Our Myth Brooks


In his NY Times col today, David Brooks tags Reason as one of "the major conservative magazines" in the country.

Significant ideological confusion aside, Brooks' larger point is that rancorous debate among and within a broadly construed right has a generally positive effect:

In the early days of National Review, many of the senior editors didn't even speak to one another. Whittaker Chambers declared that the writings of Ayn Rand, a hero of the more libertarian right, reeked of fascism and the gas chambers. Rand called National Review "the worst and most dangerous magazine in America."

It's been like that ever since–neocons arguing with theocons, the old right with the new right, internationalists versus isolationists, supply siders versus fiscal conservatives. The major conservative magazines–The Weekly Standard, National Review, Reason, The American Conservative, The National Interest, Commentary—agree on almost nothing.

Brooks laments an analogous debate among liberals and concludes that

If I were a liberal, which I used to be, I wouldn't want message discipline. I'd take this opportunity to have a big debate about the things Thomas Paine, Herbert Croly, Isaiah Berlin, R. H. Tawney and John Dewey were writing about. I'd argue about human nature and the American character.

In disunity there is strength.

Whole thing here.

The column is worth reading, even if it does smack of the inverse of the old liberal canard that liberals are too smart for this world.

Hit & Run yapping about libertarian-conservative divorce here.

Example (and critiques) of smug liberal self-love here.

Memorable Philadelphia Magazine takedown of David Brooks here.

NEXT: McGruff Can Keep Sniffing

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  1. Uh, yeah, there aren’t any internal disputes within liberalism. Just ask Peter Beinart and MoveOn. Or Atrios and the DLC.

    Does anyone else find it odd that the examples Brooks gives of healthy internal arguments within conservatism took place during the period of post-New Deal Democratic ascention?

  2. Liberals are just a bunch of Jack Handy’s when it comes to deep thinking.

  3. This article reads like a sportswriter’s piece on coaching. Win one title and you’re brilliant, your system is brilliant, and your the greatest ever…

    Until you lose, then you’re foolish, your system is outdated, and you must have been overrated when we called you the greatest ever.

  4. Look through any American history book and you will see that whenever one political party has a huge grip on power, they inevitably break up over time. The best example, of course, is the Democratic Party between 1964 and 1968: they arrived with 68 in the senate and Johnson in the White House, and four years later they lost 11 seats and Nixon had the crown. Whenever one group wins all the glory, voters get nervous.

    As they should. I am not a member of any political party, since being one these days results in too many labels. I am pleased with some of the GOP’s recent fiscal efforts, like the Bankruptcy Bill and Tort Reform, but I am not very comfortable with Bush’s moral agenda, particularly when he stuck his nose in the Terri Schivo case. The GOP has repeatedly used “moral values” as an excuse to support the Big Government ideas that Barry Goldwater would have been sickened to see.

    Which is why I think the GOP is going to see some huge rifts within its own corridors in the coming years. Apparently, they forgot the lesson they learned from the Lewinsky scandal: start preaching, and you lose support. Polls just came in from Tom DeLay’s district in Texas, and nearly 60% said they disapproved of how he handled the Schivo case- and mind you, most of those polled were Republican. The Chuck Hagels of the party need to get together and keep the Rick Santorums mum, or people like me will be checking whoever has a “D” next to their name on the ballot.

  5. oblomov81,

    Wow, interesting numbers on Delay.

  6. In Brook’s active fantasy life, maybe conservatives are a bunch of unruly philosophers debating at a symposium, but I’m not seeing it. You’ve got the corporate guys paying the bills and writing the laws and the fundies providing the cannon fodder, is there anybody who deviates from the party line of supporting Bush at all costs to principle and intellectual coherence? Maybe Pat Buchanan . . . ?

  7. Brooks is so full of hot air, on average, I can never tell when he’s being serious, or just blowing smoke. I took that article as about 90% smoke: confirming conventional wisdom with a nice, pro-Republican spin. As usual in his smoke-screens, he throws in an anecdote or two and expects us to take it as evidence.

  8. Yawn, there’re debates in the left, too. Gun grabbers vs. non. The relatively free traders vs. unions. Higher taxes and more spending vs. higher taxes and flat spending.
    However, this post is as good a place as any to point out this book. After spending years mocking Hillary Clinton about the VRWC, Byron York wrote a book on the Vast LEFT Wing Conspiracy. How original. It?s endorsed by NRO without a tinge of irony, which makes the whole thing even funnier, IMO.

  9. I hate how libertarians are regarded by almost all non-libertarians as “conservatives.” We should be regarded as radical liberals, but at some point “liberal” changed from an enemy of all things statist to the best friend of the state (as long as the state wrapped itself in the warm fuzziness of egalitarianism). Modern-day conservatives, however, do fit the traditional definition of conservative quite well.

  10. In his NY Times col today, David Brooks tags Reason as one of “the major conservative magazines” in the country.

    Contact the lawyers! There’s a libel suit here!

  11. I assume this lawsuit will take issue with the magazine being called “major”.

  12. This is the second time in the past couple of weeks I’ve come across someone who speaks of libertarians as if they were conservatives.

    “Throughout the analysis of the successes of the contract, in The Republican Revolution Ten Years Later: Smaller Government or Business as Usual?, a collection of essays published recently by the very conservative Cato Institute, runs the lament that congressional Republicans have given up their belief in limited government and are increasing federal spending and power, whether in farm subsidies, the prescription drug program enacted in 2003, increased regulation of telecommunications, new federal crime laws, or international peacekeeping.” (bold added)


    So, um, Cato is not just, uh, conservative, but “very conservative”? Okay.

    I think there are two kinds of political people in the minds of most. There are the people in power and those who appear to speak in like terms–that’s the first group–and then there’s the main opposition and the people who appear to speak in the opposition’s terms.

    …I’ve seen this a lot lately. If you aren’t a neoconservative, you must be a paleoconservative. Someone told me yesterday, in fact, that because I wasn’t a neolibertarian, I must be paleolibertarian! To such people, I suspect, those who are against Bush’s social security plan *head shake* are simply against the war.

    Don’t listen to me though–I stood in line at grocery store today…and I was listening to what people were saying. I know–it’s like lookin’ in the mirror when you’re on…never mind, you just shouldn’t ever do that. …but by the time I was driving out of the parking lot, I was thinkin’ about what these people said, and I felt like that guy in “Dazed and Confused”, who said:

    “You know how for like the last year or so I’ve been talking about going to law school so I can become a ACLU lawyer to be in a position to help people getting fucked over and all that? Well I’m standing in line at the post office yesterday you know, and I’m looking around and everybody’s looking really pathetic you know what I mean. Like people have just got drool sticking there, and like this guy’s bending over and you can see the crack of his… It was all just like wife beaters, it was.. Anyway. I realize that I just don’t want to do it. You know what I mean it sounds good and all but I just have to confront the fact that I really don’t like the people I’ve been talking about helping out. You know what I’m saying. I don’t like people period. I mean you guys are okay. I don’t know. I’m just trying to be honest about being a misanthrope.”

    I’m no one to be lookin’ down my nose at anyone else. Sometimes I think I want to be one of the droolers, and sometimes I probably am, but when I’m not–damn–droolers suck!

  13. Hey Ruthless!

    Missed you yesterday. There were these guys callin’ themselves “NeoLibertarians” who seem to want to change the Libertarian Party Platform so that it allows for military domination of the Third World.

    …Anyway, if they succeed, maybe it would be better, you know, rather than being relegated to, like, Log Cabin Republican status, maybe I’d rather become an Anarchist instead! So is there like a secret handshake or somethin’?

    Weren’t you hosting a blog? What’s that URL again?

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