Friday, December 11, 2015

The Explosion of Principle

Principle of Explosion, by xkcd (via Principle of Explosion Blog)
Shorter David Brooks, "The Ted Cruz Establishment", New York Times, December 11 2015:
Ted Cruz constantly rails against the establishment, and yet ironically he is the establishment. Except for the part about being established. This is what we Grand Strategy experts refer to as Machiavellian.
If David Brooks had left the Movement for a respectable reason, like Kevin Philips (because conservatism is stupid and damaging to society) or David Brock (because it's slimy and dishonest) that would be one thing, but he didn't. He broke up with it, I think, out of resentment of its failure to acknowledge what a special person he was, and because clinging to it wasn't doing him any good in his career as a public intellectual. A public intellectual is supposed to rise, magisterially, above considerations of party, and represent some longer-term transcendent standpoint; and a kindly, whimsical figure of the kind he aspires to be won't take the battles of the moment too seriously in any case.

And then he never broke with it at all ideologically in any case, continuing to dwell in the contradiction between libertarianism (economic) for the rich and authoritarianism (moral) for the poor (which allows you, logically speaking, to adopt any position whatever, in the sense that you can derive any proposition from a contradiction: (1) Jack is a boy; (2) Jack is not a boy; therefore (3) cutting taxes invariably raises government revenues, QED—this really works).

Anyway you'd think there'd be some fun in watching him dish spitefully on the dreadful people he no longer has lunch with such as Richard Viguerie and Brent Bozell and the folks at the Heritage Foundation, but honestly it just isn't.

He seems to have started off with a paradox that sounded tremendously witty inside his head before he tried to write it down ("That Ted Cruz thinks he's so fucking anti-establishment, like what part of Club For Growth does he not understand?") but couldn't survive an attempt to work it out—as he wrote, his concept of what the establishment was began to fragment and dissolve into a shimmering opposition among many establishments between the poles of the "mainstream establishment" (lowercase) which isn't an establishment and the "Counter Establishment"* (uppercase) which is, because it has almost as much money as the first one, with the only certainty being that the establishment Cruz denounces is in fact the enemy of the one he belongs to and Brooks's attempt at a dazzling demonstration of Cruz's dishonesty ends up demonstrating that he's apparently not dishonest at all (even though we already know very well he's as dishonest as they come). A painful performance all the way around.

*Capped and unhyphenated, "Counter Establishment" looks like the name of a tavern or sushi place without any tables. Correctly, in the terminology (uncredited by Brooks) of Sydney Blumenthal, it is lowercased and hyphenated "counter-establishment" and used to refer to the rightwing network of politicians, journalists, and thinktank moles that ruled Washington in early 2008 when Blumenthal's book on the subject was published. That establishment, in which people like Cruz and people like Brooks were once united, was already starting to come apart at the seams at the time, during the McCain-Palin campaign, and seven years later alive with anger and recrimination, and Cruz's complaints about the "establishment" meaning merely anybody who frustrates his ambitions are matched by Brooks's protestations that The Establishment Я Not Us (see Driftglass) so that when Brooks tries to mock Cruz for pretending he's not part of it, the mockery redounds on his head.

For the record, all of the sentences in which Brooks uses the word "establishment" today:
He was always drawn to establishment institutions: Princeton, Harvard Law.
He joined the Republican establishment while young
he’s become a central member of the conservative establishment.
During the 1970s conservatives self-consciously built establishment institutions to counter the liberal establishment.
with the election of Ronald Reagan, the conservative establishment split into two.
There was the regular conservative establishment, filled with mainstream conservatives
But there was also a conservative counter-establishment.... populated with people like Paul Weyrich, Richard Viguerie, Brent Bozell and others who were temperamentally incapable of governance.
Today the conservative community still has at least two establishments, or three if you want to throw in the young Reform Conservatives.
The mainstream establishment tends to side with party leaders like Paul Ryan 
The Old Right Counter Conservative Establishment has grown in recent years
the Heritage Foundation, which used to be more or less conservative establishment, has gone more Counter Establishment.
The difference is the establishment wants to use the levers of power to practically pass reforms
The Counter Establishment believes that Washington is pervasively corrupt
Since he came to Washington, Ted Cruz has meticulously aligned himself with the rising and rich conservative Counter Establishment.
His efforts to shut down the government... cemented his relationship with the members of the Counter Establishment. 
His campaign is uniting the Counter Establishment.... he was rapturously received by members of the Council for National Policy, an important Counter Establishment gathering. 
The Counter Establishment is now nearly as financially flush and institutionally entrenched as the mainstream establishment. 
He’s won over the Counter Establishment and even some of the regular establishment by being tactical in his policy positions
Cruz is riding the shift in the conservative activist establishment
Ted Cruz is surging as the figurehead of the rich and interlocked Counter Establishment. 
And he gets to do it while pretending that he is antiestablishment. 

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