Like any red-blooded American op-ed columnist, David Brooks has joined the cacophony over Jimmy Carter's "racism" remarks. But, sadly, his latest outburst won't allow comments. He's doing us all a great disfavor.
Considering his conservative leanings, it should come as no surprise to hear that Brooks disagrees with Carter. Tea baggers can't be racist, because Brooks himself saw them talking to black people during last weekend's protest. That's proof.
...My impression is that race is largely beside the point. There are other, equally important strains in American history that are far more germane to the current conflicts.
For example, for generations schoolchildren studied the long debate between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians. Hamiltonians stood for urbanism, industrialism and federal power. Jeffersonians were suspicious of urban elites and financial concentration and believed in small-town virtues and limited government.
So, the Jeffersonians begot the Jacksonians, who hated "the fusion of federal and financial power" and "cosmopolitan elites." Those elites are now sitting pretty within Obama's administration. Or that's how Brooks paints the President's administration "movement:"
Barack Obama leads a government of the highly educated. His movement includes urban politicians, academics, Hollywood donors and information-age professionals. In his first few months, he has fused federal power with Wall Street, the auto industry, the health care industries and the energy sector.
The "left" probably wouldn't be too thrilled by the fact that Brooks readily dismisses the racism argument. Nor would they appreciate the confusing fact that Brooks equates Huey Long, who advocated wealth distribution, and Hitler-sympathizer and anti-Communist priest Charles Coughlin. (Not to mention a subtle attempt to characterize Obama's team as inhabitants of an Ivory Tower looking to "fuse" control.)
Yes, liberals would have a field day in the comments section. But, so too would the right.
According to Brooks, the ongoing debate's a perfectly natural "populist backlash" against Obama's government takeover. These protests are the American way, regardless of one's political leanings.
This populist tendency continued through the centuries. Sometimes it took right-wing forms, sometimes left-wing ones. Sometimes it was agrarian. Sometimes it was more union-oriented. Often it was extreme, conspiratorial and rude.
The populist tendency has always used the same sort of rhetoric: for the ordinary people and against the fat cats and the educated class; for the small towns and against the financial centers.
Even though Brooks does kind of make sense, the angry wing-nuts will go ape shit over being linked, however tenuously, to their left-leaning rivals. The lefties, you see, are against the rich, while the right's against big government. There's absolutely no relation.
By both dismissing racism and claiming the right's like the left — even in terms of hyperbolic media — his comments section would have become the ultimate ideological battle field. And it's there that both sides could realize their common confusion and call the whole thing off. See? Comment prohibition hurts America.