Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Brooks in denial, 'cause he's a crocodile

Clara Bow in William Wellman's Wings (1927) Via.
David Brooks really dislikes anger. I guess that's why he's decided to stick with stage 1 of his grief ("Stay Sane America, Please!", January 26 2016):
I am going to spend every single day between now and then believing that neither Donald Trump nor Ted Cruz nor Bernie Sanders will be standing on that podium. One of them could win the election, take the oath, give the speech and be riding down Pennsylvania Avenue. I will still refuse to believe it.... please allow me a few more months of denial.
Pretty standard horserace panditry today, the sort of thing I believe he does on television, and at first glance not wrong enough to be very interesting. It's cute how he has to set up a tag-team match to make a bothsiderist case with Sanders, Cruz for the equidistant-from-the-center argument (Cruz is as far right as Sanders is far left and therefore neither of them can win) and Trump for the outside-the-pale (Sanders isn't even a Democrat, therefore Trump really isn't a Republican, in spite of the latter's claims) and conclude that because Sanders will most likely not get the Democratic nomination therefore neither Cruz nor Trump will get the Republican one. That does not follow.

The difference is that the Democrats have a candidate who can gather a majority, though there are no doubt a lot of people who don't like her very much (Brooks doesn't mention Clinton's name in the column, since even hinting at her existence would fundamentally wreck the argument he's stitching together), and the Republicans don't. Though Brooksy continues to hope he can personally take care of that (strictly speaking he's past denial and anger and into bargaining by now) by making Cuban Heels Rubio his Mini-Me:
sooner or later the candidates from the governing wing of their parties will get their acts together. Marco Rubio has had a bad month, darkening his tone and trying to sound like a cut-rate version of Trump and Cruz.
Before too long Rubio will realize his first task is to rally the voters who detest or fear those men. That means running as an optimistic American nationalist with specific proposals to reform Washington and lift the working class.
The thing is, sooner or later is already too late, before too long was weeks ago, and Rubio really is cut-rate. He's had those specific proposals in his briefcase for months now, and nobody cares except Brooksy's intellectual friends in the Confraternity of the Blessed Tax Cut who drafted them; it isn't even worth the trouble of the left coming out to laugh at it (unlike Rubio's tone-darkening proposal for a constitutional convention to, in essence, overturn the Constitution and restore the 1781 Articles of Confederation).

While optimistic American nationalism is represented by Donald Trump, to whom making America great again is a simple matter of having him in the room telling people what to do and firing them if they don't do it.
If he can rally maitream Republicans he’ll be at least tied with Trump and Cruz in the polls. Then he can counter their American decline narrative, with one of his own: This country is failing because it got too narcissistic, became too much like a reality TV show. Americans lost the ability to work constructively to get things done.
Hahaha. All he has to do is establish his optimism and then he can launch into his declinist narrative! Jab and cross! Although I don't know how you repair that excess narcissism with your Enterprise Institute bag of fiscal proposals, and I don't know how that line about narcissism in the speech Brooks has written for him gets delivered at all by old Cuban Heels, the man who openly thinks he's too good to work in a lowlife outfit like the US Senate. There's not enough water in the Nile to stop him choking on that one.

And in any case what those voters want is for American life to be more like a reality show: hot bods, Big Brother setting stimulating challenges, and a chance to vote people off the island. It's sad, too, because these are the same guys who are taking to oxy and heroin and shooting themselves in record numbers, but they're essence of couch potato. Beavis and Butt-Head, as I've said before.
establishment Republicans who are softening on Trump because they think he is more electable than Cruz are smoking something. 
It's not so much because they think he's more electable. They may indeed have given up on that completely already. I believe it's because they think he represents the party better—that he keeps it from breaking altogether in this very rough moment, by offering a bag of identities in which every Republican can recognize his own, and that in the event of some miracle he'd actually make a better president than Cruz in particular and Rubio or Bush as well—and I kind of think they're right. He'd be a horrible president, but not the kind of catastrophe that Bush might be.

I can't get over how much Trump is beginning to remind me of Reagan. Pandits keep saying he's "angry", but are they paying any attention at all? He's not in the least angry, or if he gets pissed off he fires off a Tweet and feels better immediately. He's optimistic, confident, a sunny psychopath next to the morbid sociopaths in the rest of the GOP race. It's his voters that are angry and fearful, not Donald: he's utterly fearless,

His ignorance, like Reagan's, is a part of his charm. He knows what he knows, which is marketing and performance, and if he were president he'd leave the hard part to the pros as Reagan did. The establishment Republicans who are starting to take an interest in backing him understand that; what they fear is another Nixon who insists on running things.
In every recent presidential election American voters have selected the candidate with the most secure pair of hands. They’ve elected the person who would be a stable presence and companion for the next four years.
Oh my stars, will somebody pick me up off the floor? I guess it's not totally false, five out of the last six if you count when we picked Gore over George W (as I certainly do). But then Georgie did get elected in 2004, against John Kerry. In what sense exactly was he our "stable presence and companion"? Or am I misunderstanding what he means by "stable"? Is he alluding to the smell of horseshit which with this column is impregnated?

Update: Relieved to report that I didn't just duplicate the Driftglass response, though both of us have been obliged to mention shit. (Meta-Update: Thanks for the shout-out, Drifty!)

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