Saturday, November 06, 2004

David Brooks: Self-Deluded Mouthpiece or Literate Yahoo?

Brooks' newest column at the NYTimes is full of condescending stereotypes about how liberals stereotype and condescend to conservatives.

Every election year, we in the commentariat come up with a story line to explain the result, and the story line has to have two features. First, it has to be completely wrong. Second, it has to reassure liberals that they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them.

Excuse me? It has to reassure liberals? How much reassuring are we getting from the likes of William Safire, William Kristol, David Broder, George Will, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Novak, Emmett Tyrell, Jonah Goldberg, Frank Gaffney, not to mention those cartoons Ann Coulter and Peggy Noonan? He goes on to say:

He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president.
It's ridiculous to say, as some liberals have this week, that we are perpetually refighting the Scopes trial, with the metro forces of enlightenment and reason arrayed against the retro forces of dogma and reaction. (snip)
I've spent the past four years traveling to 36 states and writing millions of words trying to understand this values divide, and I can tell you there is no one explanation. But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are? (snip)
Some of the liberal reaction reminds me of a phrase I came across recently: The rage of the drowning man.

After simplifying and misunderstanding the liberal viewpoint on cultural issues and their fellow electorate, he goes on to accuse them of his own failing. He spends 4 long years traveling to try and figure out the "values divide", and he comes to the conclusion that it had nothing to do with the election outcome, and not only that, the people he left behind in Sodom are problem: liberals on the coasts and in academic enclaves. Does that mean that the liberals in the heartland are different, or that they simply don't exist?

Well, surprise! They do exist, and when they live as a minority in conservative communities, they get the same condescending, intolerant, and clueless response from their neighbors that Brooks projects onto liberals in big cities. He spent 4 years flitting around, sampling those salt-of-the-earth conservatives, while I grew up with them and lived with and amidst them for 40 years, and I can assure you that they can suffocate the breath out of anyone even slightly different from themselves. Insularity, clannishness, intolerance, violence? You haven't experienced anything till you try to fit in in a tiny rural town in the Appalachian foothills where half the population is still looking for revenge on the Yankees.

This is not to say that good people aren't living there, too; they are. But these ridiculous stereotypes bandied about by literary masturbators on both sides are harmful and stifling. Stop babbling about things of which you have no real experience. You'll wake up one day and wonder how we all ended up hating each other, and for the answer, you'll need look no further than your mirror.

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