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David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who knows America could be a much better nation if it would just become David Brooks, would like the 2020 Democrats to stop worrying about "policy" and get at the sickness of America's soul. Fortunately, he's seen the cure! Marianne Williamson, the loonypants lady who eschews policy details and instead has taken to channeling Chauncey Gardiner at the debates, is the Democrat of David Brooks's never-fevered centrist dreams. Not because of any of her plans to do policy things, but because she knows America needs its soul healed up.


Brooks explains that it would be nice to talk about policy stuff, "if only Donald Trump were not president," but that is simply not possible, you see, even though a lot of fools running for the Democratic nomination insist on talking about "policy." No, this election cannot be about what the candidate will do, but about how the candidate will be.

This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.

Trump is a cultural revolutionary, not a policy revolutionary. He operates and is subtly changing America at a much deeper level. He's operating at the level of dominance and submission, at the level of the person where fear stalks and contempt emerges.

Since Trump is constantly grabbing America's id and tugging on its amygdala, Brooks explains, we need a candidate who will fix that -- not with facts, but with a call to our better angels -- and that call should be made on a phone David Brooks knows how to operate, please.

Ah, but there is at least one Democrat Brooks can admire: The loopy one. Marianne Williamson may have "wackadoodle" ideas, but nonetheless has "the best grasp of this election" because she's "running a spiritual crusade," you see.

Marianne Williamson is right about this: "This is part of the dark underbelly of American society: the racism, the bigotry and the entire conversation that we're having here tonight. If you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days."

In calling for a "moral uprising of the American people," Williamson has her finger of the pulse of the American electorate, or at least the part of the electorate that is David Brooks. And while Democrats may be loath to do it, it's their job, he says, to "rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country," by reminding us of our common values.

Brooks is very disappointed by other Democrats, who merely push for positive changes in people's lives, and who even cares about that?

Part of the problem is that the two leading Democratic idea generators are both materialistic wonks. Elizabeth Warren is a social scientist from Harvard Law School who has a plan for everything — except the central subject of this election, which is cultural and moral. Bernie Sanders has been a dialectical materialist all his life and is incapable of adjusting his economics-dominated mind-set.

The problem, Brooks says, is that Democrats simply don't know how to speak to the soul of the nation, because they keep getting distracted by trivialities like whether people can afford to go to the doctor or feed their kids. Ultimately, he says, it's all FDR's fault:

The modern version of the party emerged during the Great Depression to solve one problem: material want. It is a secular party, trapped in a Lockean prison: Politics should be separate from faith. Politics should be separate from soulcraft. Democrats believe they can win votes by offering members of different groups economic benefits and are perpetually shocked when they lose those voters.

Instead, to please David Brooks, Democrats must remind Americans "of the values we still share, and the damage done when people are not held accountable for trampling on them."

But Brooks is so intent on insisting Dems are nothing but grey technocrats that he misses a hell of an important point: Being able to put food on your family is a moral issue. Being able to vote is a moral issue, one that people put their lives on the line to gain and protect. Healthcare is a moral issue, and people dying because they're unable to afford care or drugs is a moral issue, too. Being able to raise a family without the fear that a cop will shoot your child dead for the crime of being black is a fairly pressing moral issue. An economy that's tilted in favor of the very richest is, to put it mildly, a moral issue.

Democrats have always underlined their policy messages with a values message: Fairness is how America should work. Making America more fair is a basic value. Mind you, when Democrats get too good at such messaging, they're suddenly divisive and cultlike, or worse, they're all talk and no action, even when they can point to actions.

And plenty of the 2020 Dems are fluent in values: Cory Booker is out to fix America's prisons and the punitive, racist impulses that filled them. At her kickoff rally, Kamala Harris literally asked a question that could have come straight from Brooks: "We are here at this moment in time because we must answer a fundamental question: Who are we? Who are we as Americans?" Julián Castro reminds us of our human connections, yes, even to people not born here. Elizabeth Warren's entire career has been a crusade for fairness in the FDR mold -- she's Jimmy Stewart in a red jacket. Jay Inslee rather likes the common value of having a planet that can sustain life.

And yes, those are just a few examples. But they're not the right kind of soul talk we guess, especially when a "centrist" Republican is on a deadline and has a thesis to push. Do better, Dems. You have failed yet again to live up to the high standards of the guy who found salvation in his much younger research assistant's ladybits.

[NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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