Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Annals of derp: Bumper cars

Besides, the name's taken.

Donald Trump’s Allure

Lol he's launching a new cologne, right in the middle of a presidential campaign?

No, it's world-famous political scientist David Brooks trying to explain the mystery of how an ill-mannered, poorly informed buffoon like Trump could possibly be getting votes from Republicans. Why, he's not even a conservative!
he’s taken so many liberal positions he makes Susan Collins look like Barry Goldwater.

Ego as Ideology

Obviously it can't be because of the party, well-bred, thoughtful, modest. It's the out-of-joint times, no doubt, the unhappy fact that Things Have Changed. Back in the day, in the Republic's first couple of centuries, you see, people knew their place, which was firmly marked out for them by the informal guardrails of life, or, in an old-new metaphor from Robert Wiebe's The Segmented Society: An Introduction to the Meaning of America (1975), the lane markers of a racetrack, in which each of society's many different segments—kinship networks, occupational groups, ethnic groups, and geographic communities—ran its own race in cheerful independence from the other segments,

Robin L. Einhorn, Property Rules: Political Economy in Chicago, 1833-1872, 2001.
Or, in the Brooksian rendition,
When America is growing and happy, the country is sort of like a sprinter’s track. As Robert H. Wiebe put it in his classic book “The Segmented Society,” when things were going well the diverse country comprised “countless isolated lanes where Americans, singly or in groups, dashed like rows of racers toward their goals.”

In times of scarcity and alienation, it’s more like bumper cars. Different groups feel their lanes are blocked, so they start crashing into one another. The cultural elites start feuding with the financial elites. The lower middle class starts feuding with the poor.
Well, no. It's not about sprinting, for one thing, but long distance, and it's not about growth vs. scarcity, in Wiebe's analysis, but rather stability vs. the stress of modernization, and it's not a matter of "feuding" among all the different segments but of the lashing out of one particular kind of segment, as you can read in a wonderful bit of William B. Hixson's Search for the American Right Wing: An Analysis of the Social Science Record, 1955-1987, Princeton University Press, 2015, if you're so minded: the small-town (white Protestant) community feeling ever since the 1870s not that its "lane" has been "blocked" but that its way of life is under threat from industrialization, and from big-city elites and uppity black people; coming to a periodical boil in American organizations like the Knights of Labor and the Ku Klux Klan and McCarthyite anti-Communist paranoia.

And it's most of the Republican voting population, apart from the party's prideful theorists and financiers, who come largely from a more urbane class themselves, since around 1968 and the anti-busing movement in places like South Boston and Queens as well as the South. It's the Segmented Society desperate to maintain its segments (and their internal patriarchies) as they are. What's special about Trump is that he doesn't bother them with a bunch of ideas, as the others feel obliged to do to keep in with the press, he's 100% judgment and contempt.

That Trump's language appeals to Republicans without being "conservative" in some kind of Oakeshottian doctrinaire sense is no surprise. Brooks can't see it because it's not a bothsiderist thesis. He's not by any means wrong about Trump's ideology reducing to "You guys who despise me think you're smart but you're stupid" (easy enough to get that far), but he totally fails to understand that it's exactly the same song Nixon sang, of the Orthogonians and Franklins, so many years ago. It's as Republican as Spiro Agnew, or David "They Pay Me to be a Narcissistic Blowhard" Brooks. (There's something Trumpical about the joke he repeats every time he visits a college campus, "I only teach at colleges I couldn't have gotten into.")

Brooks tries to build a parallel between Trump and Bernie Sanders as a "conviction politician"—that's the tell: Bernie has convictions, how droll. You don't need convictions to win a Republican primary in 2016, you just need to show how pissed off you are. J.E.B. knows it, too, though young Scott Walker knows it best.

That's really all I wanted to say, about how deeply Brooks misunderstands Wiebe in his anxiety to misunderstand his party, as a supplement to the essential Driftglass.

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