David Brooks Wants To Know Why Dems Can't Just Nominate A Nice Republican
If there is anything David Brooks likes, it is someone telling him how pretty he is.
In his column today at the New York Times, Brooks begs Democrats to do the "sensible" thing and not "lose" him by going too far left, as if we (or anyone else, for that matter) wanted him to begin with. He's been doing this for a while. He appears to be under the impression that his vote is the most important of all possible votes and that any candidate who does not pander to him, David Brooks, a man who lives in New York City and whose vote probably isn't going to count much regardless of who he votes for, is bound to lose. His own party is messed up as hell and instead of trying to help clean it up, or godforbid tell them what to do, he'd much prefer that the Democrats just become the Party of Whatever David Brooks Wants so that he might graciously consider thinking about deigning to vote for one. A nice, completely ineffective Democrat who would not actually try to, you know, actually do anything.
His advice, it appears, is for Democrats to stop pushing for healthcare, stop talking about income inequality in a way that makes it seem like they think capitalism is bad, stop making it sound to David Brooks like they are for "open borders" despite the fact that exactly no one has actually argued for "open borders," stop being all populisty and start criticizing Donald Trump's manners.
Finally, Democrats aren't making the most compelling moral case against Donald Trump. They are good at pointing to Trump's cruelties, especially toward immigrants. They are good at describing the ways he is homophobic and racist. But the rest of the moral case against Trump means hitting him from the right as well as the left.
A decent society rests on a bed of manners, habits, traditions and institutions. Trump is a disrupter. He rips to shreds the codes of politeness, decency, honesty and fidelity, and so renders society a savage world of dog eat dog. Democrats spend very little time making this case because defending tradition, manners and civility sometimes cuts against the modern progressive temper.
Now, I am but a simple country leftist whose vote is not as important as David Brooks's vote is, but it seems like pretty much everyone is aware of the fact that Donald Trump is not a polite or decent person. In fact, that is a thing many people seem to find appealing about him. He is so utterly, cartoonishly grotesque that there is practically not a person in this country who, standing next to him, would not immediately begin to remind all of us of Jackie O. There is also not a world in which Donald Trump loses the next election to someone whose primary selling point is that they know which fork to use and do not cheat on their spouse.
I assure you, if there is a person out there who is not clear on the fact that Donald Trump has bad manners, that person is not capable of finding their polling place.
Brooks's other main argument is that Democrats are too focused on the One Percent and are not spending enough time dragging ... educated people.
But the big divide in America is not between the top 1 percent and the bottom 99. It's between the top 20 percent and the rest. These are the highly educated Americans who are pulling away from everybody else and who have built zoning restrictions and meritocratic barriers to make sure outsiders can't catch up.
If Democrats run a populist campaign against the business elite, Trump will run a broader populist campaign against the entire educated elite. His populism is more compelling to people who respond to such things. After all, he is actually despised by the American elite, unlike the Democrats.
Yes, because what could be a greater selling point for a Democrat than "Yeah, fuck educated people! That's the real problem!" What is a president, or anyone for that matter, supposed to do about that, even? Ban college? What? The way you handle that kind of inequality is the same way you handle income inequality in general. You make sure that regardless of someone's education level they are able to earn a living wage, have healthcare, have a home, and send their own kids to college if that is what those kids want.
The way politics has gone for a very long time in this country is that Republicans get to be full of Id, pushing absolutely horrific things that "excite" their base, and Democrats must not only not do that, they'll get blamed when the Republicans do. Specifically by people like David Brooks, who are not voting for Democrats anyway. This has yet to "work," however, because the Right is just as horrified by Obama wearing a tan suit as they are by singlepayer health care, just as terrified by a centrist like Merrick Garland as they would be by Supreme Court Justice Angela Davis. This is primarily because the Overton Window has long been pushed so far to the Right in this country that completely milquetoast Dem proposals and actions seem like the work of Che Guevara.
Let us not forget that this is the same David Brooks who also once complained, back in 2008, that Barack Obama needed to try to be more like someone who would fit in at an Applebee's salad bar, lest he frighten the simple townsfolk (true, given that Applebee's does not have salad bars).
This tactic is smart. It makes it so the Republican Party never has to hem and haw about what might scare us. They don't have to worry about bringing us in. They maintain that they are the norm, that their votes are supposed to be the most important votes, even to us, that they are the "real" Americans, and people go along with them because people are lazy.
And that's the way they like it. They do not like that a lot of Americans are suddenly starting to go, "Hey, maybe it would be nice if we didn't have to be miserable and we could actually try to make things better!" They don't like that liberal policies— perhaps because they are actually, finally, being clearly presented and strongly advocated for—might actually be "what the people want." They don't like that we might be the "real Americans" too.
Let me be absolutely clear. The David Brookses and the Meghan McCains of this world are not going to get it together to go and vote for any Democrat, no matter how much they are sweet talked, no matter how much that Democrat does the "I swear I'm not a scary socialist!" dance. It is not going to happen. They will stay home. This, for them, is not about graciously helping us in our hour of need. They are not our friends. This is exclusively about them not wanting to see the Overton Window pushed to the left. Don't fall for their bullshit.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse