Brooks on Tribalism

NYT ‘conservative’ David Brooks’ recent column attempts to make sense of the tribalism inherent in today’s right wing populism. But whereas Brooks argues goes on to warn that the GOP “is becoming a party permanently associated with bigotry”, Robert Merry thinks otherwise, arguing that Brooks is:

… suggesting there is in fact a genuine debate going on: “Right now the populists have a story to tell the country about what’s gone wrong. It’s a coherent story, which they tell with great conviction. The regular Republicans have no story, no conviction and no argument. They just hem and haw and get run over.”

And what is that story? Ah, here’s where Brooks falls back into his Hillary mode, with sarcasm and dismissiveness under a veneer of objective description. He writes: “The Trump story is that good honest Americans are being screwed by aliens. Regular Americans are being oppressed by a snobbish elite that rigs the game in its favor. White Americans are being invaded by immigrants who take their wealth and divide their culture. Normal Americans are threatened by an Islamic radicalism that murders their children.”

The impetus for Brooks’ disrespectful hyperbole becomes clear in his next sentence: “This is a tribal story.” He explains: “The tribe needs a strong warrior in a hostile world. We need to build walls to keep out illegals, erect barriers to hold off foreign threats, wage endless war on the globalist elites.”

And this, writes Brooks in his column’s penultimate sentence, is “deeply wrong and un-American.”

Merry continues:

Brooks’ description of the essence of the American identity is false. His invocation of America’s frontier—as a proxy also for the country’s “technological, scientific, social and human frontiers”—misses a fundamental reality of the American story. America was in fact a tribal enterprise.

Brooks would have us believe that the United States began as a pristine crusader state on behalf of global democracy and internationalism, a “universal nation” devoted to “diverse hopefulness” as opposed to “fear-driven homogeneity.” No, the people who ventured onto these shores and then pushed westward inexorably were highly conscious not only of their religious provenance but also of their cultural and ethnic heritage. They brutally pushed aside the aboriginal peoples, declined to mix with them, and created societies that mirrored those of the Old Country, even naming their towns and cities after those inhabited by their overseas ancestors.

As more and more people arrived from places removed from the English Motherland and other English-speaking regions (but almost entirely from Europe), those newcomers were abjured to accept the established Anglo-Saxon elite and bend to its mores and sensibilities. In return the elite gave the nation a relatively gentle and more or less disinterested stewardship based on a strong sense of national service inculcated at WASP prep schools and universities such as Yale and Harvard…

But there were frictions, of course, as new arrivals began to chafe under America’s ancient elite, and most of it was tribal. When the Irish of Boston reached such numbers that they could upend the old WASP establishment of that city, it was tribal. When American Jews thrilled to the creation of Israel and sought to bend U.S. policy toward today’s special relationship, it was tribal. Ethnic politics is tribal politics, and ethnic politics has become an ever more powerful force within the American polity.

Steve Sailer calls this Brooksian version of civic nationalism the Lazarene Creed (after the Zeroeth Amendment that is Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty) and wryly asks:

Who finds this kind of rhetoric persuasive?

I guess lots of people do … But it sounds like self-parody. Perhaps Brooks is denouncing “the tribe” to see if anybody in the NYT comments even gets the joke?

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