Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When you come to a fork in the road, take the middle

Pola Negri in Mal St. Clair's A Woman of the World (1925). Image via Fritzi, who has her own review.
David Brooks, still incredibly unfired ("Hillary, This Is Why Democrats Are Still Struggling", July 26 2016), may think the candidate is "squirrelly" and "willing to blatantly lie to preserve her career", but that doesn't mean he wouldn't offer her some heartfelt advice:

PHILADELPHIA — Dear Hillary,
Donald Trump has presented you with an amazing opportunity to become a world historical figure! If you crush him in this election, you could create a new Democratic majority and reduce the G.O.P. to an ever-declining rump of ethnic nationalism. On the other hand, if you fail to beat Trump, you will go down as America’s most hapless political loser and be vilified forever for enabling an era of American Putinism.
No pressure! Have fun in Philadelphia!
(There's the 145th career use of "amazing/amazingly".)

No, I don't see any concern trolls. Do you see a concern troll? Really? You mean you think Brooks doesn't sincerely want Clinton to create a new Democratic majority and reduce the GOP to an ever-declining rump of etc.? You cynic you.

On the other hand, there's no reason to suppose Brooks is hoping for an era of American Putinism, which sounds like a bad thing.

What's really going on here is indirectly revealed in the nest graf:

To end up on the right side of this equation...
Just passing over the fact that he evidently doesn't know the difference between an equation and a dilemma, in Brookstopia the "right" side of any dichotomous choice is always splitting the difference: when you come to a fork in the road, take the middle, or sit there patiently waiting until somebody comes to pave it, with a nice to-do listicle.

...you’re probably going to have to resist three natural tendencies, two of them your party’s and one your own.
What is it with that chuckleheaded "probably"? "I can't say for sure how many natural tendencies you'll have to resist, but it looks to be about three." According to TimesSearch, he's used "probably need" or "probably have to" only about 16 times, but I feel as if he's doing it constantly, and it's so flabby.

Natural tendency 1, of course, is the way Democrats focus on people's material needs, for health insurance and retirement security and education and um food and stuff, instead of that all-important spiritual dimension:

This materialistic mind-set means that many Democrats are perpetually surprised by events that involve cultural threats and national identity. Why don’t working-class Kansans vote for us? We offer them more programs. Why did the Brits leave the E.U.? It’s against their economic interest.
Why doesn't Hillary just drop all those dumb programs and focus on making white people feel good about their culture? A-and shouting USA! USA! Who needs a minimum wage when you have a flag? Why can't Democrats be more like Republicans, who have been winning for 35 years, except when they haven't?

Natural tendency no. 2 is the "Sanders tide":

Second, you’re going to have to fight the Sanders tide, which on Day 1 of this convention was astoundingly strong. Many Democrats have grown hostile to capitalism. Sixty percent of Democrats are friendly to socialism, according to a poll by OnMessage Inc. and the American Action Network. Of course, this is general election suicide.
Party Unity My Ever-declining Rump, huh? The best way to avoid general election suicide is always to alienate 60% of the members.

A tacit admission here that both sides aren't doing it, and Brooks wishes they would, and that the Clinton campaign would jump into an intramural war during the convention the way the Republicans have done. Sorry, Charlie. Tides go in and out, you know. You don't fight them, you surf them. If you have any sense. And there's no reason to think Clinton would want to drive natural Democratic voters away in the (completely vain) hope of getting a vote from a suburban segregationist in Topeka, to be honest.

Looks to me as if the secret program is the practical implementation of that middle-of-the-fork: a general-election squeak in which Republicans are not crushed into an ever-declining rump but hold onto both houses of Congress even as the White House remains Democratic, or four more years of stalemate.

Natural tendency no. 3 is the tendency to defend yourself against people who are trying to destroy you:

Third, you’re going to have to answer hatred with love. Your tendency so far in your career has been to answer hostility with distrust, and secretiveness.
I love you, David Brooks. You're a morally stunted, intellectually withered fraud and fool, but I know you're just crying for help here.

And Hillary knows too, and she'll give you all the love you want. I'll bet she'll shower you with love, respect, and praise nonstop, for the next four years, and you'll never stop bitching. I don't know what you're concerned about.

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