Monday, September 24, 2012

David Brooks: conservative, Democrat, why not?

“Over the past half–century, a more diverse and meritocratic elite has replaced the Protestant Establishment. People are more likely to rise on the basis of grades, test scores, effort and performance. . . 

“I want to keep [this] social order, but I want [it to] believe in restraint, reticence and service.”

--David Brooks, New York Times

David Brooks is an elitist who believes in noblesse oblige, in “restraint, reticence and service.” Brooks’ meritocracy knows it is important to get education right. If education isn’t providing equal opportunity to all, if the privileged can game a system that disadvantages those who have less, then our rulers have lost their noblesse, their justification to rule based upon educational achievement.

Brooks sounds like a Republican when he writes:
In 1960, Americans spent roughly $2,800 per student, in today’s dollars. Now we spend roughly $11,000 per student. This spending binge has not produced comparable gains in student outcomes. Education productivity is down. [Business] is great at generating output without generating employment, [government] is great at generating employment without generating output. Republicans [say to reform government] so it looks more like [business]. Introduce vouchers and other consumer driven market mechanisms to . . . education.
Brooks, however, has found a way to support education reform and the Democratic Party: just endorse reform as practiced by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff:
Democrats reject [the GOP] approach[, arguing government can] control costs using its own internal means. Strong mayors, governors and presidents can make these systems work. Emanuel’s willingness to hang tough and accept a [teachers] strike [means] some Democrats are hardy enough to take on interests aligned with their own party. . . Chicago will move toward . . . reform. . . a national credibility booster for Emanuel’s party [and] a sign that Democrats may be able to successfully reform ailing public institutions, so that the nation as a whole can prosper.
Most conservatives, to put it mildly, have little faith in Democrats’ ability to “take on interests aligned with their own party,” i.e., the teachers’ unions. But Brooks believes in Emanuel and fellow meritocratic Democrats.

Brooks' “restraint, reticence and service” could mean form over substance.

Conservatives are appalled by what seems to be Obama’s and the legacy media’s willingness to lie.  They see Democrats lying about what actually caused the Great Recession, about the unprecedented lack of economic recovery, about the private sector’s prime role in job creation, about the deficit-busting threat of Obamacare, about the sheer phoniness of reducing the deficit by raising taxes on those earning over $250,000, about the vacuousness of Obama-centered foreign policy, about Obama’s abuse of executive power to change energy policy, welfare policy, immigration policy, birth control and abortion policy, and to advertise national security successes.

I think the Democrats' loose connection to the truth stems from one fundamental fact. Our national elite must fake it; they hide feelings of innate superiority under a cloak of acting on behalf of the less fortunate. This “burden of democracy"--minority rule over a majority--keeps them insecure, and seems to require deceit, fraud, lies.

Brooks sails along the elite’s sea of deception, concentrating on how those who fail to act with propriety threaten the elite’s grip on the rudder. This form of noblesse oblige enables the substance of unimpeded rule.

Brooks can sound like a Republican, as when he writes, “entitlement transfers to individuals have grown by more than 700% over the last 50 years. . . You could say that the entitlement state is growing at an unsustainable rate and will bankrupt the country.”

But spending is not what upsets Brooks. Instead, he is astounded that at a fund-raiser earlier this year, Mitt Romney “who criticizes President Obama for dividing the nation, divided the nation into two groups: the makers and the moochers.”

Bad form, Mitt. You should show “restraint" and  "reticence."  You don’t call moochers moochers.  And Brooks is right--elitist Romney did use bad form.

But Brooks continues:
Romney’s comments also reveal that he has lost any sense of the social compact. In 1987, during Ronald Reagan’s second term, 62% of Republicans believed that the government has a responsibility to help those who can’t help themselves. Now . . . only 40% of Republicans believe that.
The Republican Party, and apparently Mitt Romney, too, has shifted [to] a . . . hyperindividualistic and atomistic social view — from the Reaganesque language of common citizenship to the libertarian language of makers and takers. There’s no way the country will trust the Republican Party to reform the welfare state if that party doesn’t . . . provide a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.
The truth is that Mitt Romney, for all his faults, lives a life of helping those “who can’t help themselves” and providing “a safety net for those who suffer for no fault of their own.” Brooks knows this. Brooks knows better.

David Brooks is committed to the Democratic Party and its rule by a meritocratic minority, will work to make their meritocracy one of “restraint, reticence and service,” and will pursuing that goal manage his sail along the Democrats' sea of deception.

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