ronnie the Fusioner, but by Milton Friedman, who'd be doing campaign appearances with Paul Ryan right now, assuming Milt was alive and out of prison.

Where's this column been in all this time? Where was the recognition? If there are such things as actual Times readers who actually give a shit, this might fool some of 'em. But to me you're the guy who didn't just champion Bush II's Middle East adverturism, but the guy who crowed about our stunning victory in Afghanistan. Eleven years ago. And the guy who, once Iraq II turned unquestionably to a stinking shitpile, said he needed to take some personal time and think things over, then never spoke of it again until it was time to champion The Surge! (You'll always be that guy to me.) This is just more covering fire on the "moderate" flank for when "Conservatism" needs to retreat again. It's a concern for the Hispanic voter which equals the "conservative" concern for the African American voter, a serious rumination on what the non-white, non-Republican voter wants, assuming he's able to climb over the obstacles and vote anyway.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Notice also what's missing from this particular Bobo masterpiece: any mention of culture war, fundamentalism, Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Savage, Rove, etc etc. In short, all those who have done so much to creat the Republican Party we know and love. As in so many David Brooks columns, all those unpleasantries have vanished straight down the memory hole, right along with Brooks' own role in contributing to the current state of lunacy which the party enjoys today.

Both Sides Do It said...

Hell you don't need to look into the pit where they keep Limbaugh, Hannity and Coulter et al.

Ralph Reed, Ted Haggerty, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and hundreds of other players within the Party itself will do nicely.

I want to chisel "[Conservatism] ran to its extremist elements in the 60s because it was afraid of the Negroes. And eventually, with Reagan, the money boys found a way to affect a leveraged buyout" on a hillside somewhere

synykyl said...

Once upon a time, I thought David Brooks was something other than a pathetic partisan hack, and that his opinions were worthy of at least some consideration.

These days, not so much.

M. Krebs said...

It really ought to be fun watching this meltdown, but I know that the bastards will come back. They always do.

Cliff said...

As Driftglass says, there's always a razor in the apple, and that's a useful image for when I explain my loathing of Brooks to my NPR-listening parents.

This is what caught my eye this time:
"There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock."

Yeah, the "40 percent out of wedlock" thing is what's important here, and not the fact that the only economic engine for a lot of these places is the illegal drug trade.

Also this:
"Republicans have very little to say to Hispanic voters"

Very little to say apart from "Learn to speak English and while you're at it, pack up your shit and get out."

But it's already been noted how he glosses over the deeply entrenched racism of the GOP.

KWillow said...

"There are very few willing to use government to actively intervene in chaotic neighborhoods, even when 40 percent of American kids are born out of wedlock."

Yeah,that sentence sticks out like a gigantic sore thumb. "EVEN when 40% of etc. etc." what the hell does that mean? The govt should intervene in people's sex lives? Provide education & contraception? I doubt that.

Brooks is a monster. They all are monsters.

Anonymous said...

"Republicans have very little to offer the less educated half of this country."

What, these are mutually exclusive categories?

—anotherbozo

R. Porrofatto said...

A column by David Brooks titled The Conservative Mind. Christ, there isn't enough curiosity in the world to overcome my horror at that thought and make me read it. "Wait'll Riley softens up the target with some heavy artillery," I sez to myself. And lo, it's now safe to get out of the boat. (I still ain't doin' it, tho.)