Worst headline of the day (but not a bad column, actually)

David Brooks almost ruined my day this morning:

But then I read the column, and it was pretty good.

That’s because in setting out why he thinks this is so, he makes it clear why we must do all we can to keep the headline from coming true.

Let me see if I can excerpt enough of the argument without the Fair Use police coming after me (and I urge you to do what I do, and subscribe to the NYT — it’s worth it for the podcasts alone, not to mention the excellent op-ed stuff):

Successful presidential candidates are mythmakers. They don’t just tell a story. They tell a story that helps people make meaning out of the current moment; that divides people into heroes and villains; that names a central challenge and explains why they are the perfect person to meet it.Brooks_New-articleInline_400x400

In 2016 Donald Trump told a successful myth: The coastal elites are greedy, stupid people who have mismanaged the country, undermined our values and changed the face of our society. This was not an original myth; it’s been around since at least the populist revolts of the 1890s. But it’s a powerful us vs. them worldview, which resonates with a lot of people.

Trump’s followers don’t merely believe that myth. They inhabit it. It shapes how they see the world, how they put people into this category or that category. Trump can get his facts wrong as long as he gets his myth right. He can commit a million scandals, but his followers don’t see them as long as they stay embedded within that myth.

Bernie Sanders is also telling a successful myth: The corporate and Wall Street elites are rapacious monsters who hoard the nation’s wealth and oppress working families. This is not an original myth, either. It’s been around since the class-conflict agitators of 1848. It is also a very compelling us vs. them worldview that resonates with a lot of people….

A couple of my interlocutors here tried to say earlier that in my support of Biden makes me the same as a Bernie Bros — other side of the same coin.

Nope. Bad use of a metaphor. The type who dwells in that plane, serving as the other side of the same thing, wears a MAGA hat. Biden is nowhere near that coin. Us-vs.-them is not his way. He doesn’t want to divide us; he wants to pull us all together — or at least give us all a hug. And let me stick up for the rest of the candidates on that score as well. Except for Elizabeth Warren, who essentially is pushing the Bernie myth, sans Bernie.

Why do more moderate, less divisive candidates struggle to get past Bernie? Because they “haven’t organized their worldview into a simple compelling myth.” With the emphasis on “simple.” Joe and Pete and Amy see nuance, and they don’t pretend otherwise. They want to lead us out of this morass of division, not further into it.

Brooks has been spending his time lately away from the rallies, observing actual people where they live, and he has seen people coming together to try to solve the problems they see in their communities. He sees people gathering, or trying to in the face of currents that pull us apart.

Meanwhile:

These gathering efforts are hampered by rippers at the national level who stoke rage and fear and tell friend/enemy stories. These efforts are hampered by men like Sanders and Trump who have never worked within a party or subordinated themselves to a team — men who are one trick ponies. All they do is stand on a podium and bellow….

And that must be defeated, wherever it crops up on the ideological spectrum.

This is yet another column where Brooks proves himself to be our most communitarian prominent public intellectual. And I believe as he does that the way forward involves pulling together around the things that unite us — whether they are our problems or our blessings.

The best political speeches try to do the same thing. See Bill Clinton’s 2012 convention speech, or … well, there was an Obama speech that I thought did many of the same things, and I’m having trouble finding it. But I appreciated that in that campaign, he offered us a clear choice between being pulled apart and coming together.

Those are the drummers we should listen to. And I’m for Joe because he marches to that beat.

 

10 thoughts on “Worst headline of the day (but not a bad column, actually)

  1. bud

    Why do more moderate, less divisive candidates struggle to get past Bernie? Because they “haven’t organized their worldview into a simple compelling myth.”
    -Brad

    The real myth believers are in the Biden camp. It was Biden who bought into the whole Iraq war lie. It is the Biden people who fail to recognize the very real problem with income inequality. It is the Biden supporters who ignore the Hunter Biden issue. If Biden is such a great uniter why is he losing support? It is Biden supporters who call other Democrats in the field Marxists and nihilists. Both labels being complete myths and highly divisive to boot. It is Biden supporters who refuse to commit to voting for the eventual Democratic nominee. It is Biden supporters who insult supporters of other candidates by suggesting they lack common sense. It is Biden supporters who question the integrity of non-Biden supporters. So yes I stand firmly behind the assertion that Biden supporters are irrational believers of mythology. The evidence to that effect is undeniable.

    Reply
    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Bud’s not talking about Biden supporters as a group.

      He’s talking about me.

      For some reason, I keep outraging Bud more and more as the days go by, and I’m sorry that’s the case. I’m truly not trying to inspire such indignation…

      Reply
      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Speaking of outrage… I was looking for something related to that and ran across this piece from about three years ago: “Bernie Sanders was angry. Donald Trump was angry. Clinton didn’t want to risk it.”

        Everybody knows what it is Trump and Bernie have in common, and how that is something that resonates with a lot of people.

        But that’s not my point. My point is that the piece was interesting aside from our argument here.

        Of course, of COURSE, the story goes down feminist lines, saying she couldn’t get angry because she’s a woman (someone tell Elizabeth Warren). You expect that.

        But there are better reasons why it would have been stupid to try to be as angry as Bernie and Trump. It’s because she wasn’t going to beat them at that game. Also, because there are still a lot of us out here who are NOT looking for someone to be mad at, or seeking someone to channel that anger for us.

        And by following the path she did, she beat Bernie and got more votes than Trump.

        Anyway, I mainly share this to also share the satirical piece that this piece pointed to: “Let Me Remind You F___ers Who I Am

        Maybe it will crack you up…

        Reply
        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          And speaking of anger…

          In 2016, there were more Democrats who did NOT want to share Bernie’s than there were who did.

          I think that’s just as true this year. Trouble is, in 2016, the moderates could line up behind Hillary. Now, they’re splitting their votes among three or four candidates. And Bernie is getting almost all of the angry vote — although after the other night, Warren might take back SOME of it.

          Anyway, this is what I mean when I say Democrats who do NOT want Bernie (and that appears to be the majority) are going to regret not lining up behind Biden, and doing it long before now. Because it was always unlikely that they’d coalesce around a lesser-known candidate like Pete or Amy, and Bloomberg has too much baggage, aside from his whole buying-the-nomination thing.

          Every day they don’t get together behind someone (someone they WANT, as opposed to Bernie), they get weaker and Trump gets stronger…

          Reply
      2. bud

        Bud’s not talking about Biden supporters as a group.
        He’s talking about me.
        -Brad

        Since there are so few Biden supporters that I know you’ll have to serve as a proxy. :)

        I think you are getting hung up on this whole moderate/liberal dichotomy by suggesting the moderates are opposed to working toward the common good while the moderates are pure as the driven snow. Sorry but its not that simple. If Amy or Pete drop out and Biden continues I’d not be surprised if a large share of their supporters, including me, get behind Bernie rather than Biden. The evidence is clear: Biden is more flawed as a candidate than Bernie. I just don’t buy this absurd narrative that Bernie cant be a team player.

        Reply
  2. Mr. Smith

    A symptom of “Bro-ism is the failure of the partisans on either side (whether it be Sanders supporters or, as here, Biden fans) to recognize their own blind partisanship. It’s not about the candidates themselves, both of whom are ok. It’s has to do with the rabid partisanship of their respective adorers.
    Believe me, I’ve had my run-in with at least one very annoying Bernie Bro. So I recognize it when the same phenomenon shows up elsewhere — as is the case with this blog’s owner.

    And I’ll just add that an empty “pulling together” is just that: empty, happy talk, lacking in substantive content. And it will not last one second beyond the election.

    Reply
  3. bud

    Successful presidential candidates are mythmakers. They don’t just tell a story. They tell a story that helps people make meaning out of the current moment; that divides people into heroes and villains; that names a central challenge and explains why they are the perfect person to meet it.
    -Brooks

    Damn! It just now dawned on me. This PERFECTLY describes Brad.

    Reply

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