Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Deciding On Our Own

David Brooks was so disappointed with the marches last Saturday:

Sometimes social change happens through grass-roots movements — the civil rights movement. But most of the time change happens through political parties: The New Deal, the Great Society, the Reagan Revolution. Change happens when people run for office, amass coalitions of interest groups, engage in the messy practice of politics.

Without the discipline of party politics, social movements devolve into mere feeling, especially in our age of expressive individualism. People march and feel good and think they have accomplished something. They have a social experience with a lot of people and fool themselves into thinking they are members of a coherent and demanding community. Such movements descend to the language of mass therapy.

So, ladies, the only way to get what you want is to turn it over to your local political party so you can go back to whatever it is you do while the menfolk are doing the real work.

It’s also apparent that he doesn’t like it when people talk about things he doesn’t want to talk about.  Reproductive rights?  Health care?  Climate change?  No, no, you have to march for important things like… well, I don’t know, but not about those things.  Those things are not your business.

As Aaron Sorkin once noted, the American people have a funny way of deciding on their own what is and what is not their business.

8 barks and woofs on “Deciding On Our Own

  1. I’ll play devil’s advocate here and say that on the surface of this snippet, Brooks is probably right. Unless leaders emerge from these mass protests and start working the neighborhoods to create local, county, then state organizations with legitimate agendas toward progressive ideas, it is pretty much benign. I hope to see that leadership begin to emerge and organize. Certainly, Bernie would be in favor of a “think local” movement.

    • I agree. I can only speak for N.C. but the community/precinct level of the Democratic party has disappeared entirely – after decades of regular activity and outreach. I suspect that might be true pretty much across the country. The N.C. state D folks talk to each other and the DNC in Washington and totally ignore everyone else. The results of this little private circle are obvious.


  2. Poor David. He’s so old and crotchety. We’re fired up and ready to go. Instructions have gone out to the faithful, the marchers and those supporting them to sign up, get on a ballot, ring doorbells, make phone calls, Tweet and post on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. Just you wait, ‘enry ‘iggens.

  3. Brooks is one of the few conservatives I can actually stand to read and listen to. I do think there were a few valid points in there among the conservative blather.

    “Marching is a seductive substitute for action.” It certainly can be. People need to keep engaged and involved in the issues, and yes, make personal contact with like-minded people through marches, social media, etc. Otherwise, protests like last weekend’s mean about as much as GW Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” banner.

    A lot of the changes Brooks cites that happened “through political parties” actually happened because the parties were harassed into acting by the very grass-roots movements Brooks dismisses. The New Deal happened in response to pressure from socialists. LBJ signed the Voting and Civil Rights Acts because the civil rights movement demanded it (and to keep the country from burning down).

    • Addendum to my last point: I agree with Brooks to an extent. Successful social movements are disciplined, engage with the normal political institutions, and let leaders emerge. I think failure on those counts is a big reason why Occupy failed.

      • Occupy failed, too, because the right wing noise machine set the narrative against them early. They are trying to do it again with the women’s marches, but this time I think we are better prepared.

Comments are closed.