Spare Me Your Moralizing, David Brooks
In an August 1st opinion piece for the New York Times, David Brooks once again demonstrates that his grasp on basic American principles is shockingly weak. Mr. Brooks has built an entire career writing smooth words to draw adulation from the Manhattan cocktail set, while reciprocally assuring them that their modern liberal values -- vacillating and untethered though they may be -- are morally superior to any known alternatives.
In “Marianne Williamson Knows How to Beat Trump,” Brooks, in his signature fashion, simply assumes the moral high ground -- not through the measured steps of rational argument -- but through haughty admonition. The problem, he insists, is Donald Trump: “we are all subtly corrupted while this guy is our leader.” The solution, he contends, lies in defeating him: “it falls on the Democrats to rebuild the moral infrastructure of our country.” To Brooks, Trump is the poisoned font of our moral degradation: “This election is about who we are as a people, our national character. This election is about the moral atmosphere in which we raise our children.”
Really? Is that what this election is about? Hmm. I would have thought this election is about how 23 of the 24 candidates are advocating for an America that is no longer rooted in fundamental American principles. I would have thought this election is about how Socialism -- with a capital ‘S’ -- has finally found itshost-body in one of America’s two major political parties. I would have thought this election is about the unraveling of American values (writ large, through the willful defiance of actual, existing laws); not the unraveling of American values (writ small, through the willful defiance of good manners, as they pertain to the petty and vindictive art of cyber politics).
In the safe, bubbled-up world of David Brooks, what generates moral outrage is not the lawlessness or heartlessness or recklessness of the left, but rather the vague and ill-defined ‘spiritual’ harm imposed by our bogeyman-in-chief. The real danger facing our country, Brooks wants us to believe, is not that Democrats are proposing policies that flagrantly fly in the face of our Constitution; it is that Donald Trump “is instigating a degradation of America’s soul.”
Got that? The one and only politician who is an unabashed defender of our individual rights, our national interests, and our economic freedoms is, in fact, a foul disease infecting the American psyche. In a veritable sea of unmoored and empty vessels, the most serious concern is reserved for the anchored tugboat with lousy trim and a noisy horn.
On the flip side of Brooks’ noble-sounding warnings, candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren get a pass. Apparently, neither should be feared for their various socialist plans to unravel the foundational American promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; they should merely be chided for their inability to fully recognize the monstrous cultural and moral threat presented by Donald J. Trump. Warren doesn’t raise a hair of concern for Brooks; she is but a wonky “social scientist from Harvard Law School who has a plan for everything.” Sanders is likewise innocuous; his main shortcoming being that he has been “a dialectical materialist all his life and is incapable of adjusting his economics-dominated mind-set.”
Excuse me, but what was that? --“economics-dominated mind-set”? Are we talking about the same man? Since virtually all of Bernie Sanders’s views on economics are built upon populist emotions, his mindset would far better be described as an ‘economics mood-ring’. Sanders thinks nothing at all of imposing his theoretical nonsense on others, yet, when he himself is confronted by real-world economic truisms, he does not bother to contemplate, learn, or recalculate. He simply doubles-down on his wishful thinking by having us believe that Trotsky was never in the photograph to begin with!
As for the 100-million people killed by the spiritual forebearers of Bernie Sanders, under the ruthless thumb of communism and socialism, Brooks is silent. Is he unaware of this history? Does he not take Mr. Sanders’s socialism seriously? Does he really believe that Bernie’s outcomes-based ideology would be better for America than another four years of Donald Trump? Does he trulyfear our 45th president more than he does the Green New Deal?
Though it is tempting to think that Brooks is driven more by a desire to give his fawning readers a steady diet of pabulum than he is with tackling these serious questions, I will take him at face-value. I will accept that he sincerely believes the erosion of our basic rights and freedoms is a fair price to pay for our nation’s ‘moral redemption’. I will also take Brooks at his word when, at the conclusion of his article, he puts a positive spin on the piece by sharing his notion of American values. What follows, according to Brooks, are the basic values we, as Americans, all share: Unity, Honesty, Pluralism, Sympathy, and Opportunity. (Uh… come again?)
Forgive me, but I cannot keep from chuckling at the thought of the well-educated David Brooks struggling to flush out these five words from the recesses of his mind: “Come on, David, you can do this! What words should you declare as the five, fundamental American values?” (I dare say that this is the sort of thing that can result when coastal elites have patted you on the back one too many times; the inflated sense of your intelligence prohibits you from either questioning your gut instincts, or from tapping in to the existent intelligence of others.)
For what it’s worth, none of the five words Brooks has anointed are mentioned in our ultimate ‘shared-values’ document: the Constitution. This begs the obvious question: why would anyone expend energy restating our American values when they are already on full display? The Constitution, which contains all its amendments, is eminently flexible; Mr. Brooks can campaign to change its wording at any time. But the basic values that undergird the most intelligent and ideologically sound blueprint of governance ever conceived are immutable. We are, and always should be, a nation designed to promote the equal application of liberty, law, and justice.
The lasting and resonating truth about our world’s governments is this: wherever liberty, law, and justice are enhanced, peace and prosperity ensue. Wherever liberty, law, and justice are diminished, poverty and mayhem inevitably follow. If David Brooks honestly believes that America is more threatened by Donald Trump than by the likes of Bernie, Beto, Cory, Kamala, or Elizabeth -- I cannot help him change his mind. But I can emphasize that we should never take lightly the freedoms secured and protected by the Great American Experiment. And, just as critically, we should be ever vigilant when confronted by trendy alternatives to the inherent dynamism delivered daily by the permanent revolution that is the United States of America. In the end, the inability of David Brooks to be thoughtful and honest about the real-world impact of such alternatives seems far more frightening than any danger Donald Trump could ever pose.