In his new column, David Brooks tells Clinton, Kasich, Rubio, and Jeb that the attitudes they display during their campaign are all wrong:
You all find yourselves running against a whirlwind. Hillary, for you the whirlwind is Bernie Sanders. For the rest of you it’s Donald Trump.
Either way, you’re running against a candidate who generates passionate intensity. At some level those candidates’ followers must know that there’s something wildly impractical about the candidacy they are fervently supporting. Trump has no actual policies and Sanders has little chance of getting his passed.
So first we have (once again) the false equivalency of Trump and Sanders. Have they harnessed people’s anger? Yes, but Trump has harnessed the anger of whites who think their country is under attack by Muslims, Mexicans, and the Chinese. Trump harnesses the anger of white supremacist groups. Trump harnesses the anger of whites who would beat up a black protester. Sanders, on the other hand, has harnessed the frustration of Americans from all walks of life who feel empathy towards one another because they feel they are all victims of a political and economic system angled against them. Trump supporters have that frustration, too, but that’s far more because they believe the President is a communist Muslim, not because they think the boys on Wall Street are a bit shady. If they did, why would they support a billionaire who brags about how he’s manipulated the political system through his donations?
But Brooks is right in that Sanders has little chance of getting his policies passed through congress, but that’s not because they’re so wildly impractical they could never be implemented; it’s because a Republican-controlled congress has stifled so much of what Obama, nowhere near as leftist as Sanders, has tried to get through. And if that’s the case, what makes Brooks think Clinton, who increasingly has been running her campaign as though it would be a third Obama term, and whom Republicans hate with every fiber of their bodies, could get any of her proposals through a Republican-controlled congress, no matter how pragmatic?
Many Americans feel like they are the victims of a slow-moving natural disaster. Sanders and Trump try to put the blame for this disaster on discrete groups of people — Wall Street or immigrants. But in reality it’s a natural disaster caused by structural forces — globalization, technological change, the dissolution of the family, racism.
What election is Brooks watching where he can be so confident in this conclusion that he’d submit it for publication in The New York Times? Sanders has talked at length about criminal justice reform, which he believes currently contributes to the climate of racism considering the numbers of blacks who are incarcerated. And Trump, who of course blames immigrants, also blames globalization in his criticism (however surface level) of many of our trade deals. And Brooks’s analogy—that Americans feel like they’re the victim of a natural disaster—is asinine. Natural disasters are caused by forces beyond our control. The fallout from policies we create are not. No one who thinks there are major problems in the country think they fell out of the sky; they believe they were purposefully executed.
The brute fact is you can’t beat passion with pragmatism. The human heart is not built that way. You can’t beat angry passion with bloodless calculation. If you’re going to have any chance against these hotheads, you have to set a rival and stronger emotional tone. I’d ask you to think of the ancient ideal of comradeship.
Er, yeah. Why is it you think Kasich has pretty much gone nowhere this election cycle? He’s positioned himself as the sensible choice, the (relatively) pragmatic conservative, the guy who insists Republicans and Democrats need to come together to find solutions, and the best he’s done is a second-place finish in New Hampshire, something he can’t possibly do in South Carolina and perhaps not anywhere else. I already wrote how Bush was trying to run that campaign, but due to his own incompetence completely undermined it—not to mention was made to look weak by Trump’s braggadoccio. Clinton, too, was riding a wave of optimism on being the first woman President and continuing Obama’s legacy until things got real tight with Sanders.
The problem is that this idea of comradeship doesn’t work with the Republican base. The Republican base thinks their party should be the sole governmental power, and that anyone who dissents from their views ought not to participate in government at all. Why else would Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz vow to block any effort Obama made to appoint a Supreme Court justice? Because they, along with their most fervent supporters, don’t think a democratically elected President should actually get to do anything, because his views on issues are different from theirs. There is no reason that if Rubio came out tomorrow preaching the virtues of working together that he should see a spike in his poll numbers—in fact, the opposite would probably happen.
Funnily enough, Brooks hits the nail on the head with regards to Sanders’s and Trump’s appeal, but he doesn’t realize it:
Sanders and Trump make them feel known. Finally, somebody is saying what they feel. Finally, somebody is outraged by the things that outrage them.
Emphasis mine. Yes, that is a huge reason why Trump and Sanders have so many supporters. Whereas other candidates will say things such as, ‘A lot of Americans are upset, and I understand that,’ Sanders and Trump say that they don’t just understand that anger; they feel it, too. And while Brooks attributes pessimism to both of their campaigns, that’s not true, especially so in Sanders’s case.
Even if you think Sanders’s ideas are out of touch or completely implausible, people are not supporting him merely because he tells them banks are evil. They support him because they believe he’s someone who actually wants to do something about the problems he enumerates.
One last thing:
A great nation doesn’t divide in times of natural disaster.
Then I guess Brooks concedes we are not a great nation, or does he not remember the Republican response to Hurricane Sandy relief? And that was a real natural disaster, not the man-made miseries Brooks refers to abstractly.