October 21, 2020

David Brooks Nails It

In his July 30 New York Times article, columnist David Brooks quotes Peggy Noonan and agrees with her when she says about this year’s presidential election: “It’s incredibly consequential and incredibly boring all at the same time.”

Brooks gives the following reasons why he concurs with this observation:

  • Intellectual stagnation: “…our big government/ small government debate is back where it was a generation ago. Candidates don’t even have to rehearse the arguments anymore; they just find the gaffes that will help them pin their opponent to the standard bogyman clichés.”
  • Lack of any hint of intellectual innovation: “…the ideological climate has ossified. Candidates know that they’d be punished for saying something unexpected — by the rich, elderly donors and by the hyperorthodox talk-show hosts. Instead of saying something new, now they just try to boost turnout within their own demographic niches and suppress turnout in the other guy’s niches.”
  • Increased focus on the uninformed: “The prevailing view is that anybody who would pay attention to such a speech is already committed to a candidate. It’s more efficient to focus on the undecided voters, who don’t really follow politics or the news.”
  • Lack of serious policy proposals: “President Obama’s proposals are small and medium-size retreads, while Mitt Romney has run the closest thing to a policy-free race as any candidate in my lifetime.”
  • Negative passion: “Both parties are driven more by hatred than by love. Both sides feel it would be a disaster for the country if the other side had power during the next four years. Neither side is propelled by much positive enthusiasm for their own side.”
  • No enactment strategy: “To avert catastrophe, the next president will have to rally bipartisan majorities around a budget deal and many other things. That will require personal and relationship skills neither has demonstrated.”
  • Ad budget myopia: “Both campaigns fervently believe that more spending leads to more votes.”
  • Technology is making campaigns dumber: “The campaigns get lost in tit-for-tat minutiae that nobody outside the bubble cares about.”
  • Dishonesty numbs: “It’s impossible to take ads seriously. They are the jackhammer noise in the background of life.”

* * *

Friends, that’s about as accurate as it gets. The only thing I’m getting from either party these days is why I should hate the other party. Would somebody please give me some good, positive reasons to vote FOR one or the other?

Where’s the leadership? The vision? The ideas? The proposals? The kind of character and relational skill that wins our hearts and minds?

A plague on both their houses. At this point, I’m seriously considering sitting it out and filing this election under “Same Old Bull****.” Don’t blame us for being cynical when this is what you offer the American people.



  1. Disengaging is sometimes a VERY good thing. Can I just say this makes me smile, and leave it at that?

  2. Instead of sitting out, vote Gary Johnson. he’s a more credible libertarian candidate than Ron Paul and doesn’t have the racist baggage. he won’t shovel money to the banks or use the government for culture wars.

    If he can get to 15% in the polls, he should get into the debates. He’s right around 5% now, but slowly growing.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      If he can get to 15% in the polls, he should get into the debates. He’s right around 5% now, but slowly growing.

      That’s what they said about Our Next President Ron Paul the last time around. And about Our Next President Ross Perot in ’92.

      And after the election, you’ll hear about how some Losertarian who got elected assistant dogcatcher in Hooterville is The Start Of The Great Libertarian Wave That Will Sweep America(TM). Kind of like the old Taiwanese one about how they will invade and take back the Mainland. Been hearing the same old, same old for the twenty years and counting.

  3. Dan Crawford says

    I too would love to sit this one out: the candidates of both parties have already been purchased. Mr Obama has shown himself all too willing to surrender to the bullies pushing the agendas of abortion and gay “rights”. Mr. “No Policy” Romney has already sold himself to the oligarchs and social darwinist extremists in his own party. Neither party seems particularly concerned about the working poor, the long-term unemployed, distressed families, the elderly barely getting by on their Social Security, the strangle-hold that corporate medicine has on health care, and the xenophobia that blames all the country’s problems on “illegal” immigrants. Instead we get reheated servings of Ryan’s Randophilia, Paul’s “Let them die” approach to persons without medical care, Romney’s, “I created jobs (in India, Mexico and Taiwan), and Obama’s embrace of gay marriage and federal regulations designed to drive religious institutions from providing services human beings really need.

    Wow, what a choice: Between two men, neither of whom has shown insight, imagination, caring, or courage. God help us all.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Wow, what a choice: Between two men, neither of whom has shown insight, imagination, caring, or courage.

      Don’t forget parsing theology letter-by-letter and “NOT THE MORMON! NOT THE MORMON! NOT THE MORMON!” (Mitt Romney, not God’s Anointed Mouthpiece Glenn Beck.)

      And there’s always the Race and Fag cards being played off the bottom of the deck.


      And the Christians smugly bragging about “God’s Judgment on America Has Begun” and/or sitting on the roof (so they won’t have as far to Ascend) clutching their Rapture Boarding Passes. They have given up and only expect a Divine airlift out.

      And in California where I am (i.e. Mexico Norte), every election for the past 15 years has turned out exactly the same: ALL INCUMBENTS RE-ELECTED; *NO* EXCEPTIONS. Every Election. Period.

      • Rush Limbaugh is Ayn Rand’s prophet. Glenn has other fish to fry.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          No, Rush Limbaugh is de facto Chairman/Kingmaker of the GOP. All the Republican candidates this year were pee-their-pants scared of displeasing Rush. And Rush (who shows every sign of listening to his own PR for too long) believes it the most.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      P.S. Romney DOES have a policy: “I’M NOT BARACK OBAMA!”

      P.P.S. Don’t forget the John Galt Celebrity Impersonator Chorus singing “RON! PAUL! RON! PAUL! RON! PAUL! RON! PAUL!” at 100+ decibels.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    I hear more rumblings (both on or off the net) that a Dictator — the Man on the White Horse who rides in, takes over, and fixes everything by decree — would be the best thing for this country. Some are even looking forward to the Coup.

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Maybe we can rein-act 1812, and send Stephen Harper to the White house. Except this time, we Canadians should stay, instead of burning it down and leaving…

      🙂 🙂

    • Susan Paxton says

      The White Horse Prophecy is Mormon doctrine. Look it up (I can’t make links using my Kindle).

      • Christiane says

        relax, Mitt’s ‘dressage’ horse (the one he claimed somehow for a 70K tax cut) is not a white horse.

  5. I think Brooks’ observations are accurate. But I think the brain dead campaigns are a reflection of giving the people what they want. I was speaking with a supposedly intelligent, college educated young professional the other week who mentioned that she didn’t read any news sources because anything important enough to know would come to her via the Twittersphere. My head almost exploded at that. All the news you need to know in 140 characters or less. In depth analysis of complex subjects in 140 characters or less. Reliable opinions from other people who receive information and think in 140 characters or less. Really, I hate to bring up the “kids these days” topic but if this is the norm in the next generation to run the world then it’s over for us. Don’t forget to shut the lights off on your way out.

    But you opened your posting with the main reason for not sitting this election out. This election is consequential. The whole world is in financial crisis.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      My writing partner is insisting all his sons become fluent in Mandarin. That way they’ll be useful to their superiors. House instead of Field.

      • Scrapiron says

        As an educator, I am constantly reminded that I need to prepare my students with “21st Century skills”. My reply has been for years now that if we are really serious about preparing kids for the 21st Century, we need to be teaching then Mandarin. And I’m not kidding!

  6. cermak_rd says

    Meh, same old same old. On the bright side, at least we don’t have new things to argue about! I mean, sure there’ some new things but by and large they are nuances of old things. The reason we’re still arguing in the same place about big vs. small government is because we haven’t reached a healthy consensus on where that should be. Also, with the demographics constantly in flux, we may never reach a healthy consensus on that issue.

    I have not watched a single political commercial. I do not read op eds about the election. As a partisan, I have made up my mind already, which makes the political process goes a little smoother. I won’t have to endure the campaign literature for the Congress critter I didn’t like and always wrote-in a vote against (a Conservadem) because I have been redistricted into a more pleasing Critter’s district (Rep. Gutierrez IL US 4).

    I think it would be helpful if more people considered the Electoral College. After all, I’m in IL, does it really matter who I vote for for President? IL is a reliably blue state and that isn’t changing this election cycle. If I were a GOPer and I lived in Mississippi, then the same thought occurs. Mississippi is going to be red regardless of any individual vote. Now, for you, Chaplain Mike, this won’t solve your problem because IN is a swinger.

    Still, at least it reduces the problem so only those in 10 states or so really need to endure the campaign.

  7. Down here in Texas we don’t even get to why we should hate the other party. Our adds explain why we should hate the other guy in the same party (he hates America and would destroy your values).

    • humanslug says

      It’s no different here in Tennessee. Just the other day I saw a state election ad which spent the first 30 seconds bashing the other candidate for negative campaigning and the next 30 seconds slinging mud for everything else. Can you say “blatant hypocrisy.” They might as well have run an ad criticizing the other guy’s use of TV campaign ads.
      This is humanslug and I approve this message.

  8. Chaplain Mike, I am shocked to see this as the topic for the day. Are you looking for a fight? Flabbergasted would better describe my reaction to this post. Followed immediately by huge disappointment. I came to this site today for a shot of something completely opposite of this, which i can get at Fox news site or huffington post 24/7.

    • The world is a complex place, Debra. I realize not everything we post pleases everyone. Sorry.

      • Somehow I don’t feel you gave a thought to trying please anyone with this post. The opposite, it seems.

        • I can’t say that I disagree with Mr. Brooks. It still strikes me as dismal news, and like Debra, I do not find much comfort in the current state of political discourse in America. I will do my best to pick the best candidate, as I am sure all of us will, but my only real comfort lies in God’s purpose for the world and for His people. Perhaps this word would be the good news we seek in such a shallow election year:

          Daniel 4:17 — . . . the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.

          • Joseph (the original) says

            Daniel 4:17 — . . . the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.

            Chill: you are going to blame God on the ‘bestowing’ of being leader over a nation/country???

            is that really true? at least in the sense of God’s appointment of leaders in this country let alone all of human history???

            i am sure you can fine scriptures directed to kings & how they were supposed to rule according to God’s standards. yet all the known despots, tyrants, dictators, etc. somehow get into power because God is the One doing the Grand Chessgame of History???

            in the realm of human choice & ability, i do believe it is up to us who we want to be in charge & at times that requires a world war to bring down the evil leaders/rulers. it could be our choices more or less seem to align themselves with what we believe God would want, but when this approach stirs up the American Political Pot it either canonizes some & demonizes others, or gives the false impression that yes Virginia, God is on my side & it is divine destiny to be President Elect of this country…

            Lord, have mercy on us lowly citizens trying to make sense of all this political hubris… 🙁

        • Which raises the question of whether a blog’s purpose should be to please the reader. Might be worthy of discussion.

          At least I think CM’s skepticism and pessimism about the quality of human governance is certainly in line with much of what the Bible has to say about it in a number of places.

      • Elizabeth says

        Well, I think her point is that if we agree witht he points that the options are negative, nit-picking at each other, myopic, numbing and lack substance, then what value is there to discussing this right now. It’s August – we’ve got time to ponder and discuss this and lots of other thing that we can focus on in the mean time.

        OH….wait……is this your way of protesting the lack of baseball in the Olympics!?! We will not be swayed by your trickery, sir. Back to watching archery …….

  9. Because of the Olympics, we are watching more live TV than normal(usually we Tivo and skip commercials). My 12yo is becoming distraught at how negative all the campaign ads are. She just doesn’t get why all these people would promote themselves by bashing others. I’m afraid she may be burned out on politics before she’s old enough to vote.

    • You only THINK that you are watching live TV. Since there is such a time difference from the US and London chances are that those Olympic moments you are enjoying are really tape delayed. If you want live then you’d better go to the internet feeds…

    • The ones that get me are where we have Obama speaking, and he ends with “I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.” To that I can only reply, “I sure as heck hope so!”

  10. Joseph (the original) says

    usually i am not all that keyed up about Presidential elections. and the partisan politics/posturing+associated rhetoric worse than the dreaded fingernails-scraping-blackboard sound…

    so, in order to interject some levity into these dreary goings-on i actually plot my voting choices to cancel out how my ex-wife votes…

    fortunately for me her political perspectives a carbon-copy of those her boss/husband has. and since i was paying attention the last 10 years of my convoluted marriage, i can pinpoint exactly how she will vote..

    some things in life are not only patriotic while carrying out my civic priviledge, they can be downright enjoyable as i sit down at the kitchen table & color in the bubbles of my mail-in ballot.

    hallelujah! what a wonderful country i live in! 8)

  11. haha So true! It is incredible how similar both candidates are, and all they are really saying is what the people want to hear, this is truly a generation of political puppets!

  12. Don’t bother me with the presidential campaign today. I’m too busy redeeming the culture clotting my arteries with “Chikin”.

    • My friend wrote:
      “I am tired of this Chik-Fil-A controversy. And when I am tired, I get the munchies. When I get the munchies, I need waffle fries…”
      Mmmmm, chick fil a waffle fries. Now I know what I want for dinner.

    • eat more

  13. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    No enactment strategy: “To avert catastrophe, the next president will have to rally bipartisan majorities around a budget deal and many other things. That will require personal and relationship skills neither has demonstrated.”

    The only “enactment strategy” I see for “bipartisan majorities” is Purity of Ideology, Purity of Ideology, and Purity of Ideology.

  14. If anything, this Presidential election will provide a reading on the state of Evangelicalism.

    I was brought up in an Evangelical church, and ever since I was in grade school I’ve been taught that Mormonism is a cult. It seems that this has been a consistent Evangelical position for decades.

    Do Evangelicals still consider Mormonism a cult?

    If so, how can one justify supporting for President a person who is a member of a cult?

    Wouldn’t the election of a Mormon President validate the Mormon faith, particularly if his election is supported by a majority of Evangelical Christians?

    These are some questions I have been pondering.

    • cermak_rd says

      I don’t know, cult is usually just a word for a religion of which the describer doesn’t approve. And I find it funny to see folks from denominations that wouldn’t know the Nicean from the Athanasian Creed trying to put their finger on what is so outre about the LDS faith.

      As for validation, after more than a century, I’d say the LDS is already there, even without a President. Recent polls have shown that a majority of Christians believe that people of other faiths (and they even clarified that other faith meant Buddhist or Hindu, not Methodist or Lutheran) can get to heaven if they lead a good life. While the big guns in Evangelicalism have been trying to divide doctrine rightly, the members have been coming to their own conclusions.

      And does anyone actually care what people’s faith are as politicians? I mean, I never voted for Rep Lipinksi and he’s a Catholic, but I didn’t vote for him because I disliked his views (anti-SSM, anti-abortion, etc.) not because he was a Catholic. Even in that instance where his views were the same as the Catholic hierarchy, I was still reacting to the views, not his faith. After all, Sen Durbin is a Catholic, and I’ve voted for him many times.

      So even if the candidate were a Satanist, wouldn’t it be because he supports using animals as sacrificial creatures (let’s just say, I actually don’t know any real Satanists) and therefore opposes anti-cruelty laws or something like that? And not his faith itself? I mean, the only people I know who would care are the people who conflate the OT’s Israel with modern-day US.

      • Joseph (the original) says

        So even if the candidate were a Satanist, wouldn’t it be because he supports using animals as sacrificial creatures…

        as long as it’s all those nasty cows/steers out there…

        “Eat mor Chikin”

        amen! 🙂

  15. There’s more than 2 candidates, you know. There’s a good quiz at http://www.isidewith.com for pointing you to candidates based on actual issues.

  16. I couldn’t agree more. I’m also considering sitting this one out. It’s disgusting. I’m beginning to wonder if maybe we don’t even deserve our republic any more. Time to go back to a monarchy!

    • humanslug says

      Naw, too old fashioned. If we really want to be progressive, we should shoot for a technocratic totalitarian state with a points system instead of money, silent medically performed purges for all the slackers and malcontents, and scripted elections as a form of public entertainment and distraction.

  17. I don’t blame you for sitting out. At the same time, I just can not imagine any situation where I would not vote for the lesser of two evils. I’d vote a smaller party if I thought there was a chance they’d win, but in reality, to do so is effectively voting for the greater of two evils.

  18. Josh in FW says

    Recently I’ve read a few articles about the events in Syria and Egypt. We’re very fortunate to have a society with such small problems.

  19. I’m one of those weirdos who remembers the election news in 1984 (I was 6) and how Mondale was the last resort to avoid nuclear war Verses It’s Morning Again in America. I also remember every election since then with people on multiple sides saying “I just wish we had someone better to choose from this time.” Few conservatives wanted Bush, fewer liberals wanted Gore (until he lost), and almost no one wanted Kerry or Dole but would take them.

    Unfortunately, we seem to have entered the silly season late last December and we still aren’t at the end of it. I’ve learned to avoid most any form of “Gotcha” media (Stewart, Limbaugh, Maddow) that exists to muddy the waters. It helps considerably around this time of year.

  20. Richard McNeeley says

    The current political climate is mild compared to some others. In 1828 Andrew Jackson was accused of murder and adultery amoung other things while John Quincy Adams was called a pimp. In 1840 William Henry Harrison was called the hard cider candidate. In 1884 Grover Cleavland was accused of having an affair and fathering a child out of wedlock. We have had a long history of portraying the other guy as evil and looking for character flaws to exploit. Very few elections have been about policy.

  21. Regardless of who you support, am I not the only person who finds Obama advertisements being run during the Olympics promoting the middle class above both the upper classes and the lower classes as very strange? Playing the class warfare card, but with the middle class?

    And don’t think I am a lurking Romney supporter, I can’t make sense of anything he says.

  22. This election makes one wonder who the early Christians would have voted for it they had the vote. Nero or Caligula?

  23. These comments could just have easily been made about the Australian political scene these days. Although our federal election is 12 months away, it seems like we’ve been in campaign mode since the last one in 2010, which resulted in a minority government hanging on by the good graces of a couple of independents. The negativity is stunning and the electorate is fed up with it and has stopped listening to either side I believe. It seems to be a virus infecting western democracies these days. Oh for the days of statesmen rather than politicians!

  24. David Brooks for President!

  25. Seriously, though, as a gradually relinquish the last shreds of hope that I can find justification as a Christian to support EITHER party, I’m left wondering what to do with my ‘duty’ to vote.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      Well, if I run out of toilet paper, I know what to do with my duty to vote…

  26. Marcus Johnson says

    Am I the only person who thinks that the reasons listed above for why Brooks (and me, and most of the people in this forum, and a significant majority of American would-be voters) is dissatisfied with the presidential candidates are the exact same reasons why so many Christians are dissatisfied with their home church, denomination, and the institution of Christianity in general?

  27. I find it intriguing that this article is referencing Noonan and Brooks, both conservatives, as calling down judgment on both sides, with most comments here agreeing. I would like to know if any of the commenters who feel this way would self-identify as progressives or have a history of voting Democrat. Could it be that this analysis from the right-of-center says less about the Obama campaign’s failures (which their perception could be chalked up to confirmation bias) than Romney’s (which, from human tendency, would be given more benefit of the doubt)? I’m not saying people here are rabid Republicans, don’t get me wrong. But even a leaning one way or the other can create this effect.

    • I like that IM draws people from both ends. I like Brooks because, though a conservative and even a Republican (if they still claim him, which he questions), he seems to place great importance on trying to understand both sides. AND I think he articulates this as well or better than anyone else in the ‘media.’

  28. Professor Failure says

    The only issues I truly get worked up about anymore are climate change and health care reform.
    The Democrats are marginally better on both these, so they have my boat.

    In my ideal universe, I’d propose massive funding increases to science agencies, focusing on funding innovative R&D efforts, subsidizing novel and energy saving technology. I’d also like to see increased tax incentives to fund industry and development in blighted and impoverished neighborhoods. I’d like to see a lot of muscular progressive action.

    But that’s in another universe, not in this dying, burnt out ember of a world.

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