David Brooks writes a very strange novel!


The headlong descent continues: Is it just us? Or is David Brooks’ new column one of the strangest ever?

The opinion piece is written in the form of a novel—a novel about what unnamed Washington Democrats are supposedly telling themselves.

There are a million novels in the capital city. Brooks has written the one in which the Democrats decide it's time to destroy the other party.

Brooks starts by saying that, in his opinion, Washington pols should spend the next four years learning to be constructive again. This is what he imagines:
BROOKS (1/18/13): As you know, I am an earnest, good-government type, so the strategy I’d prefer might be called Learning to Crawl. It would be based on the notion that you have to learn to crawl before you can run. So over the next four years, legislators should work on a series of realistic, incremental laws that would rebuild the habits of compromise, competence and trust.

We could do some education reform, expand visa laws to admit more high-skill workers, encourage responsible drilling for natural gas, maybe establish an infrastructure bank. Political leaders would erode partisan orthodoxies and get back into the habit of passing laws together. Then, down the road, their successors could do the big things.
In his next paragraph, Brooks insists that he isn’t an idiot. If so, what makes him think the congressional GOP is ready to compromise on “a series of realistic, incremental laws?”

This is a party whose highest ranking, least crazy legislator won’t even attend state dinners because they're held at the White House. Why should we believe the nirvana Brooks envisions could possibly come to pass?

Brooks forgets to explain.

Having made his global recommendation, Brooks starts imagining what the Democrats are planning to do instead. In Brooks’ novel, the Democrats are telling themselves that they should move in for the kill:

BROOKS (continuing directly): I may be earnest, but I’m not an idiot. I know there is little chance that today’s partisan players are going to adopt this kind of incremental goo-goo approach. It’s more likely that today’s majority party is going to adopt a different strategy, which you might call Kill the Wounded. It’s more likely that today’s Democrats are going to tell themselves something like this:

“We live at a unique moment. Our opponents, the Republicans, are divided, confused and bleeding. This is not the time to allow them to rebuild their reputation with a series of modest accomplishments. This is the time to kick them when they are down, to win back the House and end the current version of the Republican Party.

“First, we change the narrative. The president ran in 2008 against Washington dysfunction, casting blame on both parties. Over the years, he has migrated to a different narrative: The Republicans are crazy. Washington could be working fine, but the Republicans are crazy.

“At every public appearance, the president should double-down on that theme. The Democratic base already believes it. The media is sympathetic. Independents could be persuaded.”
Here’s the problem: In many ways, modern congressional Republicans do in fact seem to be crazy. Failing to acknowledge this point, Brooks continues to imagine:

He pictures the Democrats deciding to pursue gun control and comprehensive immigration reform—but only as a way to drive wedges between Republican factions. He then imagines Democrats trying to stage “a series of confrontations with Republicans over things like the debt ceiling”—making Republicans “look like wackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.”

Brooks never explains why we shouldn’t see the current GOP as a bunch of “wackos willing to endanger the entire global economy.” Instead, he acts like it would take a devious act to stop them from using the debt limit in the ways they've repeatedly threatened.

Anyone can write a novel. Anyone can mind-read the motives of a bunch of unnamed people.

That said, this novel comes from Crazy Land, and it comes with no footnotes or explanations. As Dana Milbank wrote this week, The Crazy is spreading real fast.


  1. Yup, Brooks is a Colossus of lunacy.

    Never loonier though, than when he writes:

    "The media is sympathetic" to portraying the GOP as crazy.

    That's just pure unadulterated horseshit.

    We have not emerged from the famous "opinions differ on shape the of Earth" paradigm, which continues to be deployed reflexively by both Brooks and the rest of his "the media."

    Of course that's hardly shocking when you consider media ownership.

  2. Quaker in a BasementJanuary 18, 2013 at 4:24 PM

    Brooks seems to have forgotten all about a certain Senate minority leader who candidly admitted that his caucus' number one political priority was to make Mr. Obama a one-term president. This is the very same leading Republican pol who masterminded his party's Obstruct Everything legislative strategy.

    It's always projection.

  3. When did it become the federal government's job to import labor to drive down wages?

    1. When the owner class decided it was a great way to make more money. I work in technology, and I can tell you there is no shortage of workers. I am highly skilled but have had trouble obtaining a job on several occasions. For many positions Americans are simply token interviews to fulfill government requirements before the company can hire an H1B. Everyone in the industry knows this. With an H1B you get a totally subservient worker who will work for less, never complain, and will do crazy amounts of overtime for free.

  4. It's a tautology that one believes what he believes. If you're a Dem and you think the current federal spending level is OK, then the Reps seem crazy for threatening not to raise the debt limit, thus being willing to endanger the entire global economy.

    OTOH if you're a Rep, you may well believe that the ongoing trillion dollar deficits and unbridled federal spending endanger the entire global economy. So, from that POV using the debt limit as a wedge to moderate spending is an effort to protect the US and global economies.

    I don't know which view is correct. However, neither side is crazy. They're each pursuing policies that are sensible and prudent, according to their economic views.

    1. Of course, there's no evidence to support the view of the economy & deficit you attribute to the GOP...

    2. This analysis lays out the case for the Republican POV. It asserts that the US situation is similar to Greece, Argentina, Italy, Ireland, Spain, or Portugal.

  5. Brooks is not crazy. He is a propogandist of the first rank. The Republicans are losing in the court of public opinion on these issues. Brooks is floating a new meme to try to stop the bleeding. He does this all the time. It's common sense that gun control and immigration will be the next big issues tackled - everyone knows that. So Brooks works an argument that makes tackling those issues nothing more than partisan politics - something the public hates. This is all about controlling perception of what is going on.

  6. Does anyone ever get fired anymore or is everything subjective so let's all rock and roll?

    I used to read the Times thoroughly, but now I read only Krugman.

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