Part 2—Is David Brooks we the people: Do “we the people” believe all those things, the way Obama said?
In his Inaugural Address, the president listed a whole bunch of things “we the people” were said to believe. But do we really believe all that stuff? And if we do, why has it been so hard, for so many years, to get legislation passed, the kind of legislation we like?
Uh-oh! Just that quickly, one alleged person stuck up his head and said he doesn’t believe all those things. He said he doesn’t believe all the things Obama said!
The person is question is David Brooks. The very next day, in the New York Times, David Brooks spouted like this:
BROOKS (1/22/13): Reinvigorating a mature nation means using government to give people the tools to compete, but then opening up a wide field so they do so raucously and creatively. It means spending more here but deregulating more there. It means facing the fact that we do have to choose between the current benefits to seniors and investments in our future, and that to pretend we don’t face that choice, as Obama did, is effectively to sacrifice the future to the past.Say what? According to Obama's address, we the people “reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.”
When the choice is phrased that way, no one would want to sign up for the other team. But Brooks seemed to say that he doesn’t believe the things implied by that passage.
Is David Brooks part of “we the people?” A few inquiring liberal minds are perhaps starting to ask.
For the record, Brooks was quite complimentary about Obama’s address. In the Times, he said it “surely has to rank among the best [inaugural addresses] of the past half-century.” On the NewsHour, he said the same thing, adding this: “I thought he raised the debate.”
But uh-oh! David Brooks doesn’t believe all the things Obama listed! We the people may believe all those things. But at least one columnist doesn’t!
For us, this was the strangest part of Obama’s address. For ourselves, we tend to agree with the various things the president said and implied in his speech. For example: Until we’re shown otherwise, we tend to believe that we don’t have to choose between our grandmothers and our great nieces as we budget for the future.
Unlike Brooks, we aren’t inclined to believe we need to roll back our retirement programs in order to “invest in our future.” But for whatever reason, tens of millions of people tend to see it the way Brooks does, if not a great deal more so.
They’re part of “we the people” too, unless we liberals and pseudo-liberals have now gone totally tribal.
For us, it was the oddest part of Obama’s address, this repeated claim that “we the people” believe all sorts of things which, rather plainly, we simply don’t believe.
We the liberals believe those things. We the people don't.
Our question today: Why is that? Why is it that so many people do not believe the things Obama said and implied?
Make no mistake: We the people do not hold the various beliefs Obama attributed to us. For one highly consequential example, consider what Obama said we the people believe about climate change:
OBAMA (1/21/13): We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.Do we the people “know that the failure to respond to the threat of climate change would betray our children and future generations?” Actually, no—we do not.
A few days before Obama’s address, CNN released a new survey about climate change. Below, you see the choices we the people were given—and you can see what we said:
QUESTION FROM CNN: Which of the following statements comes closest to your view of global warming?Uh-oh! Obama got 51.1 percent of the vote—and 49 percent of we the people believe that climate change is mostly caused by emissions. In October 2007, that figure stood at 56 percent.
Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by emissions from cars and industrial facilities such as power plants and factories.
Global warming is a proven fact and is mostly caused by natural changes that have nothing to do with emissions from cars and industrial facilities.
Global warming is a theory that has not yet been proven.
ANSWERS FROM WE THE PEOPLE:
A proven fact, mostly caused by emissions: 49 percent
A proven fact, mostly caused by natural changes: 24 percent
An unproven theory: 23 percent
Unsure: 3 percent
"Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science?" In this recent survey, that “some” was half the country!
It sounded good when we told ourselves that “we the people” believe all those things—the things that we the liberals believe. But making this claim doesn’t make it true, and as Obama starts his second term, he’s stuck with a bad situation:
In the past forty years, we the liberals have done a very poor job persuading others of our beliefs. Even when our beliefs have been blindingly obvious, we haven’t been able to get them the people to agree.
(If we lower tax rates, we get extra revenue! The Social Security trust fund is just an accounting fiction! Susan Rice said that Benghazi wasn't a terrorist attack!)
Endless nonsense has been spewed through the land. We the liberals have shown little skill at persuading we the people not to believe it.
Why have we the liberals failed? Tomorrow, we’ll pose one idea.
Tomorrow: Dishes served cold
Friday: Them the authoritarians