Friday, November 9, 2018

David Brooks Columns I Never Finished Reading

Sod House on the Prairie, Sanborn, Minnesota.

Jesus, Brooks ("What the Working Class Is Still Trying to Tell Us"):
I was ready for massive Democratic turnout for the election on Tuesday. But I was surprised how massive the Republican turnout was in response.
The Republicans who flooded to the polls weren’t college-educated suburbanites. Those people voted for Democrats this year....
These were high-school-educated, working-class Republicans.
In fact, as compared to two years ago, the Brookings Institution finds,

the 2018 exit polls show markedly reduced Republican support among white males without college degrees (from a -48 D-R margin in 2016 to -34 in 2018), and increased support for Democrats among white college educated women (from a +7 D-R margin in 2016 to +20 in 2018) (Figure 4).

I feel as if he must have uttered this hypothesis himself, maybe on TV, and then forgotten who he heard it from.

There is in fact a kind of we-they divide in the exit polls, but it's really geographical: the voters who were unexpectedly enthusiastic for Republicans were rural voters, as Reid Wilson explains at The Hill. Brooks himself sees it, but doesn't know what he's seeing:
They weren’t even small-government Republicans. The same red states that elected conservatives to office also — in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah — approved ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid. The same red states that elected conservatives also approved initiatives — in Arkansas and Missouri — to raise the minimum wage.
I mean duh. It's not because those voters are "working class". In fact they aren't working class at all, in the strict sense; they're farmers, proprietors of farms and of the little businesses—seed and feed and machinery and so on—that supply them. Conservative farmers never object to a little government largesse, or huge amounts of it, they just object to other people getting it. And the way of life really is threatened, mostly by depopulation, and the obvious economic solutions (more immigration!) are uncomfortable for the narrow-minded and suspicious little communities that dot the vast prairie. The working class proper, industrial workers in Ohio and Michigan and all, white and black, has understood the error so many of the white ones made in 2016 and the insult of the Trump tariffs; agribusiness hasn't understood anything and has doubled down, and nobody should be surprised, because that's the kind of thing they've always done, ever since the peasants of the Vendée rose, with remarkable savagery, against the Revolution in 1793. (No offense meant to readers who live in such places, but you know your neighbors who think that way, and you know there's enough of them to win an election; I come from dairy farm country myself).

Given that Brooks's whole argument today is based on this idiotically false premise, I guess we shouldn't bother to linger on it, and I won't, but I want to pause once again to note the weirdness of his dichotomy between the two nations, "the working class" and "us", the former a mysterious and remote land of incomprehensible otherness, the latter including "a lot of us pundits" and "the leaders":
A lot of us pundits said Donald Trump should run a positive campaign bragging about all the economic growth. But Trump ran another American carnage campaign....
Working-class voters tried to send a message in 2016, and they are still trying to send it [That's the false premise again.—ed.]. The crucial question is whether America’s leaders will listen and respond.
One way to start doing that is to read Oren Cass’s absolutely brilliant new book, “The Once and Future Worker.”
Yes, the way to start listening to workers is to read a set of policy proposals by Some Dude from the Manhattan Institute who worked on the Romney campaign. It may be a pretty interesting book, for all I know, but I'm sure as shit not going to let Brooks sell it to me. I'm out of here.

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