Friday, September 18, 2015

Love languages and prankster narcissi

Lon Chaney (channeling Dr. William Kristol, I think) in Herbert Brenon's Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928). Image via TheLastDriveIn.

David Brooks is really upset. So much so that he's had to modify the both-sides-do-it formula to incorporate the time dimension—both sides do it, but not necessarily at the same time:
Democrats have historically liked presidential nominees they can go gaga for, even if they lack experience: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy. Republicans on the other hand like to nominate the guy who’s paid his dues and already lost a presidential run: Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

So far this year, the parties have switched love languages.
Pause to note that Bill Clinton didn't exactly lack experience: his two years as Arkansas attorney general and ten years as Arkansas governor are wholly comparable to Ronald Reagan's seven years as president of the Screen Actors Guild and eight years as California governor. Walter Mondale spent 12 years as Senator and four as vice president in spite of an uncertain gaga-rousing ability; Michael Dukakis was a very fine and very liberal but unluckily not gaga-inducing Massachusetts governor for 12 years total; Al Gore spent eight years in the House, eight years in the Senate, and eight years as vice president, inspiring gagacity among a fairly limited contingent; John Kerry spent 23 years in the Senate, although his gagatractive period of around 1969 was clearly over by the time of the 2004 campaign; and if Ronald Reagan wasn't a gaga candidate I don't know who was; his intellectual incapacity and ideological extremism should have been instantly apparent, but it didn't matter as long as, as Barry Goldwater complained,

Oh, and there was that other Republican whose name is rarely mentioned in a Brooks column, including today's, whose experience was confined to one and a half terms in the figurehead position of Texas governor and whose GQ [Gaga Quotient] was of such a high order that journalists could be found to praise him for appearing in public wearing a codpiece.

Thanks, by the way, for the implicit acknowledgment that Bernie Sanders (eight years as Burlington mayor, 16 years in the House and eight in the Senate, has not yet nationalized any industries or opened any gulags) is not Donald Trump:
Democratic voters have become responsible and middle-aged, telling pollsters they want experienced pols who can work within the system.
Though Bernie and Hillary both have fan contingents for whom "gaga" might not be too strong a word.
Republicans radiate more alienation than the sophomore class at a Berkeley alternative high school.
I thought Bob Hope's gag writers were surely dead by now.
They have also entered a weird post-material political space. Many Republicans show little interest in candidates who offer proposals, but flock to the ones who offer outrageous self-expression.
In fact soft-spoken and not outrageously expressive Dr. Ben Carson, now drawing close to or even with Trump in the polls, offers many proposals, though nearly all of them are insane. That suggested picture of a time before the post-material (the what?) when Republicans were interested in proposals seems to refer to something like 40 years ago and the Ford presidency; certainly no Republican party since the gaga orgy of 1980. I've said it before and I'll say it again, when your only actual political aim is the further concentration of wealth in a tiny group, you have to find some other method of getting votes from everybody else, and it's not likely to be serious policy. Trump is the natural evolution of this process.
Donald Trump has emerged as the prankster narcissus.
Daffodil outfit via Run Hughesie Run.

Also known as the jesting jonquil, or the daffy dil.

But it's not just Trump that is Brooks's problem, in any case, but an entire faction within the party:
One group wants to rip up the political process and disrupt everything. Renounce the Iran deal on Day 1, no matter what our allies say. Ignore the Supreme Court and effectively disallow gay marriage. Shut down the government to defund Planned Parenthood. Magically deport the 11 million illegal immigrants.

This is more or less the Bobby Jindal-Ted Cruz wing. (During those milliseconds when Trump is capable of entertaining a policy thought, he wanders into this camp.)
Ooh, snap! Milliseconds!

But those who "live within the confines of reality"—Bush, Kasich, and Graham—don't inspire, because they're so refined, particularly JEB:
Three hundred and fifty years of WASP reticence have left habits of gentility and emotional guardedness that inhibit him, just as they inhibited his father.
The other brother, the one whose name Brooks can never remember, used to be totally genteel and emotionally guarded until he turned his back on 350 years of WASP cocktail hours.
So what's a pandit to do? If he could remember the premise he started with, the candidate with all the experience and a previous failed run for the nomination, he'd be forced to endorse old Sanctum Santorum or Reverend Huckabee, wouldn't he? And they're so spiritual, too, but that seems to mean post-material, and there fore unacceptable. So it's the pandit punt! Send out a proposal for a ticket that is totally inexperienced but lives within the confines of—not necessarily reality, but Brooksoscopy: Rubio-Fiorina!

He'd actually go for Fiorina, who "has a genius for creating signature moments" (though she's getting pretty spiritual herself, with her ancient-patriarch views on abortion and treatment of feminism as a "special interest group"), but
her spotty record at Hewlett-Packard probably means she can’t start at the top of the ticket.
Rubio is young and thus uncorrupted, and he is a genius at relating policy depth in a way that is personal.
For example, under the relating policy depth rubric,
And you're right, I have missed some votes, and I'll tell you why, Mr. Trump. Because in my years in the Senate, I've figured out very quickly that the political establishment in Washington, D.C. in both political parties is completely out of touch with the lives of our people.
You have millions of people in this country living paycheck to paycheck, and nothing is being done about it. 
It may be personal, but it's not very logical. Unless you simply mean nobody at the office ever does anything anyway, so why should I show up for work? (Honestly the only example I find in the transcript where he's personal about something other than immigration.) Not perhaps the attitude you really look for in a president, unless you're planning to drown government in the bathtub and want somebody who's not looking.

OK, enough of this. You can take the deconstruction of "spotty" and "thus uncorrupted" as a homework assignment, I'm out of here.

Update 9/20: I somehow missed this on Friday—Driftglass is now so expert in Brooksology that he is occasionally able to summarize an entire Brooks column in a single Tweet before the column is written. But he generously gives us a full-length treatment anyway.

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