Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Al-Dente Party

Not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with wet pasta. Tortellini in brodo via TangoItalia.
Funniest sentence in Friday's David Brooks column ("Trump's Enablers Will Finally Have to Take a Stand" or in the dead-tree version "The Wet Noodle Republicans", wonder why they changed that huh?):

With each passing week he displays the classic symptoms of medium-grade mania in more disturbing forms: inflated self-esteem, sleeplessness, impulsivity, aggression and a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about.
No, I don't know what "medium-grade mania" is. Neither too coarse nor too fine? But my impression is Trump really doesn't offer a lot of advice, and when he does it's usually on subjects he knows a lot about. Which is not to say it's good advice. It can be pretty dire:
When Donald Trump has offered investment advice, though, his recommendations have been so far out of the mainstream that investors and markets generally have ignored them. The Republican presidential nominee has been predicting economic calamity for months. (Washington Post)
Or morally questionable:
In a 2008 interview with CBS News' Susan Spencer, Donald Trump said women who turn on the charm have a "huge advantage." CBS News)

Whereas on subjects he knows nothing about he's actually pretty solid, if unimaginative:
He’s also offering a warning to young people about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, saying they can hamper future success. (WKBK Radio, Keene, NH)
But you know who really has a compulsion to offer advice on subjects he knows nothing about?

Exactly. From how to fix up the college curriculum in English literature to how to end the scourge of teenage pregnancy to how to become a "deep, virtuous person", David Brooks has always been there for us, passing out the real poop on situations that he himself can't even imagine. It's just a bizarre skill he has, and he has to share.

And here he is doing it again. Today he's advising the Republicans on how to cope with their medium-grade maniac. A little late, or so it seems to me, but what do I know.

He still hasn't got any kind of analysis of how the situation arose, of course, now that the poor white dudes hypothesis seems to have collapsed, but he does know who to blame, which is those "wet noodle Republicans" who kept pretending until last week that the Trump was a "normal" candidate, for whom he offers some pretty competent ill-tempered invective:

Their bodies squirmed when they were asked about their nominee. They refused to look you straight in the eye. They made little apologetic comments so you would still like them even though they were doing this shameful thing.
Funny, I don't recall hearing you reporting that when you were holding forth on PBS during the convention. Selfies or it didn't happen...

Anyhow, the advice he has for those non-wet noodle Republicans—the al-dente party, I guess—isn't that they should stop enabling Trump, or contribute to preventing his election. Rather, he suggests that they beat a Rod-Dreher Benedictine retreat and

start building a Republican Party in Exile. They will have to tell the country what they honestly think of Donald Trump. They will have to build a parallel campaign structure that will survive if Trump implodes, a structure of congressional and local candidates. They will have to jointly propose a clear manifesto — five or 10 policies the party in exile ardently supports.
I imagine there already is a structure of congressional and local candidates—I'm sure if there wasn't we would have been hearing about it—and that it's a little late to put together a different one, if this one isn't survivable.

I'd think he'd want to ask himself why they failed to propose a clear manifesto last fall. (Maybe it's because they aren't Canadian, because south of the border we don't generally do manifestos, or should it be manifesti, as far as I know.) It's likely Brooks's imaginary resistance fighters can't make it add up to five policies they unanimously support at all, let alone "ardently". What's really happened here is that the the crude stitching on the Republican mantle that's held the party's authoritarian and libertarian strains together since the 1980s has finally given way and can't be fixed. That's how Trump blundered his way in in the first place without even knowing what he was doing.

It can't be fixed—least of all by the kind of conservative alternative Brooks himself represents, a private-enterprise liberalism that adopts the traditional liberal goals of tolerance, generosity, and community, but abjures all the governmental tools for achieving them. All that can do is what all those Republican state governments are already doing, which is presiding over local corporate takeovers.

In the meantime there's one thing distressed Republicans could definitely be doing to save the republic—to disempower the would-be dictator Donald Trump—and that's voting in November for Democrats, and especially for Hillary Clinton, and urging their friends to do the same. But that's the one thing Brooks won't even consider saying out loud. Because he's, as ever, the wettest noodle in the colander.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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