David Brooks creases his pants again over Trump voters

Still trying to parse the Trump voter 'problem' for those of his ilk, David Brooks has whipped out his most disdainful creased-pants writing.

Writing for The Atlantic, Brooks begins:

The dispossessed set out early in the mornings. They were the outsiders, the scorned, the voiceless. But weekend after weekend—unbowed and undeterred—they rallied together. They didn’t have much going for them in their great battle against the privileged elite, but they did have one thing—their yachts.


The women stood on the foredecks in their red, white, and blue bikinis, raising their Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys to salute the patriots in nearby boats. The men stood on the control decks projecting the sort of manly toughness you associate with steelworkers, even though these men were more likely to be real-estate agents. They represent a new social phenomenon: the populist regatta. They are doing pretty well but see themselves as the common people, the regular Joes, the overlooked. They didn’t go to fancy colleges, and they detest the mainstream media. “It’s so encouraging to see so many people just coming together in a spontaneous parade of patriotism,” Bobi Kreumberg, who attended a Trumptilla in Palm Beach, Florida, told a reporter from WPTV.

All yacht owners, you see, who voted for Trump and laughably consider themselves 'dispossessed.' There couldn't be any other reason.

He classifies them as "boorish bourgeoisie," these Trump voters, citing a French anthropologist, while their liberal counterparts are people he identified earlier as "elite bourgeois bohemians," or ''bobos. Trumpsters, see, have no manners and that's why they vote for Trump.

He tries to explain it this way:

How could people with high-end powerboats possibly think of themselves as the downtrodden? The truth is, they are not totally crazy. The class structure of Western society has gotten scrambled over the past few decades. It used to be straightforward: You had the rich, who joined country clubs and voted Republican; the working class, who toiled in the factories and voted Democratic; and, in between, the mass suburban middle class. We had a clear idea of what class conflict, when it came, would look like—members of the working classes would align with progressive intellectuals to take on the capitalist elite.

But somehow when the class conflict came, in 2015 and 2016, it didn’t look anything like that. Suddenly, conservative parties across the West—the former champions of the landed aristocracy—portrayed themselves as the warriors for the working class. And left-wing parties—once vehicles for proletarian revolt—were attacked as captives of the super-educated urban elite. These days, your education level and political values are as important in defining your class status as your income is. Because of this, the U.S. has polarized into two separate class hierarchies—one red and one blue. Classes struggle not only up and down, against the richer and poorer groups on their own ladder, but against their partisan opposite across the ideological divide.

Seriously, the Republicans were always rich? That would be news to Black Americans, who since Reconstruction have always registered Republican. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a lifelong Republican. I've met old-line South Central families in Los Angeles who were longtime Republicans, too. And if just the richie-rich Monopoly-money men were the Republican voters, how exactly did Republicans ever win elections throughout parts of the 20th century? My family was always Republican -- my grandpa came from what's now the Czech republic and went to his grave muttering about terrorization by the Democrat-led Ku Klux Klan in 1920s Indiana and the upper Midwest. It wasn't just black people who were targets of the Klan or who voted Republican. To say it's a rich-people thing is laughable. How does Brooks explain Richard Nixon?

Maybe, just maybe, the blue-red divide is about ideas? About one side wanting one set of laws for all, and the other side wanting redistribution of spoils? 

He has all sorts of whoppers, and in the most difficult way to parse possible -- in a mix of true and false claims. This statement here got my goat:

[In] 1983, a literary historian named Paul Fussell wrote a book called Class: A Guide Through the American Status System. Most of the book is a caustic and extravagantly snobby tour through the class markers prevalent at the time. After ridiculing every other class, Fussell describes what he called “X people.” These were people just like Fussell: highly educated, curious, ironic, wittily countercultural.

A literary historian named Paul Fussell? That's a very obnoxious statement. I've read most of the late Paul Fussell's books and though I didn't always agree on everything he wrote, I knew he was an extremely distinguished literary critic, with very working class roots, writing about life as a grunt in World War II most prominently, and spending much of his teaching career at Rutgers University. A snob he was not, his claimed snobbiness was facetiousness, and he sure as heck wasn't some kind of nobody. He was a much more distinguished essayist and author than Brooks will ever be, and yes, like Brooks, his bylines appeared in the Atlantic. That's The Atlantic of exacting literary standards it was in the old days, not the wokester Atlantic claiming crossword puzzles are racist that we see today. Ugh.

Brooks plays around with various theses of Fussell and a couple of other observers of class in America, arguing that it's gotten jumbled, and what the young wokesters of today offer is their social 'ease.' You know, like Nixon didn't have, which sounds a bit like maybe this is something a bit old in analysis.

Here's one:

Two years later, Richard Florida published The Rise of the Creative Class, which lauded the economic and social benefits that the creative class—by which he meant, more or less, the same scientists, engineers, architects, financiers, lawyers, professors, doctors, executives, and other professionals who make up the bobos—produced. Enormous wealth was being generated by these highly educated people, who could turn new ideas into software, entertainment, retail concepts, and more. If you wanted your city to flourish, he argued, you had to attract these people by stocking the streets with art galleries, restaurant rows, and cultural amenities. Florida used a “Gay Index,” based on the supposition that neighborhoods with a lot of gay men are the sort of tolerant, diverse places to which members of the creative class flock.

Those people are creative? Don't think so. This guy's creative. The Apple consumers who follow each other, and vote like each other, and pursue social status, are not.

He argues that this class of creatives, or 'X class' people as Fussell called them, have grown insular, which is true. But he never manages to explain Trump voters, who can also come from this creative class, and a lot of them do. He's so wedded to the idea of Trumpsters being "boorish" that he can't imagine any of them being creative or original or individualistic enough to break out of the pack and ask questions. Nope, Trumpsters are boorish, and he's got them in their own silo, same as the blue-state 'creatives' have theirs, which I don't see the argument on. Does the red-blue divide in the U.S. really hinge on status? Couldn't it be about rule of law? Or the importance of prosperity for everyone who works, not just the chosen few? Nope, just a quest for status.

Mainly, he just wanted to remind The Atlantic readers that Trump voters aren't housebroken, they're Thurston Howells with fewer manners, and therefore must be "not our kind, dear" avoided at all costs.

The creased pants come out, Brooks just couldn't help himself, because we know that's what he cares about. Many of us don't. Grrr.

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay License


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