Friday, March 2, 2018

David Brooks wonders if he's wrong. Just kidding.

Clara Bow in William Wellman's Wings, 1927, via Blueiskewl.

Somewhat Shorter David Brooks, "How Progressives Win the Culture War", March 2 2018:
It's possible that I may have been wrong about guns. Well, of course not wrong exactly, I'm David F. Brooks, but right in a more complex and interesting way than I predicted, when I was reminding the supporters of moderate gun restrictions that they may have the majority of the population on their side but not the majority of state legislatures, and should therefore focus on identifying Republicans who might agree with you if you could just devote more time to making them feel better about themselves, rather than calling in radical tribalist organizations like Planned Parenthood and calling Senator Rubio a mass murderer, which only gets them upset.
I was right to say that this approach would get no legislation passed, but did not realize that it could succeed at a more profound level, by delegitimizing the opponents of progress on gun rights and, indeed, not just gun rights,  and making them unacceptable in polite society, which might lead not just to a ban on assault rifles but vast social changes.
This is happening because of equal and opposite misbehavior on both sides, as you'd expect, because that's just how both sides are. On the conservative side, those who have attached themselves to the figure of Donald Trump, a known racist, sexual monster, and all-round bad person, and his media advocates such as Dinesh D'Souza, Sean Hannity, and Franklin Graham, have ostracized themselves from all normal society. On the other side, progressives, suppressing all dissent with their ruthless practices of thought control, have caused speakers to be disinvited from elite campuses.
And destroyed many a promising academic career too, I'm told, though I can't offer you any specifics on that. But I do hear from Andrew Sullivan that workplaces are just like campuses now, and people who merely assert that women are unequal to men (by God-given biological capacity) or gay people are unequal to straight people (by God-given rights) or white people are unequal to Asians I mean black people are unequal to white people (by God-given test scores) are treated as pariahs everywhere, as if the whole country were turning into a student lounge at Wesleyan. In the latest outrage of this type, some corporations have decided to stop offering special discounts to members of the National Rifle Association, suggesting that such people are so subhuman they don't even deserve a discount on their car rental. [Here I was thinking the right to a car rental discount is protected by the Constitution—Ed.
In this way, not only are conservatives losing the culture war with their self-delegitimization, but progressives are winning it as well, at virtually the same time. This double whammy is so unfair! And dangerous: I have to warn my progressive friends, if you don't stop this arrogant and illiberal winning, and making conservatives feel like losers, they aren't going to put up with it, and my dire predictions will turn out to be right after all. You'll be sorry.
Lately Brooks is making me imagine the voice of a Douglas Democrat pandit sensing defeat in the late 1850s, warning the incoming Republicans that if they insist on insulting those poor despised cotton plantation owners there could be real trouble:
I wonder if I’m wrong on the subject of guns. I started this latest round of the debate with the presumption that supporters of moderate gun restrictions are popularly strong but legislatively weak. Since Sandy Hook in 2012, more than two dozen states have passed gun laws and almost all of those laws have LOOSENED gun restrictions.
I wonder if I'm wrong on the subject of slavery. I started this round of the debate with the presumption that the supporters of moderate restrictions on extending slavery into the western parts of the country were popularly strong but legislatively weak. Since the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, most Southern state legislatures have passed legislation on their relationship with the federal government and virtually all of them ENCOURAGE secession, what's up with that?
Etc., I haven't got the heart to keep it up, but just to say sometimes you just have to put your foot down and win, even if the cost is beyond heavy. No slavery in Oregon! Sorry!

Also, on the subject of cultural change, that it isn't a war being waged by somebody top down (like the Cultural Commisariat in its brutal censorship of Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos being forced to communicate by television, books, and Twitter instead of their preferred method of lecturing to a live audience) but a shift in the way people understand things welling out from some not necessarily privileged inside, as visibly happened with the same-sex marriage issue as we were watching. Conservatives always lose it, for good or ill, because all they can do is wish it wouldn't happen.
Conservatives have zero cultural power, but they have immense political power. Even today, voters trust Republicans on the gun issue more than Democrats. If you exile 40 percent of the country from respectable society they will mount a political backlash that will make Donald Trump look like Adlai Stevenson.
That "voters trust" line is from the Morning Consult/Politico poll (pretty sure Brooks got the number from Charles C.W. "Cruel World" Cooke at National Review) that found 26% of the population opposing stricter gun laws (to 68% for); 6% (to 88%) opposing universal background checks on gun sales, 10% (to 82%) opposing gun sales to customers on federal no-fly or watch lists; 16% (to 78%) opposing a national database with records of every sale; and 25% (to 68%) opposed to a ban on assault-style weapons.

The preference for Republicans (41% to 37% for Democrats, right on the margin of plus or minus 2%, with 22% unable to choose) is pretty clearly associated with not knowing what the Republican policy on gun control is (it's predominantly a matter of party affiliation, but also associated with people without college education, as well as people of middle income, $50K to $100K, since the poor and the wealthy alike have a clearer idea of what Republicans are). Nevertheless it's not 40% of the population that agrees with the NRA position on gun control, but basically under 25%. And guns just aren't anywhere near the top issues anybody's voting on, either. I doubt they can muster a political backlash that looks like Ross Perot. 

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