Monday, October 10

Peter Pan Conservatism

David Brooks gets over my back fence and into the house like a Pigeon from Hell:

As Parties Grow Weary, Time for an Insurgency
After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left. After a while, you tire of the current Republicans, who lack a coherent governing philosophy, and the current Democrats, who are completely bereft of ideas. After a while you begin to wonder: Did I really get engaged in politics so I could spend months arguing about the confirmation of Harriet Miers, the John Major of American jurisprudence?

Matters Outside Our Present Focus:

1) How there comes to be an equivalence between Republican Tom DeLay, the sleeziest, slimiest Congressman in a leadership position since the invention of the light bulb, at minimum, and Democrat Howard Dean, who merely holds positions Brooks doesn't care for.

2) How it is Republicans suddenly lack a coherent governing philosophy despite spending all their free weekends discussing Edmund Burke and Ludwig von Mises.

3) What Times editor passed on "completely bereft".
And when you begin thinking this way, you find yourself emotionally disengaging from the exhausted clans that dominate the present. You find yourself going back to basics and considering the fundamental questions: What visions originally excited me about politics and government? If it were completely up to me, where would I plant my flag?

Here's where I would plant mine.

Let me save you any further reading and myself a lot more typing (since I can't cut and paste Brooks anymore and have to actually focus on every damn word): if it were completely up to him, David Brooks would plant his flag exactly where it is now, except completely bereft of any association with the six feet of toxic Republican floodwater we're all bobbing around in like flotsam as a result of those ideals, opinions, policies, and bumper-sticker catchphrases being given free rein for the last 4-1/2 years. Yes, you see, David Brooks is a supporter of the America of Opportunity, of Hamilton, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. It is not his fault that none of those three turned up to rescue the Republican party from itself. It's not his fault that, for the second time in twenty years, incontinent tax cutting has led to incontinent debt. It's not his fault that Iraq is a disaster.

Wait. Why isn't it his fault that Iraq is a disaster?

Say it again: trendy middle-aged "reformed liberal" National-Greatness-libertarian-slash-neocons like Brooks were never forced to grow up. Through the simple good fortune (theirs, not the country's) of a favorable political biorhythm chart--Nixon's Southern Strategy plus increasing media corporatism plus the collapse of the Soviet Union plus twenty years of relatively good economic news--they've never been asked the tough questions, let alone forced to answer them. And now it's too late to learn, or too late to admit they were wrong. Because in the final analysis, all they ever had was an unshakable belief that their opinions were inerrant and everybody else's opinions were misguided or worse.

It doesn't matter that unlike many of his fellow Republicans Brooks seems personally disinclined to attach a car battery to the genitals of randomly-selected Iraqis, nor that he might shed a public tear or two over the plight of an underclass he knows nothing about:
I hated the old welfare system, which pushed people away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands.

(The budget's tight right now, Dave. Maybe we could afford to issue every poor child his own bootstraps.)

No, It doesn't matter, and it never should have. By the time Brooks had a public forum, however cute and trendy and completely bereft of intellectual substance, the game was already up. Anyone with a smidgen of intellectual honesty, or at least enough to overcome the burning desire for a big book deal advance, had to realize it. The notion of the oppressed White American male was a sham. The idea that Reagan had accomplished some fundamental, opportunity-based shift in American politics was a cover story for the Rubes. To pretend, at this late date, that Tom DeLay or George W. Bush represent an aberration in the Republican party and not a culmination of its thirty-year war on everything that wasn't White, Christian, and pro-big business in this country is to continue shoveling manure while you're up to your nose in it. There's no pretending that your good intentions PR counts for anything anymore. Beyond the fact that the Times keeps paying you for it, I mean.

The sorry results of that thirty-year war are not the result of minor miscalculation or unforeseen circumstances. They are not even, in that favorite phrase of so-called conservatism gone by, the result of the "law of unintended consequences". This is your Republican paradise, Mr. Brooks. Here's your National Greatness. When you're covered in shit it's time to stop pretending the smell is coming from somewhere else.


Anonymous said...

you could say it's been 36 years, doghouse, or ever since nixon was elected president.

or you could say 72 years, ever since the first parts of the new deal were enacted.

there's always been an ugly under current in the gop that makes it sound like nazism light -- that is, no death camps but ghettos for THOSE NOT LIKE US -- or else, kill off the leaders and round up the followers and put them in the ghettos.

you ought know that, doghouse. go outside your house and look around. indiana's full of people like that.

atop that, the evangies and racists.

Anonymous said...

If you were a woman, I'd say "you go, girlfriend!"

Anonymous said...

Fuck me. Did Brooks just suggest we take poor children, born without pre-natal care because we don't bother with stuff like universal health care, and give them a savings account? Saving for *what*?
Does he have any goddamned idea how long poor babies last in this country? It's not pretty.
I have a feeling that the saving account Brooks envisions would be enough to be frittered away on luxuries like, you know, food and rent and childcare long before the kid ever got old enough to learn what a budget is.
That's the reality of "welfare reform".
What the fuck does he think these kids would save it for? College? Poor kids, Mr Brooks, watch TV and read your silly newspaper and see your goddamned ugly president wage vicious take-no-prisioners class warfare, and the *smart* ones probably figure they have no future. So who the hell are we expecting to bootstrap themselves out of poverty, the kids too delusional or stupid to get depressed by the realization of how much they got screwed by Life's Great Lottery?

Doghouse, I love you like a brother, man, and I would positively adore seeing you go all OED on Brooks' useless ass, and watching you write is always a genuine pleasure.
But there's a reason this stuff's behind that premium firewall, and continuing to read it can't be doing you any good.
If nothing else, all the bullshit has to be elevating the nitrite levels in your personal environment.

Anonymous said...

If nothing else, all the bullshit has to be elevating the nitrite levels in your personal environment.

Which as we all know can lead to explosions. "Blogger spontaneously combusts from sheer outrage!" is a headline I expect to read, or be, any day now.

But yeah, Brooks, Friedman, Buckley, all the Panjandrums of Punditry, calling down the Four Horsemen on us without compunction, then going "What, moi?" when their victims shout "J'accuse!" and point to the streetlights...

Anonymous said...

Damn, Mr. Riley. Spot on.

d. sidhe, I'm getting a big, ole Blog-Crush on you.

Democrats have no ideas such as a national health system, homeland security, sensible military spending, a worker's bill of rights, or increased public spending on public infrastructure.

Republicans have big ideas like savings accounts for infants, preventing teenage blow-jobs, and teaching nonsense.

How can I get a gig where I spout insane gibberish and get a check?

Seriously, I want to know. I'll go off my meds if there's a paycheck in it.

eRobin said...

After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left.

Oh, fuck him.

This is your Republican paradise, Mr. Brooks. Here's your National Greatness. When you're covered in shit it's time to stop pretending the smell is coming from somewhere else.


Anonymous said...

no one savages brooks like you, doghouse.

d. sidhe ... "seeing you go all OED" oh, i heart that!

i agree - doghouse, be careful because brooks and his smug mug isn't good for your health.

oh, reformed liberals = traitor hippies.

isabelita said...

Excellent. I have long despised Brooks, and it is refreshing to see him flayed.
There are worse things that "traitor hippies" can become, such as neocon barbarians, like a former friend of mine. Once he got a taste of money on Wall Street, he became a Balding White Man in Charge of Everything. Just like Cheney, Rove, and so many of the demons in charge these days.

Anonymous said...

Try National Review, the bunny. If you go off all your meds and hit yourself in the head several times with a brick, you might fit in okay. I'm not sure it's worth it, really. But your first column could be about how you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps and took the glorious opportunity presented to you by being mentally ill in America and made it work *for* you rather than just demanding a government (disability) handout.
Believe me, they'll eat that up, mostly because they've been hitting themselves in the head with bricks for years now.

Meanwhile, a blog crush, good heavens, I'm not worthy. Anybody can say "fuck" a lot. ;-)
My personal blog crush is on Mr Riley, who, in fact, doesn't need to very much at all. What a writer!

Anonymous said...

See, the way I see it, what happened here is that Oceania made a terrible mistake; They actually defeated Eastasia and Eurasia.

So, now, the Republican party is running out of scapegoats. They beat the stuffing out of the secular liberal agenda back in the last couple of elections, but things still suck.

They've managed to maneuver themselves into a position where only they can be blamed for their failures, which they have a lot of, thanks to the President.

Anonymous said...

There will always be a Goldstein, though. Sure, he's made up, just like the bugbears of the republicans in charge. But as long as everyone is enjoying their two minute hate, it doesn't really matter.

Anonymous said...

d. sidhe: It isn't so much that you talk dirty (although, come to think of it...) as it is your point that the best time to invest in a child's future is pre-natally. This not only showed how little and how late these stupid accounts would be, it also exposes the hypocrisy of the "fetus is human" thesis. Nicely played!

Mr. Riley sure do write purty, though.