Country club Republican David Brooks, he of the “educated class”, anointed by the MSM as their designated “rightwinger”, is positively obsessed with the Tea Party and takes yet another stab at them. It sounds pretty good at first. I must admit he had me going there for a while. But then he overreaches in the second half and the spell is broken. As with most disagreements, it’s not the facts which are in dispute, it’s the conclusions. Walk with me, David Brooks is always a good fisk. He begins with the facts in his latest column.
By DAVID BROOKS.
About 40 years ago, a social movement arose to destroy the establishment. The people we loosely call the New Left wanted to take on The Man, return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution. Today, another social movement has arisen. The people we loosely call the Tea Partiers also want to destroy the establishment. They also want to take on The Man, return power to the people, upend the elites and lead a revolution.
There are many differences between the New Left and the Tea Partiers. One was on the left, the other is on the right. One was bohemian, the other is bourgeois. One was motivated by war, and the other is motivated by runaway federal spending. One went to Woodstock, the other is more likely to go to Wal-Mart.
But the similarities are more striking than the differences. To start with, the Tea Partiers have adopted the tactics of the New Left. They go in for street theater, mass rallies, marches and extreme statements that are designed to shock polite society out of its stupor. This mimicry is no accident. Dick Armey, one of the spokesmen for the Tea Party movement, recently praised the methods of Saul Alinsky, the leading tactician of the New Left.
These days the same people who are buying Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals” on Amazon.com are, according to the company’s software, also buying books like “Liberal Fascism,” “Rules for Conservative Radicals,” “Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left,” and “The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party.” Those last two books were written by David Horowitz, who was a leading New Left polemicist in the 1960s and is now a leading polemicist on the right.
So far so good. Now he begins to reach his conclusions, and it all falls apart.
But the core commonality is this: Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” is how Rousseau put it.
If to Brooks this is their “core commonality”, then how far he misses the mark! This “mass innocence,” or the innate goodness of humanity, continues to be a Lefty trait, yes. They must be Rousseauian, or they could not possibly believe Socialism was a viable system if they weren’t. For only an innately good human being would not become hopelessly corrupted by a system that provided for his every need from cradle to grave. A Tea Partier believes precisely the opposite. Though he believes America is basically a good and decent country (something the new Left did not/does not), he also believes in the judeo-christian tradition of original sin and fully acknowledges the American people are far from blameless for our current predicament. Given this “original sin,” Man will become hopelessly dependent on big government if given the choice by socialism to do so. The Tea Party therefore rejects this “big government,” this system of government largesse which corrupts–not because he believes in “mass innocence”, as Brooks insists, but precisely because he believes Man is FALLEN. Men will go on the dole if given the choice, they will let somebody else work and pay while they sit if given the choice, and they will take loans they can’t pay back. Basic human nature at work here. Not innocent, but fallen! A Tea Partier is a conservative, and like all conservatives he understands this human nature. It’s what makes him seem so hard-hearted to the Rouseauian Left. So no, Mr. Brooks, the Tea Party rejects big government for entirely different reasons than the 60′s new Left rejected the Establishment. The Tea Party believes big government gives free reign to a corrupted human nature, the new Left believed the Establishment was corrupt.
Because of this assumption, members of both movements go in big for conspiracy theories. The ’60s left developed elaborate theories of how world history was being manipulated by shadowy corporatist/imperialist networks — theories that live on in the works of Noam Chomsky. In its short life, the Tea Party movement has developed a dizzying array of conspiracy theories involving the Fed, the F.B.I., the big banks and corporations and black helicopters.
I think Brooks has both sides wrong here, revealing more about himself than his subjects. Notice he equates your beliefs about big banks and corporations with “black helicopters”! That’s a self-reveal, Mr. Brooks. Your elitist slip is showing. Conspiracy theories were never a staple of the new Left, and they aren’t of the Tea Party either. Their hatred of the Establishment was not the stuff of conspiracies but of reality. For the most part, the new Left was/is as grounded in reality as is the Right, even if their values and perspective today are off and generally wrong. With both new Left and Tea Party, the facts are generally not in dispute, only the conclusions. The conspiracy theorist, on the other hand, occupies a netherworld between the two, neither Left nor Right, in which all facts are questioned and doubted. That’s precisely what makes him go for that “third way” of conspiracy theories. But Brooks believes your rejection of him as a member of the elite is based on the stuff of “black helicopters”!? I suppose that’s what makes him what he is– an elitist!
Because of this assumption, members of the Tea Party right, like the members of the New Left, spend a lot of time worrying about being co-opted. They worry that the corrupt forces of the establishment are perpetually trying to infiltrate the purity of their ranks.
Yes, they do worry about being coopted, but not because of “black helicopters”, Mr. Brooks, but because of YOU!
Because of this assumption, members of both movements have a problem with authority. Both have a mostly negative agenda: destroy the corrupt structures; defeat the establishment. Like the New Left, the Tea Party movement has no clear set of plans for what to do beyond the golden moment of personal liberation, when the federal leviathan is brought low.
Brooks feels that because the Tea Party rejects his “authority” and wants him tossed onto the garbage heap of history that they must therefore have a problem with authority in general, and have a “negative agenda.” This assumes, of course, that he is the authority he believes himself to be, and that our only choice is between David Brooks/Federal leviathan and, well, nothing. This is what the world looks like through David Brooks goggles!
Recently a piece in Salon astutely compared Glenn Beck to Abbie Hoffman. In it, Michael Lind pointed out that the conservatives in the 1960s and 1970s built a counter-establishment — a network of think tanks, activist groups, academic associations and political leaders who would form conservative cadres, promoting conservative ideas and policies.
But the Tea Partiers are closer to the New Left. They don’t seek to form a counter-establishment because they don’t believe in establishments or in authority structures. They believe in the spontaneous uprising of participatory democracy. They believe in mass action and the politics of barricades, not in structure and organization. As one activist put it recently on a Tea Party blog: “We reject the idea that the Tea Party Movement is ‘led’ by anyone other than the millions of average citizens who make it up.”
He states facts here, with which I basically agree, but about which he again procedes to reach all the wrong conclusions:
For this reason, both the New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin — on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty. To remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization — in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings.
It wouldn’t be enough for Brooks to say simply that the Tea Party aren’t conforming to some commonly understood tenets of conservativism as he, David Brooks, understands them; that wouldn’t do. No, here he goes for the kill shot as he accuses them of being RADICALLY ANTI-conservative. The only thing we learn from this statement is how deep is his loathing for the Tea Party, which up till now he’s been pretty good at concealing behind a tone of mere condescension. As the MSM’s anointed representative of “the Right”, David Brooks gives us the country club Republican version of “Bush is Hitler”, only here his target is the Tea Party. Here, again, David Brooks assumes rejection of his structures is a rejection of any and all structures, rejection of his authority is a rejection of authority in general. As if life without a Federal behemoth is tantamount to barbarism, the fall of Rome and the Dark Ages. Well, Mr. Brooks, it’s one thing to argue the value of big government structures, but quite another to dismiss as “radically anti-conservative” the distrust of those structures. It’s not a particularly logical argument, and it only reveals how deeply you’ve allowed your distaste for the filthy proles at Wal-Mart to cloud your intellect.
That idea was rejected in the 1960s by people who put their faith in unrestrained passion and zealotry. The New Left then, like the Tea Partiers now, had a legitimate point about the failure of the ruling class. But they ruined it through their own imprudence, self-righteousness and naïve radicalism. The Tea Partiers will not take over the G.O.P., but it seems as though the ’60s political style will always be with us — first on the left, now the right.
And with this, he bids us goodbye with a final self-reveal. This is about the country club Republicans trying to stay relevant. The Tea Party threatens them and their Culture War-denying RINO pals, and Brooks is sticking up for his peeps. He’s representing! That’s all this is. RINOS and country clubbers trying to stay relevant in an age where conservatives have had enough of them. It’s because of YOU that we’re in this mess anyway. So goodbye, Mr. Brooks! We’ve got a culture war to fight and you’re clearly not on our side.