Which Candidate Can Save White People for David Brooks?

David Brooks is concerned about white people: they're unemployed, they're not married, they're fat. But which presidential candidate can save them? Perhaps the official American Enterprise Institute "are you authentically white" quiz can help us find out.

Brooks, a member of The New York Times' White Collar Comedy Tour, took to his column yesterday to let us know that he'd be "shocked if there's another book this year as important as Charles Murray's Coming Apart." (That's Coming Apart, subtitle, The State of White America.) Like Murray, well known for his skull-measuring "proof" of the innate stupidity of black people, The Bell Curve, Brooks is deeply concerned with the fact that poor white people are not as good as rich white people:

Worse, there are vast behavioral gaps between the educated upper tribe (20 percent of the country) and the lower tribe (30 percent of the country). [...] People in the lower tribe are much less likely to get married, less likely to go to church, less likely to be active in their communities, more likely to watch TV excessively, more likely to be obese.

That does sound bad, doesn't it? But how can we solve it? Should we make our tax structure more progressive and reduce the growing wealth gap? Reinvigorate unions and the protections they provide to working-class wages? No, Brooks says — no, the issue is not a legal and financial structure designed to protect the rich at the expense of blue-collar workers and the working poor. The issue is not that the welfare state has been gutted. It's not even an economic issue at all. The issue is that the rich whites aren't adequately teaching the poor whites proper manners. Sorry, values. Proper values:

I doubt Murray would agree, but I need a National Service Program. We need a program that would force members of the upper tribe and the lower tribe to live together, if only for a few years. We need a program in which people from both tribes work together to spread out the values, practices and institutions that lead to achievement.

Yes, there's very little not to like about this idea, which imagines social policy as some horrifying combination of reality and show and re-education camp. Indeed, I love this idea. The question is: which presidential candidate could best achieve our goal, of imbuing our important rich-people values on our fat, single, jobless peasant class? Working class, sorry. Working class.

To discover the answer, I turned to Charles Murray himself. On his personal website at the American Enterprise Institute, I discovered an excellent 20-question quiz that asks the question "How culturally isolated are you?" by referring to notoriously mainstream activities enjoyed by the majority of Americans, like NASCAR, Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon, and parades. You can take it for yourself right here:

With the help of Gawker intern Jessica Benjestorf, I decided to answer it as the five presidential candidates remaining in the race. Who could best bridge the gap between the refined manners and hard work ethic of the upper class with the boorish poverty of the lower? See below:

1. Have you ever worked on a factory floor?

Barack Obama: No.
Mitt Romney: No.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: No, though he's been accused of having a "factory fetish."
Ron Paul: No.

2. Have you ever held a job that caused a part of your body to hurt at the end of the day?

Barack Obama: The accompanying photo of a construction worker makes it clear that office jobs don't count, so "no."
Mitt Romney: Yes, Romney worked nights as a security guard in college.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: No.
Ron Paul: No.

3. Have you seen last year's mega-hit movie, "Transformers: Dark of the Moon"?

Barack Obama: No, although he was in it as a character.
Mitt Romney: Not as far as we can tell, except in the mind of Robert Redford.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: No.
Ron Paul: No.

4. Can you name this NASCAR champion?

Barack Obama: Obama has met Jimmie Johnson, so yes.
Mitt Romney: Yes; Romney has also met Johnson.
Newt Gingrich: As far as we can tell, Gingrich is not a big NASCAR fan, so we're guessing no.
Rick Santorum: Same goes for Santorum: no.
Ron Paul: And Paul. No.

5. In the past five years, have you been fishing or hunting?

Barack Obama: Obama went fly fishing in Montana in 2009.
Mitt Romney: Romney has variously claimed to hunt "varmints" and "moose," so we'll take his word for it.
Newt Gingrich: Gingrich, a notorious animal lover, does not hunt.
Rick Santorum: Santorum is a pheasant-hunting aficionado.
Ron Paul: From what we can find, no.

6. Do you have a close friend who is an evangelical Christian?

Barack Obama: No: Obama's close friends are mostly Jewish or fairly secular Christians.
Mitt Romney: Romney does not appear to have any close evangelical friends.
Newt Gingrich: Like Romney, Gingrich has trouble with evangelicals.
Rick Santorum: Yes; Santorum is said to be close friends with Pentecostal former senator John Ensign.
Ron Paul: Paul, like Romney and Gingrich, is not beloved by evangelicals, and doesn't have — from what we can tell — close evangelical friends.

7. During the past year, have you stocked your own fridge with domestic mass-market beer?

Barack Obama: Obama has almost certainly not stocked his own fridge; besides, the White House makes its own honey beer. (At the infamous 2009 "beer summit," Obama drank Budweiser, whose status as a "domestic" is questionable.)
Mitt Romney: Romney, as a Mormon, does not drink.
Newt Gingrich: Gingrich is a Guinness fan.
Rick Santorum: Santorum, a beer connoisseur, prefers microbrews to mass-market beers.
Ron Paul: There's not much indication that Paul is a big beer drinker, so we're going with no.

8. Do you now have a close friend with whom you have strong and wide-ranging political disagreement?

Barack Obama: Obama's small circle of close friends appears to be almost exclusively liberal Democrats.
Mitt Romney: What little we can find about Romney's close friends seems to show mostly people loosely aligned with his political views.
Newt Gingrich: Gingrich's close friends are all craven Republican operators. So, no.
Rick Santorum: Santorum's friend and former aide Robert Traynham is both gay and bleaugh. Sorry, black.
Ron Paul: Not so far as we can find.

9. Have you eaten at an Applebee's, TGI Friday's, or Outback Steakhouse in the past year?

Barack Obama: No.
Mitt Romney: No.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: No — though Santorum is an old friend of the Outback Steakhouse folks.
Ron Paul: No.

10. Have you or your spouse ever bought a pickup truck?

Barack Obama: No. (He did drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee, but that's not authentically white enough.)
Mitt Romney: Yes.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: Santorum drives a Dodge Ram.
Ron Paul: No.

11. Have you ever attended a Kiwanis or Rotary Club meeting, or a gathering at a union local?

Barack Obama: Yes. (Union hall.)
Mitt Romney: Yes. (Rotary Club.)
Newt Gingrich: Yes. (Rotary Club.)
Rick Santorum: Yes. (Rotary Club.)
Ron Paul: Yes. (Rotary Club.)

12. Have you ever participated in a parade that did not involve global warming, gay rights, or a war protest?

Barack Obama: Yes. (Big parade, three years ago, January? In D.C.?)
Mitt Romney: Yes. (Portsmouth Fourth of July parade.)
Newt Gingrich: Yes. (Clear Lake Fourth of July parade.)
Rick Santorum: Yes. (Philadelphia Pulaski Day parade.)
Ron Paul: Yes. (Galveston Fourth of July parade.)

13. Since leaving school, have you worn a uniform as part of your job?

Barack Obama: No.
Mitt Romney: No. (Romney's security guard job happened before he left school.)
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: No.
Ron Paul: Yes, as a member of the U.S. Air Force.

14. Have you ever ridden on a Greyhound or Trailways bus?

Barack Obama: Yes; Obama writes about riding a Greyhound in his memoir.
Mitt Romney: Not that we can find.
Newt Gingrich: Not that we can find.
Rick Santorum: Not that we can find.
Ron Paul: Not that we can find.

15. Did you ever watch an "Oprah" show all the way through?

Barack Obama: Yes: Obama was on Oprah.
Mitt Romney: No.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: Santorum's alliance with an activist who claims that Obama is a plot hatched by Oprah means that probably not, no.
Ron Paul: No.

16. Did you or your spouse ever serve in the armed forces?

Barack Obama: No.
Mitt Romney: No.
Newt Gingrich: No, no, no, no and no.
Rick Santorum: No.
Ron Paul: Yes, Paul was in the Air Force.

17. Did you grow up in a family in which the chief breadwinner was not in a managerial position or high-prestige occupation (defined as dentist, physician, architect, attorney, engineer, scientist, or college professor)?

Barack Obama: Mostly yes; Obama's mother worked in NGOs and his stepfather was a surveyor and government worker.
Mitt Romney: If "Governor of Michigan" is not high-prestige I don't know what is.
Newt Gingrich: Gingrich's stepfather was an army officer, which apparently doesn't count.
Rick Santorum: No: Santorum's dad was a psychologist.
Ron Paul: No. Paul's father managed a dairy company.

18. Have you ever lived for at least a year as an adult in an American neighborhood in which the majority of your nearest 50 neighbors probably did not have college degrees?

Barack Obama: Yes. (Hyde Park.)
Mitt Romney: No. (Romney's time in Le Havre might count, but it's not American.)
Newt Gingrich: Yes. (Carrollton, Georgia.)
Rick Santorum: No.
Ron Paul: Yes. (Lake Jackson.)

19. Have you ever had a close friend who could seldom get better than Cs in high school even if he or she tried hard?

Barack Obama: Unlikely, since Obama went to private school.
Mitt Romney: Like Obama, Romney went to an elite private high school, so probably not.
Newt Gingrich: Not that we can find.
Rick Santorum: Not that we can find.
Ron Paul: Not that we can find.

20. During the last month, have you voluntarily hung out with people who were smoking cigarettes?

Barack Obama: No — but the guy literally just quit.
Mitt Romney: No.
Newt Gingrich: No.
Rick Santorum: No.
Ron Paul: No.

Final Results

"On a scale from 0 to 20 points, where 20 signifies full engagement with mainstream American culture and 0 signifies deep cultural isolation within the new upper class bubble."

Barack Obama: 8
Mitt Romney: 6
Newt Gingrich: 4
Rick Santorum: 6
Ron Paul: 5

There you have it: only Barack Obama — who, the test decrees, has "had a lot of exposure to the rest of America" — is engaged with mainstream American culture enough to save white people. I expect Brooks and Murray to both be voting for him.

[Image by Jim Cooke. Additional reporting by Jessica Benjestorf. White people by Yakub.]