donkey o.d. too

My main site, donkey o.d. is moving here. Pardon the dust...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

To Post or not to Post Brooks? That was the Question

I debated about this as I am what could politely be called not a fan of Brooks. Greg helped me make up my mind to go ahead when he said the following:
Brooks is known as Bobo I believe and his stuff is so nerdy--it's like "Hey kids, come on, the jocks and stoners can all get together and make the best prom ever!" It makes me want to puke. Last week he listed a bunch of really stupid things Harriet had written, totally cutting her up, and then ended saying she was a great lady...what a putz...sure lets read it.


October 20, 2005
Op-Ed Columnist
Scenes From a Meltdown
By DAVID BROOKS

"This country is in one heck of a mess."

If there is a single sentiment members of Congress heard while back in their districts this month, that was it.

In the past few days I've been speaking with Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill (mostly Republicans) about the mood back home. I've learned that it's one thing to read in the paper that two-thirds of Americans think the country is headed in the wrong direction. It's an altogether more bracing experience to go to town meetings and church and the supermarket and find this sentiment blasting you in the face.

The most interesting tales came from Republicans elected from districts President Bush carried by fewer than 10 points. Those districts were once moderately supportive of the president, but now, as one member of Congress said, the anger at Bush is so deep it's almost indescribable.

It's a generalized feeling of betrayal. At town meetings, big subjects like Iraq and the deficits barely come up. But there is a sense that this guy Bush promised to make us feel safe, and it's clear from the Katrina fiasco and everything else that we are not safe.

For Republicans from vulnerable districts in the Northeast and Midwest, the president has become, as another member put it, radioactive. These Republicans return from districts where they are being called upon to give back the money Tom DeLay raised for them, and go back to a Washington where G.O.P. indictments, and hence trials, promise to stretch on for years.

And yet Republicans are not panicked. They know that if the election were held today, their base would stay home, but they look over at the Democrats and say: Thank God for Nancy Pelosi. Thank God for Howard Dean. They see that Dean refers to his base as "merlot Democrats," and it confirms their suspicion that the opposition party is really run by imbeciles.

The odd thing is that the Democrats, who have the self-assurance of a beaten dog, feel this way about themselves. Most sense, in their heart of hearts, that they are the Palestinians of American politics: they'll never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The most common word I hear from Democratic partisans to describe their own party is "pathetic."

Indeed, when you look at the graphs showing both parties' approval ratings, it's like looking at a pair of expert-only ski slopes. A Pew Research Center poll showed the parties' approval ratings plummeting to around 32 percent - below their own bases.

So politicians are not panicked, but they are mobilized. They have just a few months to redefine themselves and avoid catastrophe. Over the next weeks, we are going to see an ideas race, as both parties hustle to get out new, positive agendas.

On the Democratic side, the party leadership is in control. To nationalize the election, Democrats are about to roll out a big agenda. Unfortunately, their big idea consists of Spending for Everything and a Return to Fiscal Restraint. The Democrats are promising universal health insurance, college for all, a Manhattan Project on energy and an end to runaway spending. This is using Teddy Kennedy means to achieve Robert Rubin ends. In a country disillusioned with parties, it's going to be a tough sell.

On the G.O.P. side, this is a moment of Republican glasnost. After years of following the leaders, Republicans are suddenly rebelling and innovating on all fronts. Conservatives like Mike Pence and moderates like Mark Kirk are joining forces to battle the old DeLay institutionalists to actually cut spending, including cuts in defense and veterans affairs. Orthodox conservatives are meeting with the renegade John McCain. Members from marginal districts are putting together agendas that will distance them from the dominant G.O.P. voices from the South and West.

The Republicans are going to end up localizing the election. Listening to constituents, these Republicans sense that people are exhausted by big visions and grand dreams. They want small, achievable ideas. The best ones I heard were from members who wanted to promote open-space initiatives and suburban livability, members who wanted to reduce medical paperwork. This is politics on the alderman level, but it's probably right for the moment.

Congress is polarized, but this isn't an ideological moment, liberal or conservative. It's a moment when voters want to know someone is running the country, that there's someone to project authority and take responsibility, to establish international and domestic order, so they can get on with their lives.

3 Comments:

Blogger alex111 said...

well i think in the interest of being "fair and balanced"( not that you have to be, after all its your blog =-) its a good idea to post Brooks columns. It provides a great opportunity to rebut the points that he ( and Tierney) makes thereby making your points even stronger!! As for me i'm so thankful that your posting this information that I shall be a fan no matter what you do...

9:29 AM  
Blogger Chris Andersen said...

Brooks brings up a point I've been trying to get across to my Democratic friends who cheer whenever they read a new poll about how bad the Republicans are doing. I ask them to look up the Democratic numbers and realize that, in many cases, the Dems are doing even worse!

It's not enough to engage in schadenfreude. We must engage in party building as well (Brook's snarky comments about Dean betray his ignorance of the fact that that is precisely what Dean is doing). We must elevate the Democrats as well as bring down the Republicans.

We are at the cusp of an opportunity to take back the national agenda. But if we just sit back and expect the Republican fuckups to do our job for us we will once again "take the opportunity to miss an opportunity".

Be warned folks, if the Democrats don't move forward in the coming months, some of those enterprising Republicans that Brooks talks about will seize the agenda and become the next generation of national leaders. If we aren't careful, the Republicans will get the credit for solving the Iraq problem.

I kid you not.

11:38 AM  
Blogger dorsano said...

This is Brooks at his sly best - he starts out "dissing" the GOP but then inserts the "feeble Democratic Party" meme.

The odd thing is that the Democrats, who have the self-assurance of a beaten dog, feel this way about themselves. Most sense, in their heart of hearts, that they are the Palestinians of American politics: they'll never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The most common word I hear from Democratic partisans to describe their own party is "pathetic."

That's spin at it's best - there's a grain of truth in every point he makes but the effect is to immoblize portions of the undecided electorate.

I don't really know of course what his intent is:

Maybe he's simply trying to be "fair and balanced" - maybe he's being subversive - maybe he wants to pre-empt the universal health care, education and energy initiatives the Democratic party intends to roll out.

The last would be the biggest crime of all - because that sort of leadership is sorely needed - and it will be broadly accepted if it is articulated with conviction.

10:10 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home