David Brooks on the moderate perspective

Today, I’m glad Cindi Scoppe does something that I never did when I was choosing op-ed columns — run things several days or more after they were originally released.

As it happens, I missed this good piece by David Brooks five days ago, so I’m glad she ran it on today’s op-ed page.

In it, he says some wise and true things about political moderates. After noting that some of us reject the notion that warriors of the populist right must be replaced by warriors of the populist left, he explains the views of those of us who have had enough of political warriors:

Moderates do not see politics as warfare. Instead, national politics is a voyage with a fractious fleet. Wisdom is finding the right formation of ships for each specific circumstance so the whole assembly can ride the waves forward for another day. Moderation is not an ideology; it’s a way of coping with the complexity of the world. Moderates tend to embrace certain ideas:Brooks_New-articleInline_400x400

The truth is plural. There is no one and correct answer to the big political questions. Instead, politics is usually a tension between two or more views, each of which possesses a piece of the truth. Sometimes immigration restrictions should be loosened to bring in new people and new dynamism; sometimes they should be tightened to ensure national cohesion. Leadership is about determining which viewpoint is more needed at that moment. Politics is a dynamic unfolding, not a debate that can ever be settled once and for all….

Creativity is syncretistic. Voyagers don’t just pull their ideas from the center of the ideological spectrum. They believe creativity happens when you merge galaxies of belief that seem at first blush incompatible. They might combine left-wing ideas about labor unions with right-wing ideas about local community to come up with a new conception of labor law. Because they are syncretistic, they are careful to spend time in opposing camps, always opening lines of communication. The wise moderate can hold two or more opposing ideas together in her mind at the same time….

Truth before justice. All political movements must face inconvenient facts — thoughts and data that seem to aid their foes. If you try to suppress those facts, by banning a speaker or firing an employee, then you are putting the goals of your cause, no matter how noble, above the search for truth. This is the path to fanaticism, and it always backfires in the end.

Beware the danger of a single identity. Before they brutalize politics, warriors brutalize themselves. Instead of living out several identities — Latina/lesbian/gunowning/Christian
— that pull in different directions, they turn themselves into monads. They prioritize one identity, one narrative and one comforting distortion….

But you should go read the whole thing

26 thoughts on “David Brooks on the moderate perspective

  1. bud

    There might have been a time when this Brook’s article would make some sense. But now is not that time. Democrats in general and Obama in particular tried very hard to work with Republicans on any number of issues, especially on healthcare. But the GOP took the position of sheer obstruction at every turn. Just go back and read about the debate that led to the ACA. In the recent repeal effort Mitch McConnell and the rest of the Republicans just wanted to go it alone.

    And then there are issues that just cannot be settled with compromise. Go back to the Iraq war debate. It was either go all in or stay out. Democrats could hardly be characterized as obstructionists back in 2002. This article is really nothing more than another attempt at false equivalency. When the time comes to debate tax policy, immigration or infrastructure it will be interesting to see if the Republicans reach across the aisle in the spirit of compromise and national unity. When they decide to go it alone yet again it will be interesting to see if the David Brooks of the world write yet another one of these hopelessly obsolete articles about the virtues of moderates and compromise. Until Brooks can finally recognize how extreme the current Republican party has become I will continue to dismiss his articles as nothing more than an out of touch has-been trying to stay relevant.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      “This article is really nothing more than another attempt at false equivalency.”

      No, Bud, it isn’t. There’s nothing false about it. To me, as to Brooks, the answer to populist warriors of the right is NOT populist warriors of the left.

      I fervently believe that. Everything I’ve ever seen in my lifetime adds up to that. Anyone who believes that either the left or the right has all the answers is seriously deluded…

      Reply
  2. Larry Slaughter

    Bud–My views are closer to yours than Brad’s and certainly closer to yours than Brooks’. But you misrepresent Brooks’ article to be Republican/Democrat as opposed to Conservative/Liberal. True, we’d be hard pressed to find many liberals in the Republican party. But you can’t refute his argument with pointing out “how extreme the current Republican party has become.” That’s true, it has; but all that means is that somewhere between 51% and 100% of party activists are that extreme. But it’s not 100% of voters who pulled the R. Brooks idea is that sometimes ideas of the left are best and sometimes the ideas of the right are better. I’m willing to talk with people on the right and I’m willing to lose some of those arguments.

    I’d like a chance to convince some Rs to pull a D once in a while when Ds have better ideas on some issues.

    Reply
    1. bud

      Larry you kind of make my point. As a left leaning individual you understand that sometimes a moderate or even conservative position on an issue may have some merit. I unapologetically self identify as a liberal. Yet there is something to be said for conservative ideas on the minimum wage, capital gains tax rates and affirmative action. I even see some merit in the conservative position on the confederate statues. But I would maintain that the vast majority of Republicans in 2017 take the hard line position that they just cannot allow any progressive thinking to “tarnish” their conservative bonafides. It seems as though many people across the political spectrum, especially people like Brooks, have missed the dramatic shift in the Republican Party. It really has become the party of Trump. And that is what is so disturbing. I just don’t see the same mirror image shift in the Democratic Party.

      Reply
      1. Mark Stewart

        Trump isn’t a Republican – neither a conservative nor a liberal one. He and his “base” are something else entirely. As long as people continue to confuse the narrative, we can’t alter course.

        Republicans (as a party) are not racist and they would not pardon someone for contempt of court when the issue is fundamental adherence to the Constitution. Trump’s is a divisive (self) patronage mill. He is more akin to Tammany Hall or Ben Tillman.

        Let’s stop mixing the majority in with this. Yes, a sadly significant number of Republicans were foolish enough to vote for Trump. That’s on them to walk back. Individually. But let’s not lump them all in as devils.

        Reply
        1. Bart Rogers

          I am in total agreement that Trump is not a Republican, a conservative, nor a liberal. He is self-serving and the chase and conquest was the epitome of his ambitions for his run for the presidency. He won and now he has no idea or clue how to be an effective POTUS. His decisions are off the cuff and he stays true to form by continuing to do everything a POTUS is expected to do.

          My only disagreement with your comment is about the pardon. This is a presidential prerogative and it can be exercised at the president’s discretion. I happen to disagree with commuting the sentence of Bradley Manning, aka Chelsea Manning. This was a clear violation of military code and the rule of law. I disagree with the decision concerning the Puerto Rican nationalist, Oscar Lopez Rivera, who was leader of FALN, an organization responsible for robberies, transportation of firearms, and bomb making materials. But, Obama had the power to commute, pardon, or give clemency to anyone he chose to. Does Trump not have the same executive power and the right to exercise it?

          However, as long as there is a political and ideological division exacerbated by the extremes on both sides, one side with paint the other with the most negative descriptive names possible. Like with bud and some others, ALL Republicans are the same with little room to give them a break. And the same can be said for Claus when it comes to Democrats. False equivalence? No, it is not even if one truly believes his or her cause has the high moral ground. Anger, name calling, hatred, and negative emotions are not exclusive to either one, both engage in all described and then some.

          Reply
          1. Bart Rogers

            My apology, the sentence should have been – “..he stays true to form by continuing to ‘not’ do everything a POTUS is expected to do.”

            Reply
          2. Mark Stewart

            The issue to me is not that he pardoned Joe Arpaio. The issue with Trump’s pardon is that he pardoned (not commuted the sentence of – but flat out pardoned) a so-called law-and-order sheriff who blatantly chose to ignore the rule of law and flagrantly disregarded judicial rulings that the sheriff’s actions were unconstitutional invasions of the rights of US citizens.

            Just on the surface it is breathtakingly hypocritical; but it is the bulldozing of the judiciary, the undercutting of that institution, that is so deeply problematic for me.

            In my mind, this might be the most significant assault on our Constitutional Republic by Trump yet. Unfortunately, it is unlikely it will be the last. I get that this is less visceral than his reactions to Charlottesville, but this is a far more weighty issue for the nation and what we shall become.

            Reply
            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              And the irony is deep.

              Our friends who are so incensed at the presence among us of so many from south of the border keep insisting that their objection is that they are here illegally. There is much self-righteousness over this, as though the status offense of being in a place without the proper paperwork were the equivalent of murder or at least drug-trafficking.

              Well, even if you get indignant over the act crossing a border without documentation, surely you must admit that the things that Arpaio has done show even less respect to the Rule of Law.

              And I suspect that many who are offended by the presence of illegals — such as our own Doug — would acknowledge that.

              But Trump’s base — that 30-something percent that will not question or doubt him, no matter what — almost certainly will not…

              Reply
              1. Doug Ross

                Sure, Arapio his to far. But to keep pushing the idea that illegals are just missing proper identification is a joke. There is no documentation to be had. Which is why they enter illegally and why they should be returned to wherever they came from to enter properly.

                They are not undocumented. That’s a fallacy.

                Reply
                1. Doug Ross

                  If I steal something from a store, apparently that makes me a consumer without the proper receipt.

  3. Harry Harris

    I think our polarization and “win at all costs” obsession is characterized by Mitt Romney lately. He said during the Republican primaries (insightfully) that Trump is a “fraud and a huckster.” Now he seems to be saying “but he’s OUR huckster.”

    Reply
  4. bud

    The GOP tent has gotten much more inclusive. It now welcomes bigots of all stripes including the KKK, neo nazis and alt righters of all persuasions. Until folks like Romney can unambiguously denounce Trump then the GOP owns the party of Trump monicker.

    Reply
    1. Mark Stewart

      Yes, politician’s lead from behind. We know that.

      My eyes are on Rex Tillerson. It is pointless to expect Mitch McConnell to grow a spine or Paul Ryan to grow some cojones. But maybe Tillerson’s willingness to publicly chastise Trump will give some senior politician the resolve to stand on principle – to put country before party and ethics before greed. There is a huge opportunity here for someone with leadership stature to rise against the moral decay that is Trump’s presidency; to speak with eloquence and inclusiveness against the tyranny oozing from the worst President this nation has ever seen.

      Reply
  5. Claus2

    Great, now we get to play one of those recapcha click the boxes things ever ytime we make a comment… yay Brad!!!

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, good — thanks for letting me know it’s working.

      I’ve had my hosting service on my back for a week or so to get some captcha software up and running. Apparently, I’ve been the target of bot attacks that were eating up memory, and was warned that if it didn’t stop, they’d have to shut me down.

      Did any of y’all notice the interruption of service Friday evening? The blog was down for a couple of hours because of a “fatal error” that happened when I was trying to install a plugin to address the problem.

      Anyway, folks — let me know it you experience real problems — beyond just being peeved…

      Reply

Leave a Reply to bud Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *