Friday, November 06, 2009

If I were an independent, I'd want David Brooks to stop stereotyping me and claiming to speak for me

On the surface, a lot of what David Brooks says and writes seems to make sense. And, to be fair, the whole cultural-social stereotyping thing that has propelled him to widespread punditocratic fame, perfected with the Patio Man and Realtor Mom of his exurban paradise, can be quite amusing.

Beneath the surface, though, when you get past the thin veneer of an amusing exterior, is, not to put too fine a word on it, bullshit. And the bullshit is on full display in Brooks's NYT column today, a typical fluff piece that makes grandiose statements based on limited, if non-existent, empirical evidence.

Specifically, Brooks asserts that the results of Tuesday's elections, as well as of recent public-opinion polls on a variety of major issues, show that independents, whom of course he treats as a monolith without any nuance or allowance for diversity whatsoever, have become more conservative. He concludes:

Independents support the party that seems most likely to establish a frame of stability and order, within which they can lead their lives. They can't always articulate what they want, but they withdraw from any party that threatens turmoil and risk. As always, they're looking for a safe pair of hands.

Uh-huh. Whatever.

First, Brooks doesn't seem to consider that shifts in public opinion, including for independents, do not happen in a vacuum. If independents are upset about too much government regulation, perhaps it's because economic uncertainty has them lashing out at those in power, specifically at Obama.

Second, independents could just be wrong. They're more conservative on global warming and immigration? I take that to mean they're a) stupider, given all the evidence against conservative denialism on global warming, and b) more xenophobic in a time of economic uncertainty, desperate to blame someone, anyone, especially a widely vilified Other, for their apparent demise.

One thing about independents is that they're not so much independent as they are self-absorbed egotists who want politicians to cater to their every whim and tend to be easily manipulated. Sorry, that's just the way it is. They're just not the self-aware, generally right-leaning ideal of Brooks's wacky imagination.

For more, see Noam Scheiber at The Stash. I agree that, in general, independents are "just pissed off about the economy." They may say there's too much government regulation and too much government interference in the market, but they don't have "well worked-out views about the proper size of government" and they aren't "supremely self-aware about where they stand on the ideological spectrum, and where politicians stand relative to them at any given moment." They're just not that sophisticated, and it's silly of Brooks, if typical of him, to attribute sense to them where there is, for the most part, just knee-jerk senselessness.

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