“O Tempora, O Mores,” Laments David Brooks

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Observing that the women’s marches focused on “reproductive rights, equal pay, affordable health care, action on climate change,” David Brooks concedes that “these are all important matters, and they tend to be voting issues for many upper-middle-class voters in university towns and coastal cities.” Having made that concession, he goes on to argue,

All the big things that were once taken for granted are now under assault: globalization, capitalism, adherence to the Constitution, the American-led global order. If you’re not engaging these issues first, you’re not going to be in the main arena of national life.

He faults the marchers for indulging in “identify politics”—for wearing pussy hats when they “could have offered a red, white and blue alternative patriotism, a modern, forward-looking patriotism based on pluralism, dynamism, growth, racial and gender equality and global engagement.”

Brooks concludes,

If the anti-Trump forces are to have a chance, they have to offer a better nationalism, with diversity cohering around a central mission, building a nation that balances the dynamism of capitalism with biblical morality.

Well, you have to be selective about that “biblical morality”:

And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. [Numbers 31:9]

Only the women and the children and the animals and all that is in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourself; and you shall use the spoil of your enemies which the LORD your God has given you. [Deuteronomy 20:14]

Instead, I think Brooks had in mind something like Rabbi Jesus’s teaching that where much is given, much is required. Aardvark would go along with that, though he would settle for Confucian morality, or even just plain old morality, to temper global capitalism.

The times are badly out of joint. The zeitgeist is gravely ill. David Brooks has accurately diagnosed the form of cancer from which it suffers. The nature of the problem, I think, is how to return to some sense that the elites of this world have a moral duty to the rest of us, and, concomitantly, how to make them feel shame when they disregard that duty.

The Oval Office Effect, Vindictive Tweets, and No Freakin’ Idea*

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Once again this morning, Morning BLO and his merry band plead with the Donald to start acting like a grownup and try to marshal evidence that his long awaited maturity from childhood into adolescence might at least be taking place.

Meanwhile, Tom Friedman reports that he has pretty much given up on any hopes for mature and decent behavior—and marshals overwhelming evidence of “immaturity, a lack of respect for the office he’s about to hold, a person easily distracted by shiny objects, and a lack of basic decency.” He illustrates his point with multiple retweets.

Will Trump take a stroll down the road to Damascus, or will he be be the same person that 48.2 percent of us wisely voted against and 46.1 percent of us unwisely voted to elect? The correct answer comes, of course, from Joe Biden: “We have no freakin’ idea what he’s gonna do.”

*Thanks to Vasari for calling the image to my attention. It’s subject to copyright, but this is fair use.

“A Voice for the Voiceless,” or, the Putative Genius of Donald J. Trump

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As is his wont, early this morning, over coffee and toast, Aardvark took in Morning BLOviator and his merry band. Inter alia, a guest appearance by Michael Lewis, author of a new book entitled The Undoing Project, led to an abstract schmooze over the relative merits of reason and data versus gut instinct in making decisions—and to a more specific discussion about whether The Donald’s performance in the recent election exemplified a kind of gut instinct genius in connecting with the masses.

Well, there is one thing that we now know about The Donald’s peeps, and that is that they are really, really pissed. Among those of us who can detect the difference between a charlatan and a tribune of the people—in other words, among elite snobs—there is still some degree of puzzlement about why they are really, really pissed. (For one of many insightful articles, check out this interview with Prof. Kathy Cramer.)

But royally pissed they are. And gullible, too.

My father—a good and decent man whose memory I revere, but a man of his time and place—was mightily pissed when the Supreme Court decided Brown v. Board of Education back in 1954. In the evening, he would sit at the dinner table in his work stained clothes and proclaim in a loud voice that all nine members of the Court were getting generous monthly checks from Moscow.

Lots of people were saying that. And some of them were very reliable, in his opinion.

Now, in 1954 my father didn’t get his “facts” about the monthy Soviet cash subsidy to the Court from Twitter or Facebook, because those means of communication did not exist. Nor, interestingly enough, did he get them from George Wallace, as far as I can tell. George make a big deal about the fact that “Communist sympathizers” were among those supporting the civil rights movement. That was actually true. This, Donald, is an example of advocacy: taking actual facts, and drawing tendentious conclusions from them. Obnoxious as it was, Wallace’s claim was not a fabrication concocted from whole cloth.

The Donald’s alleged genius does not, in my view, lie in gut instinct as such. It lies in a complete lack of boundaries—even the boundaries that George Wallace observed—and an ability to put together a coalition of the royally pissed and the deeply gullible. Bush and Rubio and the rest of that crew could have done the same thing, had they so chosen. What held them back was a shred of decency.

You could call a really successful embezzler a genius at accounting, but that would be a very idiosyncratic way of viewing the situation.

Satan is said to be the Father of Lies. This is his son, in whom he is well pleased.