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November 13, 2008

David Brooks Writes Another Useless, Gassy Column

Which John Hawkins debunks.

I object to this column on a lot of levels. For one thing, it's a typical lazy effort, setting up a "Reformist vs. Traditionalist" fight without actually providing much by way of detail as to what policies Brooks wants to pursue.

I have an idea, actually.

But why be coy about it, David? Why not just advocate for the positions you favor, rather than vaguely alluding to the idea that change is needed? What change?

You want the party to be more liberal. We get that. How about writing columns about the actual issues and actual positions you favor rather than forever nattering on about the hazy idea of "change" you can never quite rouse the courage -- or effort -- to detail?

There's a dishonest aspect to this, too. Brooks -- and Sager, and etc. -- often avoid advocating substantively, on policy grounds, for their positions, instead preferring to argue in the neutral-sounding way that "We must do this to win." And yet the polling data often does not even seem to support that position (nor do they offer much except naked assertion that adopting liberal policies will lead to electoral success).

I point out again that in liberal California, Prop 8 won by 53-47. You can argue that this is an immoral and retrograde policy -- and please do, if that is what you believe. But do that, and have the courage to actually advocate for the positions you favor, rather than this endless pretense that you're not really discussing the issue on the merits but only on the horserace political strategy level.

They're really not arguing for a change in Republican strategy or policy. They're arguing for a change in the Republican voting population itself -- they want Republicans to change their opinions in favor of the minority, liberal-leaning Northeastern establishment opinion. Fine -- that is their right. So start honestly and openly attempting to change Republican minds, rather than pushing nonsense like "pro-gay marriage policy is a net electoral winner."

An interesting take on this from NRO, arguing, persuasively, that there really is no such thing as a "centrist program" in the first place, and there's little to be gained by pursuing a phantasm.

Incidentally, a while ago I suggested that people really shouldn't be reading David Brooks. Some commenters disagreed, stating that it's important to read differing positions within the movement.

My suggestion really wasn't a call for a boycott per se. Rather, it was animated by the fact that David Brooks is the Rockefeller Republican version of David Broder. He never really says anything particularly interesting, but is for reasons unfathomable considered something of a Gray Eminence dispensing wisdom.

I find him useless. I honestly never find any of his columns interesting, provocative, or persuasive. They seem to be, like Jerry Seinfeld were he a pundit, Columns About Nothing.

Well, almost nothing. I know he wants the Republican Party to become more liberal. Liberal in what way? To what extent? I don't know, and I hardly consider him such an intellectual heavyweight that I will parse his words, trying to divine his hidden meanings. as if he's the Fed Chairman hinting about a future overnight lending rate rise.

I realize he's a hack on a deadline and has to produce two columns a week. I realize that writing about nothing is a necessary skill for anyone expected to write consistently. (I do it a little -- not enough, as it turns out. Witness the past week. I've got nothing much to write and I've spent most of the week not writing it.)

But an excessively large fraction of Brooks' columns seem to belong to the category of "I Got Nothin' But a Deadline So Here Comes Some Bullshit." One third, maybe. Even one half would be excusable.

But 90%? No, that's too high, feller.


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posted by Ace at 10:56 PM

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