PROGRESSIVE FAIRY TALES BY DAVID BROOKS
by Gennady Shkliarevsky
David Brooks–a conservative-in-residence at the New York Times–has recently tried to create a new image for Joe Biden and sell it to mainstream America. In contrast to the familiar figure of good old Joe as a decrepit and mentally deteriorating holdover from the Obama era, Brooks tries to conjure a new image of Biden as a moderate, mainstream, pragmatic, hands-on politician that America really needs now, instead of bombastic and flamboyant Donald Trump.
Curiously, the op-ed does not deal with the elephant in the room—COVID-19. Evidently, the author does not see Biden as having any specific plan on how to deal with the pandemic. That is why he is silent on this account. Yet the fact is that the pandemic really creates huge dilemmas that directly affect the American economy, politics, and society. The solution to the pandemic that the Democrats and Biden propose is to impose quarantines and shut down the economy. Yet shutting down the economy will ruin it.
Brooks refuses to acknowledge this dilemma. It is inconvenient for him. In the happy world of David Brooks’s op-ed, there is no pandemic. Without pandemic in his sight, Brooks offers facile solutions to America’s problems. The crude fact, however, is that Covid-19 is here and it must be addressed, which will certainly affect all the optimistic scenarios that Brooks attributes to Biden. It is obvious that the resolution of this dilemma will require joint efforts and unity, not divisions and strife. Donald Trump can be abrasive, but he has not started the resistance movement that vowed from the first day of his presidency to oust him from the White House—hardly a cooperative attitude.
Brooks and the so-called “progressive moderates” to whom he supposedly gives voice tell us that Joe Biden will be a quiet president. He will not engage in tweeting and rallying that create so much commotion in the country. He will be a peacemaker.
As Brooks points out correctly, bitter culture wars have for decades divided America. At the heart of these wars is the opposition between “white working-class heartland and university-bred coastal cities.” Bill Clinton and Barak Obama epitomized the latter. Joe Biden, Brooks tells us, is different. He is much closer to the working class and its values than former Democratic presidents. It will be much harder for conservatives to demonize him. According to Brooks, Biden will not engage in the culture wars that have been wrecking America for decades. He is immune to elitism and does not act superior toward the “deplorables.”
Brooks attempt to sell Biden as a moderate defies facts. Biden has expressed his tacit support for the protests by Antifa and BLM. He has kneeled with radical protesters in recognition of white guilt. He and his party promise to eliminate “systemic racism”—the claim that is certainly not accepted universally. They support the idea of paying reparations to black Americans for slavery that involve quadrillions of dollars, and much, much more. Does this make Biden someone who, as Brooks argues, is not ideological and who, in Biden’s own words, “shed the labels and focus on nuts and bolts,” which is a self-description that is as vague as it is unconvincing as anything produced by a Washington insider?
When asked what he thought about the forces that caused the decline of the American working class, Biden responded with a typical progressive mantra: the fault lies with the Republicans who reduced taxes and government regulation and control. Biden’s solution is to go back to the New Deal. Huh? Didn’t America recognize over 40 years ago that the New Deal was a failure? Even Bill Clinton and Barack Obama agreed with this view.
They ended the welfare state “as we know it.” Now Biden wants to take us 40 years back and reinstate the New Deal with a new cosmetic finish. As Biden declared in the very few election speeches that he ventured: “When I think of climate change, the word I think of it jobs.” That’s exactly what many people dispute.
The intention of Brooks’ op-ed is very clear. Brooks recognizes that Biden cannot win the November election without the white workers (44% of the American electorate). He wants to sell Biden to the “deplorables” as a moderate pro-white-worker candidate who will bring peace to America. He is curious to see “if he [Biden] can tamp down the Democratic media and activist wings, with their penchant for wildly unpopular moral gestures like ‘defund the police’ and ‘decriminalize the border’.” Indeed, one wonders how Biden can do this by pandering and constantly yielding to BLM.
Brooks’s attempt to sell Biden is pathetic. He lauds Biden as someone who is moderate, yet who has crafted the agenda to reshape the American economy and politics in some fundamental ways. He sees Biden as a “radical centrist”—a claim that has all the characteristics of an oxymoron. Biden’s cognitive impairment and intellectual deficiency may appear as a penchant for moderation, but this appearance belies the forces that he represents and on which he relies for his political life. No, his presidency does not promise moderation and peace. It foreshadows more instability, violence, and radical left-wing experimentation; it offers nothing to those white American workers who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and are likely to vote for him again next November.
Gennady Shkliarevsky is a Professor Emeritus at Bard College.
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