David Brooks ‘Terrified’ by NatCon; Most Conservatives Are Not

 

New York Times columnist David Brooks is terrified. This time, it’s not due to a shabby Bordeaux or a deli owner using “who” instead of “whom,” but from the National Conservatism Conference held in Orlando two weeks ago.

Called NatCon for short, the conference “brings together public figures, journalists, scholars, and students who understand that the past and future of conservatism are inextricably tied to the idea of the nation, to the principle of national independence, and to the revival of the unique national traditions that alone have the power to bind a people together and bring about their flourishing.” Speakers included Sens. Cruz, Hawley, and Rubio; radical bomb-throwers like Glenn Loury, Rich Lowry, and Batya Ungar-Sargon; and others committed to the cause, such as Peter Thiel, Christopher Rufo, and Rod Dreher.

I’m terrified just typing those names! (If I didn’t have my inhaler near, I couldn’t keep writing.) Anyway, when Brooks attended NatCon, he “had a sinking sensation” about the “apocalyptic,” “disconcerting,” “alarming” event and what it presaged for conservative youth. (You should have heard what he said about the Bordeaux.)

Brooks’s 3,000-word jeremiad includes plenty of quotes from the conference to justify his horror. Here’s a sampling:

“[The left-wing elite] is a totalitarian cult of billionaires and bureaucrats, of privilege perpetuated by bullying, empowered by the most sophisticated surveillance and communications technologies in history, and limited only by the scruples of people who arrest rape victims’ fathers, declare math to be white supremacist, finance ethnic cleansing in western China, and who partied, a mile high, on Jeffrey Epstein’s Lolita Express.” — Rachel Bovard

“Big Business is not our ally. They are eager culture warriors who use the language of wokeness to cover free-market capitalism.” — Sen. Marco Rubio

“Our Americanness is much more important than our Blackness. We must strive to transcend racial particularism and stress universality and commonality as Americans.” — Glenn Loury

Good thing I have a second inhaler handy.

Going through the ample quotes provided, I couldn’t find much I disagreed with, let alone was terrified by. Brooks spends a good 500 words mocking the hypocrisy of people like Sen. Cruz who attended elite universities yet have the audacity to critique their Ivy League tribe. This smacks of “class traitor” rhetoric, which is foolish on its face.

But his primary worry is that, after several decades in a defensive crouch, conservatives finally want to fight back in the culture war.

The first great project of the national conservatives is to man the barricades in the culture war. These people have certainly done their homework when it comes to cultural Marxism—how the left has learned to dominate culture and how the right now needs to copy their techniques. If I’d had to drink a shot every time some speaker cited Herbert Marcuse or Antonio Gramsci, I’d be dead of alcohol poisoning.

Conservatives have lately become expert culture warriors—the whole Tucker Carlson schtick. This schtick demands that you ignore the actual suffering of the world—the transgender kid alone in some suburban high school, the anxiety of a guy who can’t afford health care for his brother, the struggle of a Black man trying to be seen and recognized as a full human being. It’s a cynical game that treats all of life as a play for ratings, a battle for clicks, and this demands constant outrage, white-identity signaling, and the kind of absurd generalizations that Rachel Bovard used to get that room so excited.

Conservatives have got the culture-war act down. Trump was a culture-war president with almost no policy arm attached. The question conservatives at the conference were asking was how to move beyond owning the libs to effecting actual change.

Apparently, Brooks doesn’t think about the young girl raped by the “transgender kid” in some suburban high school, the anxiety of a guy fired from his job for not getting the second Pfizer shot, or the struggle of Glenn Loury trying to be seen and recognized as something more than a racial category. He’s quick to criticize the trickle of “apocalyptic” rhetoric in Orlando while ignoring the firehose flowing out of Manhattan.

Brooks seems to think conservatives are launching a culture war of their own rather than responding to one the Left began in the late 1960s. While we have made minor advances here and there (gun rights, school choice), you can’t compare American society in the ’80s to today and think we’ve won most cultural battles. It’s long past time for the right to engage in the culture war; the only thing that’s “terrifying” is pretending no war exists.

While Conservatism holds to unchanging ideals, its tactics constantly change. Calvin Coolidge was a great president, as was Ronald Reagan 50 years later. Both employed different tactics suited to their age. Fifty years after Reagan, I’m thankful young conservatives want to update their tactics for the current era.

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  1. Rōnin Coolidge
    Rōnin
    @Ronin

    Mr. Brooks is under the illusion that he somehow matters.

    • #1
  2. Paul Stinchfield Member
    Paul Stinchfield
    @PaulStinchfield

    Remember when David Brooks pretended to be a conservative?

    Remember when he pretended to value the rights enshrined in the Constitution?

    • #2
  3. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    I can think of someone applying the tactics of the age that some people on the right just could not stand.

    Hmmm.

    Brooks is a sad sad case.

    • #3
  4. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Brooks seems to think conservatives are launching a culture war of their own rather than responding to one the Left began in the late 1960s.

    Although that’s not a bad idea. Thanks for suggesting it, David.

    • #4
  5. Dotorimuk Coolidge
    Dotorimuk
    @Dotorimuk

    Are they not creasing their pants to his liking? He’s the guy obsessed with men’s pants, right?

    • #5
  6. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    This will undoubtedly secure Mr. Brooks’ invitations to any number of holiday cocktail parties–maskless, of course–but it still saddens me as a former reader.  

    He actually wrote a pretty fine book back when he was pretending to be a conservative.

    • #6
  7. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This will undoubtedly secure Mr. Brooks’ invitations to any number of holiday cocktail parties–maskless, of course–but it still saddens me as a former reader.

    He actually wrote a pretty fine book back when he was pretending to be a conservative.

    I really enjoyed that book.

    • #7
  8. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Moneyball is a pretty obscure analogy, but at least some people saw the Brad Pitt film that touted having an unconventional “nose for value” in the scouting of baseball players.  It strikes me that the NYT similarly has a moneyball nose for value in scouting the token “conservatives” that it hires for “balance,” such as Mr. Brooks and the current alleged conservative, Bret Stephens, who was poached from the WSJ.  The Times’ talent scouts somehow are able to see who will play the game, and who might not.  I’m surprised that they missed Jen Rubin.

    • #8
  9. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This will undoubtedly secure Mr. Brooks’ invitations to any number of holiday cocktail parties–maskless, of course–but it still saddens me as a former reader.

    He actually wrote a pretty fine book back when he was pretending to be a conservative.

    I really enjoyed that book.

    Maybe he went native. 

    • #9
  10. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell
    @JimMcConnell

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This will undoubtedly secure Mr. Brooks’ invitations to any number of holiday cocktail parties–maskless, of course–but it still saddens me as a former reader.

    He actually wrote a pretty fine book back when he was pretending to be a conservative.

    I really enjoyed that book.

     And it got him a standing invitation to the NYT cocktail parties, didn’t it?

    • #10
  11. Franco Member
    Franco
    @Franco

    So, at what point do some people realize that all of ‘our’ pundits who were given MSM platforms have always been fraudsters?

    David Brooks

    George Will

    Jen Rubin

    Mona Charen 

    Peggy Noonan

    Or, what happened? Did a whole bunch of people who naturally voted Republican for the likes of McCain and Romney just take crazy pills? 

    In 2010 when the TEA Party emerged and was later co-opted and kneecapped by our Presidential nominee of 2008 ( whacko-birds) and other GOP insiders, did they really think it was over? By 2016 they re-emerged as ‘Trump supporters’, and these  pundits used Trump’s personality (exaggerated and enhanced by them) as a shield and decoy to blunt the anti-globalist agenda. 

    Like the Democrats lacking a good explanation for their failures by claiming ubiquitous racism, these Republicans rely on attacking twitter manners and promoting Democrat narratives to protect their personal agendas, and then sneer at those of us who reject them. 

    They were left behind in their guilded NYC or DC world in service to Jeff Bezos and Carlos Slim acting as though it’s still the early 90’s. 

     

    • #11
  12. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    From Brooks’ article:

    My old friend Rod Dreher of The American Conservative argued that because the left controls the commanding heights of the culture and the economy, the only institution the right has a shot at influencing is the state. In these circumstances the right has to use state power to promote its values. “We need to quit being satisfied with owning the libs, and save our country,” Dreher said. “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.”

    Interesting. What would that look like?

    • #12
  13. BDB Coolidge
    BDB
    @BDB

    +1 for “jeremiad”.

    Brooks has *never* understood conservatism, and I wager he never really shook off his socialist ideas:

    • #13
  14. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    From the Brooks article “…the struggle of a Black man trying to be seen and recognized as a full human being.” Is he serious? We’ve spent the better part of the past five decades passing out government monies and special treatment to blacks most of which have done more harm than good, our government schools do little else than teach black good/white bad and on and on… When it comes to race, progressives like Brooks seem to want to live in the past where blacks are eternal victims of bad whites and so must be saved by good whites like Brooks. That battle was fought and won decades ago long before Brooks was old enough to vote.

    • #14
  15. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    Hoyacon (View Comment):

    This will undoubtedly secure Mr. Brooks’ invitations to any number of holiday cocktail parties–maskless, of course–but it still saddens me as a former reader.

    He actually wrote a pretty fine book back when he was pretending to be a conservative.

    I really enjoyed that book.

    One of my far-lefty housemates from college really enjoyed that book.

    Which kind of made me suspicious. 

    • #15
  16. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Zafar (View Comment):

    From Brooks’ article:

    My old friend Rod Dreher of The American Conservative argued that because the left controls the commanding heights of the culture and the economy, the only institution the right has a shot at influencing is the state. In these circumstances the right has to use state power to promote its values. “We need to quit being satisfied with owning the libs, and save our country,” Dreher said. “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.”

    That was kind of the crux of the infamous debate between David French and Sohrab Ahmari.

    • #16
  17. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Was David Brooks ever really a conservative?  Even in the loosest definition of conservative, I never felt he was.

    • #17
  18. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    BDB (View Comment):

    +1 for “jeremiad”.

    Brooks has *never* understood conservatism, and I wager he never really shook off his socialist ideas:

    That’s great!  Friedman is doing facepalms every time David Brooks speaks.  LOL.

    • #18
  19. JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery Thatcher
    JosePluma, Local Man of Mystery
    @JosePluma

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.:

    the struggle of a Black man trying to be seen and recognized as a full human being.

    Or, as I’ve pointed out, the struggle of African-American candidates to be recognized as “real” when elite whitebread poseurs are running for office.

    • #19
  20. genferei Member
    genferei
    @genferei

    David Whom?

    NatCon (as opposed to the organic re-emergence of a nationalist conservative sensibility) has that flavor of folks rushing to the front of the parade. I hope the idea doesn’t get Tea Partied. But I’m pretty sure the only things Cruz and Rubio have in common are ambition, a lazily amiable relationship with their Senate foes, and an insatiable appetite for cameras and campaign cheques.

    • #20
  21. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Holy mother of Jeebus, this guy.

    Brooks:

    These people have certainly done their homework when it comes to cultural Marxism—how the left has learned to dominate culture and how the right now needs to copy their techniques.

    So he theoretically recoils from cultural Marxism, perhaps,  but has full-body shivers when considering that the means by which this was achieved should be employed to defeat the rot. Got it.

    If I’d had to drink a shot every time some speaker cited Herbert Marcuse or Antonio Gramsci, I’d be dead of alcohol poisoning.

    No, I think he’d be rubber-lipped like Anderson Cooper suffering a tequila shot on a New Year’s Eve Times Square broadcast after one shot, and face-first on the table after two, but that’s mean. I suspect he means that citing seminal thinkers is not a sign that people have “certainly done their homework,” but have latched on to buzzword names without really understanding what the authors said. You know, like when people on the right say “CRT,” and have no idea what it means and probably confuse it with a TV tube that only shows anti-American shows.

    Conservatives have lately become expert culture warriors—the whole Tucker Carlson schtick. This schtick demands that you ignore the actual suffering of the world—the transgender kid alone in some suburban high school 

    This is bathetic. Parents are alarmed by gender-studies ideas in the classroom, and show up at a school board meeting? Irrelevant, a distraction, and downright cruel when you think about the transgender kid alone in some suburban high school. 

    The left is allowed to walk and chew gum at the same time, pushing economic and social transformation,  but if the right walks and chews gum, guys like Brooks say “look at those guys, walking, instead of stopping and spending time on chewing the exact flavor the left wants them to masticate.”

    In this passage, the orcs are starting to figure out how to move beyond brute force:

    The question conservatives at the conference were asking was how to move beyond owning the libs to effecting actual change.

    Jon doesn’t quote it, but Brooks reveals their mortifying strategy.

    Christopher Rufo, the architect of this year’s school-board-meeting protests against critical race theory, argued that conservatives had erred when they tried to slowly gain power in elite cultural institutions. Conservatives were never going to make headway in the Ivy League or the corporate media. Instead, Rufo argued, they should rally the masses to get state legislatures to pass laws embracing their values.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Then there’s this:

    The NatCons are wrong to think there is a unified thing called “the left” that hates America. This is just the apocalyptic menace many of them had to invent in order to justify their decision to vote for Donald Trump.

    His weasel-word is “unified,” because there is no Central Committee that commands all decisions, executes its plans, requires total obedience, roots out dissent, banishes apostates. Well, aside from Twitter. But if you take out unified, you have this:

    The NatCons are wrong to think there is a thing called “the left” that hates America.

    The weasel-phrase here is “that hates America.” For some, saying that your opponents “hate America” immediately disqualifies everything they say. They’re rabid partisans. They don’t realize that the people on the other side of the aisle love America too, they just have different ideas about how to make it better, make it live up to its ideals. Tip O’Neill loved America! So did Reagan! Together, they got things done! 

    Except maybe the modern progressive left does hate America. No, no, hear me out. If you thought that the country embodied everything wrong with the West – capitalism, slavery, patriarchal structures, cisnormative white supremacy, colonialism, militarism, did we mention capitalism? – then it’s quite possible you would, in fact, hate the place. If it was all these things, would you not be virtuous in rejecting it? What enlightened soul would love such a malevolent chancre? 

    Would CRT demand the demolition of all our political structures out of love? 

    Yes, I suppose, if they viewed “America” as a malleable lump that could be reformed into something worth their respect. But “America,” as the lumpenrubes define it, was rotten from 1619 on. There’s nothing inspirational about it. Nothing that stokes the soul. Hence, as the man whose slack-crease Brooks suffered a tongue laceration to fellate said, we must transform it.

    Fundamentally.

    So, remove the weasel-word and the weasel-phrase, and we have:

    The NatCons are wrong to think there is a thing called “the left” 

    Really, it’s a fever dream. There’s the right, which is going crazy, and there are liberals –  assorted well-meaning people (with a few oddballs!) who are just plowing the familiar furrows of American Politics, striving towards something decent and good and fair. Some might bring up “immigration” or “energy policy” to argue against their wisdom, but, well, shhhhh. The transgender kid alone in some suburban high school. Turn your thoughts to they.

    Actually, the more you look at that sentence and remove the irrelevant words, the more you see what irritates Brooks.

    The NatCons are wrong to think

    The NatCons are wrong

    The NatCons

    That’s all you have to say, going forward. The NatCons. The Society of Trouser-Crease Enthusiasts will know exactly what you mean.

    • #21
  22. Zafar Member
    Zafar
    @Zafar

    DrewInWisconsin, Oaf (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    From Brooks’ article:

    My old friend Rod Dreher of The American Conservative argued that because the left controls the commanding heights of the culture and the economy, the only institution the right has a shot at influencing is the state. In these circumstances the right has to use state power to promote its values. “We need to quit being satisfied with owning the libs, and save our country,” Dreher said. “We need to unapologetically embrace the use of state power.”

    That was kind of the crux of the infamous debate between David French and Sohrab Ahmari.

    This one?  Have to say David French came out of it better.  Maybe a bad day for Ahmari?

    • #22
  23. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    This is a great discussion.

    • #23
  24. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    Franco (View Comment):

    So, at what point do some people realize that all of ‘our’ pundits who were given MSM platforms have always been fraudsters?

    David Brooks

    George Will

    Jen Rubin

    Mona Charen

    Peggy Noonan

    Or, what happened? Did a whole bunch of people who naturally voted Republican for the likes of McCain and Romney just take crazy pills?

    In 2010 when the TEA Party emerged and was later co-opted and kneecapped by our Presidential nominee of 2008 ( whacko-birds) and other GOP insiders, did they really think it was over? By 2016 they re-emerged as ‘Trump supporters’, and these pundits used Trump’s personality (exaggerated and enhanced by them) as a shield and decoy to blunt the anti-globalist agenda.

    Like the Democrats lacking a good explanation for their failures by claiming ubiquitous racism, these Republicans rely on attacking twitter manners and promoting Democrat narratives to protect their personal agendas, and then sneer at those of us who reject them.

    They were left behind in their guilded NYC or DC world in service to Jeff Bezos and Carlos Slim acting as though it’s still the early 90’s.

    Don’t forget Bill Krystal and the entire staff of the “The Weekly Standard”/Bulwark 

     

    • #24
  25. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    Brooks always reminded me of Smithers from  “The Simpson”

    • #25
  26. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    delete

     

    • #26
  27. RufusRJones Member
    RufusRJones
    @RufusRJones

    Here is her response to the article. Strong language and some of the tweets. She also has a funny reference to this thread on her Twitter feed. 

     

     

     

    • #27
  28. kedavis Member
    kedavis
    @kedavis

    Elderly queer?

    I think I would have gone with “fat lying bastard.”

    • #28
  29. Gazpacho Grande' Coolidge
    Gazpacho Grande'
    @ChrisCampion

    That’s just David’s way of asking for a new skirt for Christmas.

    • #29
  30. Victor Tango Kilo Member
    Victor Tango Kilo
    @VtheK

    Most distressingly, he did not see even ONE well-creased pants leg.

    • #30