Brooks goes for the jugular

I’m not a huge fan of New York Times columnist David Brooks, but in college he honed his writing skills producing satire, and it shows in his latest column (click on screenshot below). It’s about the one-day government shutdown—not the finest hour for either party, but certainly not a shining moment for us Democrats:

Brooks’s analysis of the Democrats’ “five-part plan” to screw up the shutdown negotiations is at once sad, true, and funny. I’ll leave you to enjoy it, but here’s a snippet:

Second, the Democrats focused all their energies on those all-important Michel Foucault swing voters. When Democrats get all excited, they go into a hypnotic trance and think the entire country is the Middlebury College faculty lounge. The American story is a story of systemic oppression. Since the cultural discourse that privileges white hegemony is the world’s single most important problem, of course it’s worth shutting down the entire government to take a stand on DACA.

It’s not that people don’t like DACA. They do. It’s that they just don’t recognize themselves in a party that thinks it’s worth closing the government, destabilizing the economy and straining the military for it.

Third, Democrats devised a brilliant Tao Te Ching messaging strategy. The ancient Chinese master informs us, “Being and not being create each other. … Before and after follow each other.” In this way, he teaches the paradoxical infinity of ultimate truth.

The Democrats captured this same paradoxical profundity with their superb messaging over the weekend: We bravely shut down the government to save the Dreamers even though Donald Trump is responsible for shutting down the government.

The ancient Chinese master bows in respect.


  1. Posted January 23, 2018 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    One of the most idiotic political moves ever. If they keep this up, we can look forward to seven more years of Trump and his Republican amen chorus.

    • somer
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 2:08 am | Permalink


    • nicky
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

      I fear you are right there.

    • tomh
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      More likely we can look forward to this being completely forgotten by the mid-term elections. There’s a crisis a day in current American politics, this will hardly be a blip on the radar.

  2. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    Although my actual agreements with them are fairly rare, David Brooks and George Will have long been two of my very favorite conservative columnists.
    (Will has left the Republican party in objection to the nomination of D. Trump for Prez.)

  3. Posted January 23, 2018 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

    I have been saying this along; the Democrats are fully capable of screwing up so badly, that they hand the mid-term elections to the party with the least popular and most despised President in history.

  4. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    David Brooks has several problems, least of which is that he no longer has a party. He was a Bush and Reagan baby but lost out to the Trump invasion that has high jacked his old party. He was all in during Iraq until he saw what a disaster it became and then he was lost. Since then he has been hanging around PBS and mostly wishing for the good old days. His writing is good but his position and politics are generally wrong. The upper class of the old republican just can’t bend over quite far enough to join the losers who took their party. Once the tea party hit them in the face they have become sad. But, no matter how bad it gets, he will never change over to the real party, you know, the one still interested in the people, so his future is not so good.

  5. Posted January 23, 2018 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I dissent a bit; I agree with Paul Krugman’s take:

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

      Sure but Krugman’s statement is more about defending the Dems giving up on the government shutdown, rather than their explanation for tying DACA support to the shutdown.

      While Krugman says “failing to honor that agreement will be bad for Rs”, Dems need to broadcast that message much more loudly or risk the same thing happening in 3 weeks when Mitch McConnell finds an excuse not to honor the agreement. I suspect Trump may make it impossible to hold the agreement and Mitch knows that’s what is going to happen.

      • KD33
        Posted January 23, 2018 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

        I think the Dems themselves messaged as loud as they could. The issue as I see it is media coverage that build in commentary ala articles like Brooks – and worse ones by those on the left – that eat their own instead of *adding* to the message you suggest.

        • Posted January 23, 2018 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

          Why don’t Dems call an all-hand-on-deck press conference to make a strongly worded, coherent message to the American people? They could defuse virtually all possible ploys Trump and Republicans might try to play beforehand.

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      Except that Krugman is wrong. The six year extension of CHIP funding was already agreed on. It is in the House bill. All the Dems got for the shut down was a promise to *talk* about immigration and DACA (big deal) and they handed the Republicans a big club in exchange.

      • KD33
        Posted January 23, 2018 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        I think Krugman was right, for the simple reason that I’ve not heard any argument for what a different path would have yielded that would be better. Extending the filibuster would have hurt the Dems more than Repubs. And the club is now over the Repubs, not the Dems.

  6. Merilee
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 3:59 pm | Permalink


  7. Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Brook’s comments about Dems messaging is spot on. They often act like everyone already agrees with their positions and that repeating mantras is all that is necessary. Clinton was a “master” at this.

    Immigration is a good example of this. Reps have easy stories to tell on this subject such as “they are coming for your jobs” and “they are coming to commit crimes and terrorism”. These things are very easy for the uninformed to believe especially if they are the least bit xenophobic. Dems have to counter these stories with one of their own but they don’t.

    • flandestiny
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      Unfortunately democrats have a problem will telling the truth and writing actual policy. Want to share Any type of stories dems should have used.

      • Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

        I’m not touching that as you’ve already telegraphed your position on it. Next you are going to be telling me about Fake News.

        • flandestiny
          Posted January 25, 2018 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          Apologies- sarcasm. I hear this all the time that democrats need to have better ‘stories’, with no suggestions given. Democrats, generally, are willing to discuss policy, write policy, and tell the truth. For pushing 20 years, republicans have vacated (most) intellectual positions.

  8. Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    I long ago came to the opinion that David Brooks is always wrong. This has not changed my mind.

    • Merilee
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      I, on the other hand, find that David Brooks is surprisingly right about a lot of things, especially for a Republican.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if he is always wrong but he is and always was, as Andrew Bacevich, likes to say, from the Church of American Redeemer. He was full on Iraq, one of the neoconservative boys who always believed America’s calling was to rehabilitate such places. It did not work out quite so well but we must push on and fill our position in the world order. Never mind the cost, the loss of life or any of that. Brooks could never believe he could be wrong. His old republican party has been wrong enough to turn it all over to the likes of Trump who’s thinking on a world stage is the opposite direction from his.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      Screw David Brooks. He’s always been all wet, but it used to be he flogged such a namby-pamby, middle-of-the-road brand of conservatism — and he seemed like such a nebbish in person — that I had kind of a soft spot for him. Then he came down on the wrong side in l’affaire Charlie Hebdo, and he’s been dead to me ever since. He’s a never-Trumper, I’ll give him that. But funny, he ain’t.

      Matt Tiabbi has done some great take-downs of Brooks’s oeuvre over the years, see here and here and here.

  9. another fred
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    The Democrats need to dig into support for DACA a bit.

    Americans overwhelmingly do not want to send back young people who were raised here and acculturated as Americans. That is because of a sense of fairness and mercy. That does not mean that they want the level of immigration, and chain migration, that has existed for the last 50 years to continue unabated.

    To try to use the issue of the “dreamers” as a wedge against “the will of the people” is an error. This kind of error has elected Donald Trump. Continuing it may re-elect him.

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Dems should not have attached DACA to funding the government since Trump and the Republicans (and 80% of regular folk) have said they are already for it. While there is some reason to believe they are lying about their DACA support (especially Trump) but if they go against it, that can easily be used against them.

      • darrelle
        Posted January 24, 2018 at 8:00 am | Permalink

        I am not sure of any of this to argue any particular side in this discussion, but about this . . .

        “While there is some reason to believe they are lying about their DACA support (especially Trump) but if they go against it, that can easily be used against them.”

        . . . that doesn’t seem likely to me. For most of the last 20 years or so the Republicans have lied and gone back on their word regularly and gotten away with it. Almost always without the Democratic Party being able to gain any advantage or leverage over them by attempting to use it against them. And without suffering any significant losses among voters.

        People keep saying that 2018 the Republicans will lose a significant number of votes. That enough people have finally had enough. I am not so sanguine about it. Sure, a few recent votes like those in Virginia could be an indication that a change is a comin. But I’ll believe it when it is actually a done deal.

        But I don’t put the blame for this travesty on the Democratic Party. Sure, I wish they would do better, much better. And I’m more than fine with criticism of the Democratic Party. But I put the blame where it squarely belongs. On the Republican Party. I think we are in the midst of a multifaceted crisis and one of the facets is a crisis of ethics. Of both politicians and the general population. A significant number of the people who support the Trumps, Ryans, McConnells, etc. of the country, whether as sycophants or users for their own ends, aren’t just wrong, their ethics suck.

        • Posted January 24, 2018 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          I agree with everything you say in this comment. My comments are more about Dems doing better. We have to remind them of their mistakes. Very often during the 2016 I wanted to take Hillary aside and tell her what mistakes she was making. Unfortunately, I never got the chance. 😉

          • darrelle
            Posted January 25, 2018 at 7:58 am | Permalink

            She didn’t take any of my calls either.

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      I have no data in support, but it is my contention that the huge support for DACA is soft, at best. It’s an emotional issue but one which doesn’t affect many people personally.

      Ask those same people if they’d support DACA if it meant their tax refunds would be delayed by months and the support would mostly evaporate.

      • tomh
        Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        So would their support for just about anything else.

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Trump took two kids hostage in this kerfuffle — CHIPS and DACA — and the Dems managed to secure the release of one, and the other’s still alive while Trump kicks the can down the street for a couple more weeks with another “continuing resolution.”

    I’m hoping this hostage situation resolves itself like the last reel of Dog Day Afternoon — with Trump demanding a helicopter and jet to take him to Algeria, but ending up in handcuffs.

    “Attica! Attica! Attica!”

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      Nice one. Did you catch Schumer,s move right after the vote was over. He had the gal from Missouri get up and ask for a vote that Mitch had to object to. Then he had two more members get up and ask for things that Mitch had to again, object to. All of these members will be able to use these pieces for their own re-election campaigns later.

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Your first sentence is interesting. I’ve been hearing everyone say the Dems were holding the government hostage, but it seems to me (an admitted political nincompoop) that it takes two to tango.

  11. Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    It is long past time for a mercy killing of the Democratic party. They couldn’t beat a misogynist, racist, ignoramus even though they ran the candidate who had the correct genitalia (and only acceptable ones these days). Don’t forget, it isn’t just POTUS; the Republicans have been cleaning the Dems clocks at almost every level in national and state elections (26 states are completely controlled by Republicans while only 7 are in control of the Democrats)

    Our country’s future depends on the Democratic party dying and another to replace it. But…that, of course, is not going to happen. So we’re stuck with the Republicans and a noisy, ineffectual pipsqueak of a party biting at their heels. It will be a long slow slide into the depths.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      I am not sure where you get all you information but it is off a bit. You need to update yourself and pay attention to all the state elections that have taken place since a year ago. The Democrats have been cleaning the republican’s clock. And also, if you have not noticed the Females have been demonstrating and marching and signing up to run for office and voting. Also, the republicans in Congress are bailing – many of them will not be running this next election because they know they are toast. Keep Watching….

      • Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

        I blame the loss on Clinton more than I do the Dems. She was just a tone-deaf candidate. The Dems could have done more but they would have had hard time choosing a different candidate even if they knew that she’d lose. The only serious alternative to Clinton wasn’t even a Dem.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

          If you just listen to yourself I think you will find you make no sense. The idea that people would do nothing or vote from Trump because Clinton just isn’t what we like a lot is stupid. Nobody said she was the best candidate in the world but my g*d. You do not drive over a cliff because you are a little upset with your candidate. Especially one who actually knows something verses another who knows nothing. The Democrats and many Independents did not show up. This next time around, starting in 2018, they are going to show up. Trump is a one term or less office holder and I think you could bet on that.

          • Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

            I listened to myself and I still sound smart. 😉

            I disagree with your second sentence. The result of Clinton being an unconvincing candidate results in exactly those things you state. Some will stay home because they lack motivation even though they would vote for Clinton if they could do so without getting off their butts. Some thought Clinton would win easily and didn’t think their vote was necessary. And, of course, there are those that vote for Trump because they truly like what he stands for.

            If you are simply stating that, even though Clinton was a less-than-perfect candidate, she was still far more desirable than Trump, then I wholeheartedly agree. That doesn’t invalidate my point. If she had been a better candidate she would have won. (I know that last sentence sounds like a tautology but I think you know what I mean.)

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

              And of course there were all those Russian interventions with lots of help from the incompetent Facebook and Twitter. And then there was that 3 million more total votes for Clinton but again. All past history and not relevant to 2018. Best I can tell ya is just wait a few months.

              • Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                I hope you are right. But we learned in the last election that we can’t get complacent. Turnout is hugely important in a midterm election. Trump’s vile nature is a great motivator — I hope.

      • Posted January 23, 2018 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        Well I certainly hope the Dems can reverse what is a decades long trend, but Randall, I think you may be whistling past the graveyard.

        Review this;

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

          Again, old news.

          • Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

            “Old News”?

            Great Jumping Jesus, Randall. Didn’t you see the data for 2017 at that link?

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted January 23, 2018 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

              Please you said in this thread that the Demos were dead and some kind of new party or direction is needed. I do not buy it. The gerrymandering that helps get you your data is soon going away or have you not heard. I suspect many of you here who follow this web come out every 4 years and think that is enough to keep you up to date on politics. It is after all, a stinking business. But I say just wait a few more months, at least pay attention to the results at the mid term elections – The democrats are not yet dead.

              • Posted January 23, 2018 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

                No they aren’t yet dead and they may still rebound. I’m not betting on it.

  12. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    The guy who shut down this government was the orange haired idiot who promised for many months that he was going to build this big fabulous wall and Mexico was going to pay for it. Funny how now all he wants is our money to build his wall?

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      I grok your anger at the Orange One. I share it. But he is not solely responsible. His party is too. As for the Democrats, this miscalculation is just part of their over-arching long term strategy to lose races at every opportunity.

  13. ploubere
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    I disagree. The dems have been losing because they don’t typically take stances such as this, which infuriates and discourages their base. Trump had said he would support talks on DACA, but then Miller convinced him to oppose any immigration talks. So it’s republicans who reneged on the agreement, not the dems. And there were a number of repubs who voted against the budget proposal on Friday. So pinning all the blame on the dems is an incorrect take on the situation, and won’t necessarily reflect badly on them, so long as they speak up about what’s really happening.

    • Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      In the end it doesn’t matter whose assessment is technically more accurate; in politics optics are all that matters. How things look is what wins elections, not how things actually are.

      Brooks is correct in his assessment that there will be damage to the Dems over this, whether you agree with him on how much of that damage was self-inflicted or not. Make no mistake they will be hit by it…will it make a difference in any election is for the future to answer.

      • Historian
        Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

        Some may prefer David Brooks of the New York Times. I prefer David Leonhardt of the same paper. He argues that the shutdown will not effect the Democrats at all politically, even if one makes the dubious assumption that Democrats more than Republicans will be hurt by it. Despite the hysterics of all too many, this shutdown will be remembered as much as the now forgotten discussion of Oprah running for president. The real question is what the Democrats will do when the next shutdown showdown takes place in a few weeks. Tied to this is whether the Democrats can get passed a DACA bill considering Trump and the right-wing House of Representatives. The weeks ahead are uncertain, but this three day shutdown is of no consequence in the political sense.

        • Merilee
          Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          I agree that David Leonhardt is really good.

        • Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, I think you’re probably right. It isn’t because the American voters are keen to the distinctions about the causes of the shutdown made by partisans. It’s because something else, shiny and new, will come along and distract us.

        • Posted January 23, 2018 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          I so hope everyone has forgotten about Oprah running for president, especially Oprah herself.

  14. KD33
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I find the NYT analyses (not just Brooks’ article) to be facile and kind of dumb. The alternatives were 1) don’t put up any fight, and hope (?) DACA could be taken care of later, or (2), keep the filibuster going and hope the Repubs would cave in order to reopen the govt. I don’t see how either would be better for anyone (Dreamers, Dems, or Repubs) than what happened, since continuing the filibuster *would* have shifted blame to the Dems more and more. It may or may not happen, but the Repubs are now in position that they have to consider the DACA situation else blame will be squarely on them. Also, consider that Schumer had to deal with Trump shifting his position in the 11th hour and abandoning his “negotiator” status. So, I have no problem with what Schumer et al did. Rather, I’m more concerned that this sort of backlash is what will hurt the Dems, less than the actual actions of the party. Witness 2016.

    • KD33
      Posted January 23, 2018 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

      Just saw Krugman’s take – I agree with him.

  15. eric
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    The Dems are IMO highly unlikely to get any meaningful DACA vote out of this. Just look at your calendar – Feb 8 is a Thursday. My opinion is that this is intentional: that one or both parties have no intention of compromising on a deal so they’ve put the due date on a Thursday so that they can shut down the government on the Friday and have the weekend to work the real deal.

  16. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

    “Brooks Nicks Capillary,” is more like it.

  17. Kevin Voges
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    I like this take on David Brooks’s article:

    Spoiler alert – it’s not very complementary … 🙂

    • Kevin Voges
      Posted January 24, 2018 at 1:42 am | Permalink

      “complimentary” – I blame auto correct!

  18. josh
    Posted January 24, 2018 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Brooks is an odious tool. The idea that DACA is a “Michel Foucalt swing voter” issue is idiotic. Defending kids and people who never did anything wrong from having their lives destroyed is exactly the kind of principled stand the Democrats should be known for. It’s entirely different from silly arguments about micro-aggressions and “ways of knowing” from “lived experience” that regularly gets lambasted around here.

    I don’t know politically what the fallout from this will be, probably not much is my guess. But the Democrats should be branding themselves as (and actually acting like) the party that stands up for whats right on important issues while (politely) side-lining the contentious culture war stuff that doesn’t actually matter outside of Regressive Left rage blogging.

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