Why is David Brooks Still so Clueless A Year After Trump Won?
David Brooks penned a new #NeverTrump screed which caught my eye a few days ago in the New York Times.
I will give you the main points to spare you the agony of reading it:
Today, after the financial crisis, the shrinking of the middle class, the partisan warfare, a scarcity mind-set is dominant: Resources are limited. The world is dangerous. Group conflict is inevitable. It’s us versus them. If they win, we’re ruined, therefore, let’s stick with our tribe. The ends justify the means.
The Trump era has produced a renaissance in conservative writing. National Review is a more interesting magazine now than at any time in its history. But the style of politics that Trump’s scarcity mind-set demands has been a disaster for conservative governance. He insists on perpetual warfare — against all comers. Stuck fighting his wars with him, Republican politicians have had to say goodbye to most of the pillars of conservatism: rule of law, fiscal discipline, global engagement, moral decency, the idea that people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin.
Eventually, conservatives will realize: If we want to preserve conservatism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors. Liberals will realize: If we want to preserve liberalism, we can’t be in the same party as the clan warriors.
Eventually, those who cherish the democratic way of life will realize they have to make a much more radical break than any they ever imagined. When this realization dawns the realignment begins. Even with all the structural barriers, we could end up with a European-style multiparty system.
There are three big problems with this piece.
The first is the talk about fiscal conservatism.
Brooks would have me believe that the Republican Party has always been a stalwart model of good governance and prudent spending, and this is simply not the case. The Republicans totally failed to curb spending under the administration of George W. Bush, and in fact doubled the national debt from $5.73 trillion – already a ridiculous number – to $10.63 trillion! The Republican Congress also repeatedly failed to take any serious action to impede the Obama administration when he ran up spending.
Despite the Democrat complaints about “Republican obstructionism” most of Obama’s key agenda items got passed with the exception of gun control and full illegal amnesty and citizenship for all illegal immigrants living in the US.
No, it’s not great that spending is increasing under Trump, but there is simply no credible politician on the national stage right now talking reducing spending who isn’t a total liar.
When pundits whine about Trump’s spending, they fail to produce a credible alternative politician who can win an election and get a spending reduction agenda implemented (or even any alternatives at all), because there is no one credible seriously running on a platform of fiscal responsibility now. If someone like Steve Forbes was still in the running for the presidency, I might reconsider my views, but currently there is no one.
The big alternatives in 2016 to Trump were Rubio and Jeb Bush, neither of whom is remotely credible on the issue of spending. A Rubio or Jeb administration would have been a re-run of the George W. Bush administration, which I generally view as having left both the US and the Republican Party worse off than when he came in, as his incompetence and policy failures lead directly to the election of Barack Obama.
The bottom line is that no big ticket Republican policy goals have been accomplished since the welfare reform of the Gingrich era. The Republicans have generally done nothing except soak up donor money for 20 years. The Republicans have been failures since 1998 to 2018 and 20 years of failures is enough.
In contrast, the Democrats have been rapidly accumulating a checklist of major policy successes, especially including the creation of a government healthcare system (Obamacare) and the importation of huge numbers of illegal aliens to permanently change voting demographics.
The Trump-Ryan tax reform is the first really serious conservative policy accomplishment that has done something to help average Americans in nearly two decades.
The second big problem is Brooks’ weak assertion that a “scarcity” mentality is somehow “wrong.” The American economy has never fully recovered from the 2008 recession and many people are getting tired of the excuses from the politicians that this is “the new normal.” Many have watched retirement dreams vanish like smoke, lost their jobs, or had to watch their children struggle to find work after college. The American people have been extraordinarily patient through the Bush and Obama years, and by the time of the 2016 election, they had finally had enough.
Of COURSE there is going to be resentment that hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars are going to support illegal immigrants living off the dole when their own kids struggle to find work. Of COURSE there is going to resentment that businesses hire illegals for fraction of the wages typically paid to an American worker, depressing American wages Of COURSE there is going to be resentment when rabid social justice warriors get people fired from their jobs or turn the NFL into a leftist political advocacy organization instead of apolitical entertainment meant to be enjoyed by everyone.
The current policy of extracting money from Americans and giving it away to foreigners, many of whom hate the country, while constantly denouncing mostly-imaginary American sins of “racism” and “bigotry” is practically guaranteed to produce a toxic brew of anger, resentment, and political backlash.
Brooks incorrectly tries to assert that it was Trump’s fault this mentality was created, when in fact it was the failures of the Republicans which created it. Trump just recognized it for what it was.
The third problem with this article is that Brooks is part of a class of conservative commentators whose main objection to Trump is socio-cultural rather than ideological. Many of these people look upon working and middle class Americans with barely concealed disgust and hatred and feel more affinity with rich Democrats than they do with the people who make up the Republican party’s voting base.
Brooks’ hailing of National Review as a bastion of rational and wonderful thought is particularly disappointing, as the execrable Kevin D. Williamson wrote this back in 2016 about Trump supporters:
“If you spend time in hardscrabble, white upstate New York, or eastern Kentucky, or my own native West Texas, and you take an honest look at the welfare dependency, the drug and alcohol addiction, the family anarchy—which is to say, the whelping of human children with all the respect and wisdom of a stray dog—you will come to an awful realization. It wasn’t Beijing. It wasn’t even Washington, as bad as Washington can be. It wasn’t immigrants from Mexico, excessive and problematic as our current immigration levels are. It wasn’t any of that,” Williamson state.
“The truth about these dysfunctional, downscale communities is that they deserve to die. Economically, they are negative assets. Morally, they are indefensible,” the conservative writer says. “The white American under-class is in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles. Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin. What they need isn’t analgesics, literal or political. They need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul. If you want to live, get out of Garbutt [a blue-collar town in New York].”
This kind of language being used to describe Trump supporters – describing them as subhuman, filthy, “whelping” drug-addicted degenerates – sounds like something you would hear at a Nazi Party rally in the 1930s or a KKK rally in the 1960s, not from the well-heeled bastion of rationality and reasoned debate that Brooks pretends the National Review is.
This kind of language the #NeverTrump movement regularly uses is as bad or worse than anything Trump has said. Brooks’ painting of his side of the debate as somehow being above the fray for not using “mean” or “divisive” rhetoric is a hypocritical lie.
Brooks is in the conundrum he is in because the Republican faction he favored has controlled the party since the fall of Gingrich and generally produced very little other than flowerly talk, and just watched while the American economy declined. Their policies lead directly to the catastrophic Obama presidency.
Trump was elected because his supporters wanted action and were in the mood for a fight after 20 years of shame and decline.
Brooks is correct the current two party system is unmanageable, but he fantasizes about a sort of national unity party between the “good” Republicans and then Democrats. He is in a way correct; eventually I expect the 5%-10% of the #NeverTrumpers will leave the Republican Party to join with the Democrats, but I think it’s very unlikely they will become some sort of new dominant party that governs the country in perpetuity.
To be honest, I think that people like Brooks would feel much more comfortable in the Democrat Party and I often encourage them to switch. They are clearly a small minority in the Republican Party given that Trump won in spite of their best efforts to throw the election to Hillary, and I think would feel culturally more comfortable with the wealthy and well heeled Democrat voters than the middle class and working class Republicans who make up the backbone of the party.
I just wonder why Brooks is taking so long to make the switch to the Democrats, and I suspect it’s because he knows deep down that the Democrats are in trouble politically with a voting public that wants real solutions to their problems and not flowery rhetoric about unity or social justice.