Monday, September 14, 2015

219.3 - Clown Award: David Brooks

Clown Award: David Brooks

Now for one of our regular features, the Clown Award, given as always for meritorious stupidity.

This week, the dishonor of the Big Red Nose goes to syndicated columnist and all-around goofball David Brooks.

On Tuesday, September 8, his column was about what he called "four anti-party men" who have seen their political stars rising of late. The four are Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, who was at the time of Brooks' column the leading candidate for the post of leader of the Labour Party, a campaign he has now won. All of these men, he says, "have little experience in the profession of governing."

I won't speak for Trump or Carson, I will say that Bernie Sanders was mayor of Burlington, Vermont's largest city, for eight years, a member of the US House for 16 years, and was elected to the US Senate in 2006, where he is now the ranking minority member of the Senate Budget Committee. Jeremy Corbyn, for his part, has been a Member of Parliament since 1983. I suspect he picked up something about the "profession of governing" in those 32 years.

But that, it seems, is not what Brooks means by "the profession of governing" - rather, he means what he calls the "civic institutions" of political parties, created to "win elections and pass agendas," and, he declares, none of these four has a "plausible path toward winning 50.1 percent of the vote in any national election. They have no prospect of forming a majority coalition that can enact their policies." In other words, as far as Brooks is concerned, if you're not part of a majority, you're not part of real political life, you loser.

David Brooks
He rather wistfully expresses his hope that "Maybe this is a summer squall and voters will get interested in the more traditional party candidates come autumn, the ones who can actually win majorities and govern." That is, the Hillary Clintons. The Jeb Bushes. The "we've seen this all before" show of candidates chosen because they were "electable" and then flop, such as Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, or who get elected only to turn their backs on the majority that elected them in order to do favors for the rich and powerful - such as all the rest of them, including liberal heroes Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, under whose administrations the wealthy have received the overwhelming majority of the benefits of economic growth while most of our futures stagnated.

And if you respond to those sorts of repeated betrayals by deciding you would back someone who actually said what you thought, who actually proposed what you could support, if you supported someone you figured you could actually believe in? According to Brooks, you've created a "cult of personality" because people like Bernie Sanders "are not really about governing. They are tools for their supporters’ self-expression" in what "sociologists call expressive individualism." Put another way, support for Bernie Sanders is a sign of the breakdown of the American community.

Put still another way, put the direct way, if you don't support the official, establishment-blessed, party-approved, "electable" candidate, then according to David Brooks, there is something wrong with you and supporting candidates based on what you believe in instead of on who has the biggest lowest-common-denominator appeal in is a sign of some sort of mental dysfunction.

There is a dysfunction here, surely, but it is not ours. And David Brooks, who wrapped up his column by wishing for - and he really did this - wishing for "a sensible Donald Trump," has made it clear to one and all that he is a clown.

Sources cited in links:

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