A Conversation with David Brooks
The New York Times’ David Brooks joined me yesterday, and the transcript fo the conversation is here. At the end of it, I asked about Brooks’ e-mail and the general tone of politics on the left and on the right:
HH: And how is your email trending? You’re the conservative within the New York Times, and so you probably get hit from both sides. But is it ramped up in terms of the anxiety and the anger level over five years ago?
DB: It was pretty hot five years ago.
HH: That’s what I…
DB: I got started during the Iraq war, and I would say that was the peak of hotness. But no question, the disgust with government, with the New York Times…but you know, most of my email, frankly, is from the left, is hatred from the left. So that’s most of where I get it. And I have to say that’s been about pretty steady, less so than when Bush was in office….
HH: I’m just wondering about, though, if you agree, last couple of questions, David Brooks, that the right is more vehement than the left right now in politics, because my experience from my emails, my callers, my general interactions with the public is that the right is intense but not vicious, and that the left is intense and generally much more vicious than the right. What do you think about that?
DB: I’ll tell you what I tell my liberal friends all the time, that I worked in liberal organizations, and I’ve worked in conservative organizations. And the further right you go, the nicer people are in the organization. That’s my genuine view. And the other thing I tell them by the way is that I’ve spent a lot of my time in liberal circles where I’m the only conservative, and I’ve spent a lot of time in conservative circles. And I hear fewer racial comments in conservative circles than in liberal circles.
The failure of the Obama agenda to deliver robust economic growth or a sense of promise or progress is working a perverse effect on the left –making it even angrier than it was in 2008 and 2006. This is off-putting in the extreme, and the center of the country, already dismayed with the massive grasping of the federal government, will not reward policy failure combined with media arrogance and meanness.
The president chose to refuse to engage the Republicans and his serial jam-downs have left the country at least as deeply divided as did the war. The left’s anger is erupting and directed now at Democrats such as Blanche Lincoln and centrists like Brooks. That’s a recipe for electoral disaster, but the president has almost no opportunities left to expand his base between now and November. The need to rebalance D.C. is obvious, and you don’t get rebalancing by adding a hard-left voice and vote like Joe Sestak’s to the Senate.