Friday, May 4, 2018

Thanks For The Warning

David Brooks seems to think that the Left in America will become just as tribal and authoritarian as the Right did when the dust settles after Trump.

Tribalism is in the air, on the left as well as on the right. It is based on a scarcity mentality, the idea that life is a zero-sum war between us and them. It emphasizes division and conflict, not solidarity and cohesion. It draws out the authoritarian tendencies in any movement. On the right, tribalism brings us the ethnic authoritarianism of Donald Trump. On the left, it seems likely to bring us the economic authoritarianism of a North American version of Hugo Chávez.


In Venezuela we saw how a politician used demagogic sectarian rhetoric to establish an authoritarian regime and then destroy a people. I’m sure many of my left-wing friends believe that that sort of tribal us/them mentality won’t hijack and corrupt their own movement. But as someone who lived through the last 30 years of conservatism, I’m here to tell you, it can. Politicians these days have decided they don’t need the thinkers anymore.

I don’t discount any possibility, but if there’s someone he thinks is going to be the left-wing version of Trump and the knee-jerk non-thinkers, I’d be interested in hearing who that could be.  The only two names that crop up in his column are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who seem to be the favorite targets of the right as exemplars of Commie pinko agitators.  Oooh.

I may be too hopeful, but I think the Democrats are not going to put up a candidate that equals Trump and his minions in the flaming fake-news rhetoric.  By the time we get to the full-tilt election cycle of 2020 — which is probably sometime next week — the country will be wanting a respite from the shouting, the hatred, and the Twitter feeds.  Mr. Brooks should probably consider what Jon Meacham writes about when he looks at how FDR brought the country together through calmness and appealing to, as Lincoln put it, “our better angels.”

One bark on “Thanks For The Warning

  1. There was a time in the 1970s and ’80s, with the rise of the “New Left,” when that was a possibility, but even those doctrinaire authoritarians couldn’t unify the left. The right has gotten more and more tribal since Reagan thought he could control the “Moral Majority.” They and their heirs have always been about division and separation, “us” vs. “them”, “them” being everyone who didn’t toe their line — it’s symptomatic that there are almost no “moderate” Republicans left. The alliance between conservative “Christians” and white supremacists seems to be a natural phenomenon — we’ve seen it before — and just reinforces their innate tribalism. The left, at least in this country, is much to fragmented to Brooks’ predictions to have much substance — even if it did happen, it would take a couple of generations or longer.

    And of course, it’s David Brooks.

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