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Brooks Chirps Warning to Robber Barons and Democrats

Jane’s warning about Village Democrats, pulling up the Senate drawbridge to protect ChapStick Joe, is spot on:

This is about telling you that you mean nothing….No matter what Joe Lieberman does, the people who are protecting him hate you much more than they hate him.

And David Brooks is the bipartisan featherless canary in the Senate coal mine. Detecting the Change People Want, But Villagers Fear, he gives us his Robber Baron version of the consequences of earlier depressions. They were the prelude to the Frankenstein’s Monster of politicians, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who incited the townsfolk to rise, pitchforks in hand:

The economic slowdown of the 1880s and 1890s produced a surge of agrarian populism and nativism, with particular hostility directed toward Catholics, Jews and blacks. The Great Depression was not only a time of F.D.R.’s optimism and escapist movies, it was also a time of apocalyptic forebodings and collectivist movements that crushed individual rights.

According to Bobo, it was "economic slowdown" that produced social unrest, not industrialization and the brutalization of workers. "Nativism", too, was a reaction to those slowdowns, not to a mass influx of immigrants, begged for by industrialists. Those immigrants, taking jobs from earlier ones, were meant to man their factories and war machines, build their railroads, buy their goods and grow grain on buffalo-less plains for their city workers. Racism and xenophobia were also the consequences of "economic slowdown". They weren’t stoked by those like Henry Ford and his wealth peers, who needed targets besides themselves for their workers’ resentments.

But how do we manage personal and economic depression, and find the will to work our way out of them? Optimism. Bobo takes care of that by conflating FDR’s and, by implication, Obama’s optimism [see Time’s cover] with "escapist movies". He harkens back to pre-censorship days, when depression-era films gave the hoi poloi visions of independent, bra-less women and a sneak peak at the foibles of the top-hatted well-to-do.

"Apocalyptic forebodings", of course, are always to be avoided. That doesn’t include the legitimate fears of corporatist insiders, who wanted to stage a coup against FDR. Nor the fears of Father Coughlin, famous for his racist and anti-Semitic demagoguery. No, what Brooks wants to deflect is populists who want a piece of the Robber Baron pie. He attempts that by the mind-numbing claim that it was "collectivist movements" that "crushed individual rights". Charitably, he imagines Stalinist Russia. But he purports to describe the American experience, which requires that he ignore industrialization, Woodrow Wilson’s Sedition Act, and a political elite whose judges concluded that the sanctity of contract forbade laws protecting workers and allowing collective bargaining.

David Brooks reveals his true readership, in feeling bound to remind them of this:

Nesting [in depressive repose] amongst an extended family rich in social capital is very different from nesting in a one-person household that is isolated from family and community bonds….For them, cocooning is…a perilous psychological spiral.

Thankfully, Bobo chirps his final WARNING:

In this recession,…the last ones to join the middle class will be the first ones out….It will be the loss of a social identity, the loss of social networks, the loss of the little status symbols that suggest an elevated place in the social order….[that] produce alienation and a political response. If you want to know where the next big social movements will come from, I’d say the formerly middle class.

[all emph. added]

Herr David is not apprising the Villagers of the prospects for future social unrest. He is telling them to forestall it. From today’s cave-in vote, which keeps the execrable ChapStick Joe in charge of the Senate’s non-oversight of Homeland Security, I’d say they heard him loud and clear.

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