Surprisingly, David Brooks starts his column off by pulling no punches; he goes after Trump and is not mixed in his words (“The Internal Invasion”):
We’ve never had a major national leader as professionally unprepared, intellectually ill informed, morally compromised and temperamentally unfit as the man taking the oath on Friday. So let’s not lessen the shock factor that should reverberate across this extraordinary moment.
He spends some time postulating about gemeinschaft and gesellschaft, which don’t have any significance to the rest of the column, not really, so while I could take a moment to deconstruct what he’s trying to say there, it’s easy enough to let it slide—it’s an overtly reductionist analysis of the last few decades and the effects of globalization, but he keeps the pressure on Trump, so it’s more or less bearable.
But wouldn’t you know it—when it comes to finding a solution, Brooks fucks it up:
For America to thrive, people across government will have to cooperate and build arrangements to quarantine and work around the president.
People in the defense, diplomatic and intelligence communities will have to build systems to prevent him from intentionally or unintentionally bumbling into a global crisis. People in his administration and in Congress will have to create systems so his ill-informed verbal spasms don’t derail coherent legislation.
Well, since the Republicans spent the last eight years obstructing every move of the Democratic president, and since those Republicans have retained the House and senate, they have plenty of practice and the means to do it. But they won’t have to. Any legislation they want they can put in front of Trump, and chances are he’ll sign it.
But Brooks’s request here is a lot more sinister and cynical than he’s letting on (though to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if it didn’t occur to him). Here’s a writer who spent all of Obama’s presidency bemoaning the fact that he and his party were just so gosh darn inflexible, never willing to compromise on anything—putting aside, for example, the over 100 amendments made to the ACA, a largely Republican plan, at the behest of Republicans who then voted against it anyway—and is now asking those Democrats to come work with Republicans to circumvent the leader of their own party, whom they nominated and supported all election season, pussygate be damned. Trump is not some alien that inexplicably took over the Republican party—Republicans need only look to their own long-term machinations to discover why a figure like Trump could ascend.*
Not only that, but Brooks seems totally unaware that the Republican congress is going to use Trump to their advantage in any way they can. They are not serious about stopping any ‘agenda’ he has, which is why we can almost guarantee that most sailors aboard the ship of fools Trump calls his appointees will be approved by Republican senators—even if those appointments don’t get approved, it’ll only be because one or two Republicans dissented, not because the Republican senate as a single body or split factions meaningfully oppose his choices.
So what does Brooks have to say about those already dissenting?
If Trump’s opponents behave as clownishly as he does — like the congressmen who are narcissistically boycotting the inaugural — the whole government will get further delegitimized.
My own opinion, but I take boycotting the inauguration as a sign that those members do not recognize Trump as a professionally prepared, intellectually informed, morally sound and temperamentally fit man taking office. You know, all the things Brooks opened his column claiming Trump isn’t. To pretend that Trump’s inauguration is something to be celebrated is to contribute to the problem Brooks thinks he’s solving.
Some on the left worry that we are seeing the rise of fascism, a new authoritarian age. That gets things exactly backward. The real fear in the Trump era should be that everything will become disorganized, chaotic, degenerate, clownish and incompetent.
Unsurprisingly, Brooks knows nothing about fascism. It didn’t come out of completely organized and well-functioning democracies with generally happy citizens. Disorganization and chaos are features of fascism, not attributes that signal its absence. Right-wing authoritarianism is much more likely to take hold of power in a period of chaos and disorganization. This doesn’t mean that a completely fascistic regime is surely headed our way, but there are ingredients present, and Trump’s nature and the environment fostered by his Republican cohorts guarantees that elements of fascism will undoubtedly be present for at least the next four years.
In short, the country can’t come together, David, when people like you can’t admit that you’ve been wrong about everything.
*A note on this point: Ever notice how many conservative pundits who don’t like Trump are eager to blame anything but Republicans or conservatives for Trump’s rise? They have to attribute it to Obama, or ‘PC culture,’ or anything external to the party, because to do otherwise would be to recognize the rot within. I mean, I don’t recall a single piece blaming Republicans for Clinton getting the nomination for the Democratic party—almost everything from the run-up to the nomination to post-election analysis has put blame on problems internal to the Democratic party, with a few exceptions which point the finger at media, fake news, etc.