Sunday, July 8, 2018

Readings in overcoming political tribalism — #3: David Brooks on” Republican or Conservative, You Have to Choose”

In this sterling op-ed, David Brooks reminds us of the historical roots of conservatism and the values that traditionally animate it: seeking too build a social order, indeed a “sacred space”, that nurtures individualism along with community, mostly for the sake of freedom, while protecting it over the centuries first from abstract ideologies, then from industrialization, and lately from big government. But in America as well as England, such endeavors “have fizzled because over the last 30 years the parties of the right drifted from conservatism. The Republican Party became the party of market fundamentalism.” Brooks deems market fundamentalism “an inhumane philosophy” that leads to excessive individualism and social atomization, thereby next inducing a turn to tribalism.

Accordingly, “Republican voters eventually rejected market fundamentalism and went for the tribalism of Donald Trump because at least he gave them a sense of social belonging. At least he understood that there’s a social order under threat.” Problem is, says Brooks, it’s not the kind of belonging that conservatives traditionally value — instead, “His tribalism is the evil twin of community.”

Thus, “In 2018, the primary threat to the sacred order is no longer the state. It is a radical individualism that leads to vicious tribalism. The threat comes from those two main currents of the national Republican Party. At his essence Trump is an assault on the sacred order that conservatives hold dear — the habits and institutions that cultivate sympathy, honesty, faithfulness and friendship.

“Today you can be a conservative or a Republican, but you can’t be both.”

Brooks concludes his excellent analysis by placing his hope not in the GOP but in “beautiful communities” where he sees “good citizens and healthy attachments” being nurtured anew.

We need more of this kind of thinking on both the Right and the Left. Otherwise, I fear, we are being headed ever farther toward plutocracy for the rich and fascism for the poor, not tto mention illusions of democracy for the rest of us.

To read for yourself, go here:

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