Much has been made over the last few days of the Des Moines Register‘s endorsement of Mitt Romney. The Register‘s argument is two-pronged: first, they believe that Romney’s plan of lower taxes and decreased regulation is the best way to fix the economy. That’s obviously true; when businesses and rich people spend money, it goes into the economy, whereas when the government spends money it goes into a deficit. Low taxes and deregulation are known drivers of economic growth—that’s why we had a massive economic collapse when taxes and regulations were at their lowest. But forget that. The second, more important reason the Register endorsed Romney for president is that he is the better candidate to “forge compromise” in Congress. David Brooks made the same argument over at the Times, and he sounded just as nuts.
In a column he describes as “a great luscious orgy of optimism,” David Brooks suggests today that we all stop worrying about the state of American governance, political discourse, finance and world influence, because the country is going to be saved by—ready?—population growth. Props to alert reader/muay thai enthusiast Mike Sebba for the link. We’ve discussed the vexing phenomenon that is Mr. Brooks before (as well as the vexing phenomenon that is Mr. Brooks.) He’s either the most insightful commentator who’s still frequently wrong or the most frequently wrong commentator who still manages a lot of insights. Either way, it’s as hard to get on board with him as it is to jump off into the lake. If he weren’t a conservative, or if he were not so consistently juxtaposed with the mind-warpingly boring Thomas Friedman, we at Combat! blog probably wouldn’t be pulling for him so much. As it is, though, he’s like your friend with the stutter who wants to be a stand-up comedian: you hope the world will suddenly start to work in such a way as to make David Brooks right. Usually, that is. Today, David Brooks has written a column whose fundamental assumptions are so bafflingly stupid as to merit a big old Come On, Son.
It’s Friday, and it’s not just the week that’s coming to an end. I don’t want to alarm you guys, but right now is the very last moment of recorded time. Terrifying, isn’t it? The pyramids, the rise and fall of Rome, the revolutions of the Enlightenment and the struggle against fascism, rock and roll, the Jackson 5, Friends—all that is over as of today. Everything is behind us, and we just don’t know what’s ahead. Frankly, this moment has never occurred before, so we don’t have much to go by. All I can say conclusively is that this has been a great week for hyperbole, absurd comparisons, and end-times pronouncements of all sorts. Fortunately, that’s just the kind of thing we at Combat! blog go in for. Incontrovertibly, this has been the last week in human history. Let’s all, like, gaze upon it.
He’s been wrong before, but when David Brooks says you’re a nationwide movement, you’re either Soccer Moms in the 2004 general election or a real thing. In Monday’s New York Times, Brooks alleges that the Tea Party movement is the latter. After opening with his usual overview of the prevailing sociopolitical winds for the last thirty to 100 years, he gets to the money shot. “Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year,” he writes. For the moment, Brooks has declined to enumerate which instruments he uses to measure the popularity of ideas, but he at least sounds right. “The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise,” he says. “The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.” Those committed to responsible argument will object to Brooks’s questionable use of the word so, which makes his theory the cause of his evidence, but as and statements his list still draws an unsettling connection. When Brooks points out that the Tea Partiers are defined by what they are against, and that most of what they are against can be grouped under “the concentrated power of the educated class,” he introduces a framework as useful as it is terrifying.
Don’t get me wrong: I like David Brooks as much as the next guy. I realize I sound like I’m about to tell a David Brooks-ist joke—and if my grandpa asks you how you keep David Brooks out of your watermelon patch, just don’t respond—but I really do think that he provides sober, interesting analysis on a fairly consistent basis, provided that basis does not occur during campaign season, when he becomes insane. Generally, though, he’s a reasonable man. He employs logic and persuasive rhetoric in his columns, as if he were addressing people who did not necessarily agree with him before they started reading, which makes him something of a rarity among commentators on the right. As a result, his lucidity affords a valuable insight into the reasoning behind contemporary conservative thinking—a reasoning that is often obscured in the provocative (read: insane) rhetoric of a Beck, a Limbaugh or a Malkin.
Still, just because it’s valuable insight doesn’t mean it won’t be sad. Brooks’s column in today’s New York Times, in which he criticizes the Obama administration’s decision to limit executive compensation at banks and investment firms that received federal bailout money, exposes the nihilism at the heart of contemporary conservatism. Worse yet, it contradicts what he was saying one year ago at this time.