David Brooks is always challenging: You never know where to begin when pulling apart his flawed thinking. Intoday’s lamentation on the sorry state of our politics, he writes:
“The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: ‘We’re going to change the way we do business in Washington. We’re going to deliberate and negotiate. We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.’ That kind of leadership might trickle down.”
Earth to Brooks: Mitch McConnell, Joe Wilson, the Tea Party, guns at ACA town hall meetings. Ring any bells?
Those Were the Days — That Never Were
Then there’s the old longing for a time when we all lived in close-knit communities and cared for one another:
“[S]tarting just after World War II, America’s community/membership mind-set gave way to an individualistic/autonomy mind-set. The idea was that individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others.”
Go re-read Tocqueville. Borrowing Brooks’s use of the weird term “preconscious” (“Partisanship becomes a preconscious lens through which people see the world”), Tocqueville prebunked the notion of America as community idyll almost two centuries ago. See here:
“Individualism is a calm and considered feeling which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from the mass of his fellows and withdraw into the circle of family and friends; with this little society formed to his taste, he gladly leaves the greater society to look after itself.”
“Aristocracy links everybody, from peasant to king, in one long chain. Democracy breaks the chain and frees each link.”
Reference to Obscure Social Science Research in Lieu of Original Thinking Quotient: 2 — 1 point for Marc J. Dunkelman, half a point each for Daniel Yankelovich and Abraham Maslow.
Headscratcher Quotient: 1, for this brain teaser: “If you put politics at the center of identity, you end up asking the state to eclipse every social authority but itself.” Wuzzah?
Sweeping and Unsupported Generalization in Service of Self-Serving Point Quotient: 7, for the following:
1. “In healthy societies, people live their lives within a galaxy of warm places. They are members of a family, neighborhood, school, civic organization, hobby group, company, faith, regional culture, nation, continent and world. Each layer of life is nestled in the others to form a varied but coherent whole.”
2. “Americans spend less time with middle-ring township relationships — the PTA, the neighborhood watch.”
3. “With middle-ring memberships deteriorating, Americans have become worse at public deliberation.”
4. “Trump voters don’t seem to realize how unelectable their man is because they hang out with people like themselves.”
5. “We’re good at bonding with people like ourselves but worse at bridging with people unlike ourselves.”
6. “People put politics at the center of their psychological, emotional and even spiritual life.”
7. “We probably have to scale back the culture of autonomy that was appropriate for the 1960s but that has since gone too far.”
We can probably scale back on reading David Brooks, but we need something to write about on Tuesdays and Fridays.