David Brooks: Retrograde Motion

Wednesday, August 24th, 2016 Politics

I just realized that David Brooks (“Why America’s Leadership Fails”) is like a pre-Copernican (with the Post-Structuralists and Marxists*, or, really, any reasonably decent social critic, as Copernicus): He’s constantly tying himself in knots trying to make the world fit into an obsolete, ill-informed pattern he won’t let go of.

Hillary Clinton has to be bad, and (from yesterday’s example) Romney has to be good, because that’s how things work—if you completely ignore fifty years of social progress and political and social change (which, in turn, worked as a culmination of 19th century post-industrial and 1920s-1930s enfranchisement/social justice movements).

Hillary Clinton couldn’t exist in the minds of John Birch or Milton Friedman or Leo Strauss, because she couldn’t exist in the societies they knew; the progressive transformation that made her possible hadn’t happened yet (just like the capitalist rot of offshoring and banking that made Mitt Romney possible didn’t exist either). So, Brooks can’t see them, any more than other astronomers could see the heliocentric model…he just sees “rich businessman good; strident woman bad” and runs in tight little circles elaborating.

You’d expect this on the porch of an old-time Kansas general store (or, maybe in that town’s library), not at The New York Times. But such are sinecures.

(Commentary grew out of Yastreblyansky’s excellent discussion here—Yastreblyanskyis one of the most consistently brilliant political/critical voices I’ve ever read. In a just world, the legitimately erudite and perceptive Yastreblyansky would have the NYT real estate and David Brooks would be a single-digit-readership crank on a Blogger page.)

*Yastreblyansky refers to Adorno and Marcuse.

I’ve been reminded that I used the Coopernican metaphor before.