Well, she knows what I like to read, which shouldn’t be surprising, since I first became her editor in 1987.
The column, from Oct. 25, 2012, was headlined “What Moderation Means.” Excerpts:
First, let me describe what moderation is not. It is not just finding the midpoint between two opposing poles and opportunistically planting yourself there. Only people who know nothing about moderation think it means that.
Moderates start with a political vision, but they get it from history books, not philosophy books. That is, a moderate isn’t ultimately committed to an abstract idea. Instead, she has a deep reverence for the way people live in her country and the animating principle behind that way of life. In America, moderates revere the fact that we are a nation of immigrants dedicated to the American dream — committed to the idea that each person should be able to work hard and rise.
This animating principle doesn’t mean that all Americans think alike. It means that we have a tradition of conflict. Over the centuries, we have engaged in a series of long arguments around how to promote the American dream — arguments that pit equality against achievement, centralization against decentralization, order and community against liberty and individualism.
The moderate doesn’t try to solve those arguments. There are no ultimate solutions….
The moderate creates her policy agenda by looking to her specific circumstances and seeing which things are being driven out of proportion at the current moment. This idea — that you base your agenda on your specific situation — may seem obvious, but immoderate people often know what their solutions are before they define the problems.
For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.
The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order….
Very, very good stuff. I can see why Cindi would like it, and not only because Brooks uses the trick of an inclusive “she” rather than the traditional inclusive “he” to indicate a hypothetical person whose gender doesn’t matter, which is something Cindi does.
More to the point, it should be easy to see why I would like this column as much as the one I praised earlier this week. Both of them speak for me, and the way I see the world. (Which is an argument for why Brooks should have used “he” instead of “she.” Hey, there are bits where he should have just gone ahead and written “Brad.”) There are particularly sharp insights in both columns, expressed in ways that had not yet occurred for me. Some of the highest praise I’ve gotten from readers over the years is when they say, “You write what I think, but don’t know how to say.” Brooks did a better job of explaining some things that I believe than I have been able to do.
I particularly appreciate this statement: “The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right.” That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to say in everything I’ve written about the UnParty and the Energy Party and the Grownup Party. (Brooks later says that moderates are misunderstood because they don’t write manifestos. Well, I’ve at least tried to do so….) This is such an important point because there are so many deluded souls out there who fervently believe that there are policies that ARE right in every instance. Promising, for instance, always to vote against tax increases (or, as Brooks said, for higher taxes for the wealthy) is as arbitrary as promising to vote “yes” on all bills that come up on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I don’t know that I like that column from October better than the Snowden one. But they are both really, really good, and I wish everyone would read them. They say things that are profoundly true, but counterintuitive for too many Americans. These things need to be said as often as possible, and by someone who says them as well as Brooks does.