David Brooks is repeating my talking points

I said:

The Tea-Partiers…are the intellectual stepchildren of Rousseau. Their narrative pits the elites against Mainstreet and Everyday Americans. The Everydays are the Real Americans, which is to say the authentic peopleTheir thinking is unclouded by the false-consciousness cultivated by bourgeoise education. W. characterized most introspection as “self-pitying,” and Sarah Palin talks about goin’ with her gut. They have no need of self-criticism when they have certainty that their feelings will put them in touch with their true nature, their common sense and bedrock values. Any discipline of thought (or certain kinds of thoughts) or theoretical training….necessarily lead to errors and false values…

Both Rousseau and the Tea Partiers are radicals. Taking any idea to its logical conclusion is always a dangerous thing to do. Any conservative ideology is no different. Any conservatism taken to extremes ceases to be conservatism. The distance between its ideals and the world-as-it-is becomes so great only a new and total revolution, a complete transformation of society can bring the two into alignment. If conservatism purifies its ideas too far, it will find nothing in society worth conserving, but must innovate to bring about its order. The Tea Partiers and Ron Paul-fans, with its broken but still loud calls for abolition of The Fed, the abolition of the income tax, for the secession of individual states, is innovation.

In brief: We are to believe the Tea Partiers when they call themselves “revolutionaries” and “minutemen,” but call them out as scoundrels when they call themselves “conservative.”

This week, Brooks wrote a piece comparing the Tea Party movement to the ’60’s New Left. Their point of comparison, Brooks writes, is a shared utopianism, a belief that corrupt ruling powers have distorted the inherent goodness of people and potential perfectability of society. He writes

Members of both movements believe in what you might call mass innocence. Both movements are built on the assumption that the people are pure and virtuous and that evil is introduced into society by corrupt elites and rotten authority structures. “Man is born free, but he is everywhere in chains,” is how Rousseau put it.

For this reason, both the New Left and the Tea Party movement are radically anticonservative. Conservatism is built on the idea of original sin — on the assumption of human fallibility and uncertainty. To remedy our fallen condition, conservatives believe in civilization — in social structures, permanent institutions and just authorities, which embody the accumulated wisdom of the ages and structure individual longings.

It’s always cool hearing your own ideas repeated by smart people you respect.

I would call this post masturbatory, but that would be redundant. The entire enterprise of blogging has self-gratification at its kernel. Which is not to say it not seeded with other things. Sometimes self-love is coupled with partisanship or a grudge. Sometimes with a genuine sense of civic duty. In my case, it is a sense of obligation to the friendly people who trusted me with this space, and the desire to experiment with my own ideas, which strike many as idiosyncratic. But apparently some of them are apt.


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