David Brooks titles his latest essay with a riff on Marx and Engels, “Working men of all countries ,unite!” expressed as the cliche Workers of the World Unite. Mr. Brooks thinks himself very clever to wed this quotation to his argument that the Republican Party is the party of America’s white working class. This ‘white working class’ is framed by the issues:
“They sense that the nation has gone astray: marriage is in crisis; the work ethic is eroding; living standards are in danger; the elites have failed; the news media sends out messages that make it harder to raise decent kids. They face greater challenges, and they’re on their own.”
All the same issues Mr. Brooks endlessly recycles are woven together, although they appear to be just modulated enough to be demonstrative of difference, if only rhetorically recast: although the addition of the failure of the elites adds a populist piquancy to the argumentative line. It is not a real set of arguments but a collection of assertions floating free of an honest historical assessment of the Republican Party and it’s predominately white constituency, as argued by Mr. Brooks. A 2009 Gallup Poll shows that the Republican Party is made up of 63% Non-Hispanic white conservative and 26% non-Hispanic white Non-Conservatives. And Census data demonstartes that 63.7% of America’s population is white, so the fact that the Republican Party is white is hardly news, although Mr. Brooks presents this as if it were a revelatory insight and as such worthy of our attention as readers.
But any reader curious enough to use a search engine will find this provocative essay in The Weekly Standard of November 21, 2011 titled Losing The Working Class: As Ohio Goes…? by Henry Olson.
Here is the thought provoking first paragraph:
“Last week’s election indicates that the GOP marriage with the white working class is on the rocks. That’s bad news, since the epic Republican landslide in 2010 was fueled by record-high margins among these voters. It’s doubly bad for the GOP frontrunner, multimillionaire Mitt Romney, who is already struggling to connect with non-college grads in the primaries. If white working-class independents need to be wooed to win in 2012—and they do—Republicans need to ask themselves: Is Romney the right man to do the wooing?”
It seems that we might better direct our attention at defining the challenges that Mr. Brooks raises at the end of his second paragraph:
“They sense that the nation has gone astray:” Astray defined as off course, rudderless. The ‘they’ that Mr. Brooks is speaking of are Republican Evangelicals, Free Marketeers, Libertarians and intimidated Centrist Republicans who are in the process of plotting a new course for the country. He couches his critique in his usual moralizing tone. While we should as thinkers maintain a certain respect for Aristotle’s Politics and his argued symbiosis between politics and ethics, Mr. Brooks is a thinker who uses morality as a cudgel.
“marriage is in crisis” Does he mean that more than half of American marriages end in divorce? Or is his aim at the proponents of Gay Marriage as part of his obsession with American Decadence?
“the work ethic is eroding” How would one know that the work ethic is eroding in the the worst economy since the Great Depression, and the fact that corporations are cutting jobs in the name of the bottom line.
“living standards are in danger” See “The work ethic is eroding”
“the elites have failed” The President, The Senate, have proven to be pointedly hostile to the policy prescriptions advocated by Mr. Brooks.
“the news media sends out messages that make it harder to raise decent kids.” the news media is the great seducer of American Youth.