Saturday, April 30, 2016

The GOP's Joe McCarthy Moment

I generally disagree with most of what New York Times columnist David Brooks has to say be it his history of being an apologist for conservative misogyny to his deference to religious extremist.  But on rare occasion he gets things at least partly right.  A case in point is his column yesterday where he argues that the GOP is facing a Joe McCarthy moment.  While he casts about for solutions to the problem, he unfortunately fails to recognize that much of what has brought the country to its current status is the failed GOP policies that he has all too often supported and the GOP obstructionism that has prevented President Obama to take more decisive action to address the nations ills. More efforts at furthering the interests of the obscenely wealthy, vulture capitalists and Christian extremists is not going to achieve the aims Brooks claims to support.  Here are highlights:
Donald Trump now looks set to be the Republican presidential nominee. So for those of us appalled by this prospect — what are we supposed to do?
Well, not what the leaders of the Republican Party are doing. They’re going down meekly and hoping for a quiet convention. They seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.
The better course for all of us — Republican, Democrat and independent — is to step back and take the long view, and to begin building for that. This election — not only the Trump phenomenon but the rise of Bernie Sanders, also — has reminded us how much pain there is in this country. According to a Pew Research poll, 75 percent of Trump voters say that life has gotten worse for people like them over the last half century.
This declinism intertwines with other horrible social statistics. The suicide rate has surged to a 30-year high — a sure sign of rampant social isolation. A record number of Americans believe the American dream is out of reach. And for millennials, social trust is at historic lows.
Trump’s success grew out of that pain, but he is not the right response to it. The job for the rest of us is to figure out the right response.
I was surprised by Trump’s success because I’ve slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata — in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own. It takes an act of will to rip yourself out of that and go where you feel least comfortable.
Up until now, America’s story has been some version of the rags-to-riches story, the lone individual who rises from the bottom through pluck and work. But that story isn’t working for people anymore, especially for people who think the system is rigged. I don’t know what the new national story will be, but maybe it will be less individualistic and more redemptive. 
We’ll probably need a new definition of masculinity, too. There are many groups in society who have lost an empire but not yet found a role. Men are the largest of those groups. The traditional masculine ideal isn’t working anymore. It leads to high dropout rates, high incarceration rates, low labor force participation rates.  This is an economy that rewards emotional connection and verbal expressiveness. Everywhere you see men imprisoned by the old reticent, stoical ideal.
We’ll also need to rebuild the sense that we’re all in this together.
I would add that we need a new empathy for others who don't look just like us or think just like us - something that is anathema to the Christofascists and white supremacists and vulture capitalists within the Republican Party. As for redefining masculinity, perhaps Brooks ought to spend more time around gays.

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