Today’s GOP Even Frightens David Brooks

David Brooks frustrates me. Sometimes, I disagree strongly with his “take” on the American condition (usually offered from what seems a self-consciously “elevated” vantage point), but sometimes, he hits the nail squarely on the head. I continue to read his columns in the New York Times for those latter instances, of which last Friday’s was one.

Titled “The GOP is Getting Even Worse,” Brooks commented on the cultural hysteria that has clearly gripped the Republicans’ (declining) base.

There are increasing signs that the Trumpian base is radicalizing. My Republican friends report vicious divisions in their churches and families. Republican politicians who don’t toe the Trump line are speaking of death threats and menacing verbal attacks.

It’s as if the Trump base felt some security when their man was at the top, and that’s now gone. Maybe Trump was the restraining force.

What’s happening can only be called a venomous panic attack. Since the election, large swathes of the Trumpian right have decided America is facing a crisis like never before and they are the small army of warriors fighting with Alamo-level desperation to ensure the survival of the country as they conceive it.

Survey research provides support for that observation. Brooks points to a poll taken in late January, in which respondents were asked whether politics is more about “enacting good public policy” or more about “ensuring the survival of the country as we know it. ” Fifty-one percent of Trump Republicans said survival; a mere 19 percent chose policy.

Another poll asked Americans which of two statements came closest to their view: “It’s a big, beautiful world, mostly full of good people, and we must find a way to embrace each other and not allow ourselves to become isolated” or “Our lives are threatened by terrorists, criminals and illegal immigrants, and our priority should be to protect ourselves.”

Those who read this blog can guess what’s coming: More than 75 percent of Biden voters chose “a big, beautiful world.” Two-thirds of Trump voters chose “our lives are threatened.”

Brooks is absolutely right when he writes that

Liberal democracy is based on a level of optimism, faith and a sense of security. It’s based on confidence in the humanistic project: that through conversation and encounter, we can deeply know each other across differences; that most people are seeking the good with different opinions about how to get there; that society is not a zero-sum war, but a conversation and a negotiation.

He is also right when he observes that the Republican response to Biden and his agenda has largely been anemic “because the base doesn’t care about mere legislation, just their own cultural standing.”

For years, the refrain from what Americans call “the Left” (and what is globally considered pretty middle-of-the-road) has been “why do so many people vote against their own best interests?” That question, however, rests on a faulty premise. Moderate and leftwing folks define “best interests” in largely economic terms. Voters would be “better off” financially or more likely to find employment if they voted differently. But today’s Republicans see their “best interests” in cultural and racial terms, not economic promises.

The overwhelmingly White Christian supporters of today’s GOP see a demographic shift that will eventually rob them of what is clearly most important to them–far more important than a good job or a fairer tax system or the rate of inflation. Their “interest” is in continued cultural and racial dominance–and as the research shows, many of them are willing to engage in violence, a la January 6th, to protect that dominance.

It’s scary.


  1. That January poll which questioned, “whether politics is more about “enacting good public policy” or more about “ensuring the survival of the country as we know it” may be one of the most ridiculous questions put to the American public…which sector of America and how many were polled? The problems in this country are due to the fact these opposing views make up the foundation of politics in this country because it is the makeup of the people of this country due to human nature.

    The GOP in Maricopa County, AZ, are currently auditing (recounting) the 2020 presidential votes AGAIN; that year, that presidential election and that president are 6 months in our past…and theirs. The fact that either party is apparently legally allowed to continue recounting any election results ad infinitum is a problem. Just as there is an end to terms of elected officials; there should be an end to the election which either elected or removed them. Can that county, that state, that party and this country ignore what is happening within the Republican party as they ignore reality and continue to live in Trump’s past reality by continuing to delude Trump’s supporters with false hope of his return to the White House?

    When did Brooks come to the realization “The GOP is Getting Even Worse.”?

  2. I repeat my belief that the hard-core Republicans are in the grips of the fear that comes with the realization that they are about to lose their position of power, and it shows by the increasingly desperate attempts to maintain their grip on that power. And, like a trapped animal, they are most dangerous at this point.

  3. Sheila,

    Your thread this morning is very no holds barred!

    Myself, I’ve always liked David Brooks. And, he is absolutely correct, and so are you!

    Yesterday, one of my cousins (Jeannie) criticized my blog posts on your particular blog and another. She also claimed, through a copy and paste, that she is entitled to her opinions and no one really has anything to say about it. Her copy and paste was one of, “if you don’t like it here go back to wherever you came from and don’t cause us any more trouble!”

    My reply was that she doesn’t have any of her own opinions she just copies and pastes opinions from other people that usually don’t have a single genetically viable brain cell.

    But, I actually see the radicalization of her and others that she associates with, including other cousins and her sisters! I have one single cousin out of this whole group, which is quite extensive, that refuses to go along with the program being espoused. And (Sandie ) gets a considerable amount of blowback!

    There is no rationality in this group, they’ve been whipped up into a frenzy starting with the election of Barack Obama, and the constant pounding by GOP leadership on Barack Obama and the accepting of insane propaganda. This Propaganda fueled bigotry just spilled over into everything else. The ACA death squads? That was a big one! Barack Obama was going to murder your elderly parents. Of course the only death squads out there were of the GOP brand, we saw that when Trump took over. No ACA death squads, but GOP death squads caused many deaths by gutting the ACAs coverage and allowing useless insurance policies that were cheap, to be sold as some sort of Trump care solution to the death squads.

    The GOP created Death squads themselves and then blamed it on the ACA! People were dying because of a lack of coverage under new policies, none of them related to the ACA. It was a monster they warned about and then worked hard to create!

    This is just one example that permeates through the entire right wing ethos! If the famous Republican Abraham Lincoln were to raise from the dead, there would be a riotous clamoring for his neck in a noose! Because, In the mind of the right, he would basically be embracing those others and their ethos. All the while working as a Muscovian candidate trying to eliminate their cultural existence. Although, I suppose since the right really loved Putin, but they hate the Chinese, maybe Lincoln would’ve really been a Manchurian candidate!

    How many on the right said they would love to have someone like Putin as their president especially when Barack Obama was in office? That should negate the self identified patriots from actually being patriots!

    The thing that I see, with the Supreme Court getting ready to expand gun carrying rights across the country, it’s going to be hunting season with not-so-subtle bounties on everyone who is of the other class or the other group!

    This is not even a house divided anymore, this is a house that is turned into an insane asylum, run by the inmates! It’s going to take a leader with some stones to make decisions that are going to be eye-poppingly astounding using every tool and the executive tool chest to put a cap on this Genies bottle. But we all know how hard it is to stuff the Genie back into the bottle once it’s been let out.

    I hate this pandemic, this coronavirus, but this coronavirus looks like a bellyache compared to the pandemic of insanity sweeping across this country. And, it parallels the history of other great powers in history, and, it brought about their demise! The Greek, and the Roman Empire’s devolved into factional turfs un-United. They eventually ceased to exist. The Roman Empire’s suicide basically brought about the dark ages that existed for at least three quarters of a millennia. The age of Enlightenment or the Renaissance actually climbed up on the bones of the old Roman Empire, but, the evil that men do, resurrected enough of that old Empire, the house of Habsburg in Germany, (the remnants of the Roman political government) to start the type of war that the world had never seen before.

    What’s happening now is probably the end game for society and civilization as we know it. It’s going to take an extraordinary person with an extraordinary willpower to accept the responsibility and accept all of the barbs and arrows that will accompany decisions made to save this country. Does that person exist? I suppose we’ll find out posthaste. The storm clouds have been formed to the West, the warning is visible for all to see, this is not rocket science, this is history. Now, we will see if leadership is blind and reactive, or visionary and proactive!

  4. And just how fearful are those hard core Republicans you ask?

    It’s early Sunday morning and I am walking my faithful dog Maddie. Not a soul on the street. Not a sound except for the birds singing. Then, from the house of a neighborhood staunch Republican the owner emerges to get the newspaper off his walk. And he is wearing….. a sidearm!

    Are they living out their self-fulfilling prophecies to validate their world view?

  5. JoAnn,

    The purple gangrenous infectious boil has been left to fester so long on the GOP’s extremities, the only thing left to do is amputate! This infection has not been invisible, but, ignored! It seems that sepsis has spread to the entire body, and it might very well be terminal!

  6. I like John Peter Sorg’s metaphor of “The pandemic of insanity sweeping the country.” It is the best way to describe what is going on

    With regard to David Brooks, from time to time I heard him being interviewed on an NPR station. The tone of his voice turned me off. It seemed “imperial,” giving the impression that he knew best, and the rest of us did not. I don’t read his columns very often these days, because I am reminded of that tone.

  7. Pascal,
    I admit David Brooks can be a little know-it-all at times, but, I suspect that tone has developed dealing with others that he finds flabbergasting!

    My personal family is very large and very diverse, and, I grew up in a very dynamic and confrontational family. So, David Brooks form of communication at times doesn’t turn me off as much as it might turn off others.

    But, I do agree, I think everyone in this country needs to relearn how they communicate with each other, rather than talking at folks, talking to folks would be a better alternative.

    I think the Lines have really blurred in regards to political decorum. And, I think folks are realizing the magnitude of the problem, there’s a certain amount of angst fueling the debate. That angst is a driver of tone and urgency!

  8. Yes, Brooks is a little late to the game as always because he’s out of touch living in an imperial palace surrounded by a moat.

    Over a decade ago, at a Tea Party function, I heard the expression, “Win at any cost.” They had passed out flyers lying about what was happening with a school closure.

    The Democrats want to play fair while the Republicans see it as a war. They didn’t lose the war last November; they were cheated. These are the same people who relive the Civil War battles year after year. They love this country and are ready to grab their rifles and fight Russia and China.

    Equally absurd is Joe Biden announcing that he wanted to unify these people on common ground. LOL

    Apparently, he also lives with Brooksy in the palace surrounded by the moat.

    And based on the Census, the Democrats lost another battle with the inbreds, so our country has no chance to make progress when it’s dragging around so much dead weight. These knuckle-draggers don’t care about our collective best interests. They don’t even care about their own self-interests.

    Foreign leaders are starting to speak to this lack of consistency globally after experiencing four years of Trump. Can you imagine DeSantis in 2024 on the world’s stage. China and Russia will shake their heads while the EU shifts further away from the US.

  9. I don’t suppose anyone should be surprised that all the fires the Republicans started when Obama was president are now burning out of control. Shockingly, it’s awfully hard to put the scorched earth genie back in the bottle.

  10. Yes, Brooks is late to the party. He does NOT live in a castle surrounded by a moat. He lives in New York. He also has to couch his commentary so he doesn’t lose what’s left of his so-called conservative readers. Anyone really familiar with newspapers should know that.

    That said, Brooks is chronicling what’s been happening since the ’08 election. The fear of the “other” has been inculcated by the right-wing screamers from the moment Obama lifted his hand off the Bible. Why is anyone, let alone David Brooks, surprised or disappointed that this is the case.

    Today’s pathetic and pathological shrieks coming from the dickless gun carriers merely displays the symptoms of very sick minds wrapped in a socio-political ethos that is based on fear and inferiority complexes. These frightfully weak minds have no choice, really, than to do what they’re doing. Trump merely gave them the excuse to show the world what they’ve always been.

    As Jason Johnson has so often said, there is NO negotiating with the hard-core fear caucus. Their ears are plugged and their eyes see only hate. Nothing to discuss there.

  11. Republicans are living in a world of imaginary demons. That’s why they want to lock up all of the Democrats for their imaginary crimes.

  12. Todd, I think you are judging Biden too harshly. When he implies or says that he wants to work with “everyone,” he is just doing what the President is supposed to do. He has been in government long enough to know that this crop of Republicans is going to treat all of his proposals the way Sherman treated Georgia. But he can’t admit that.

  13. most of this type of radicalization comes in late,in this democracy.though we held it down for many decades,now it’s mainstream life. but where and who is snapping the leash and for what? many a move in the last 15 years that has gotten a lot of folks uppity will be traced back to the social media we have all consumed. the right to express on the endless window is now making what and who someone else,wants us to be,at any given moment. too many people here in NoDak follow,literally who’s yelling the loudest and why. the question is,how many people are actually reading the context of any conversation. what is today’s mainstream,whos got the best slant on any given subject, and takes the attention in their wake. follow some of the absurdities in the overall conversation,you have to believe it’s spawned by ignorance or deliberate attempt to snap ones chain,by people or orgs that have a mental issue. we have a new toilet paper run in bismarck now,because the price will skyrocket,(depending on who you ask,or,who’s telling you!) keep fox/oan/newscrap, close,it will give ya fair warning of,what’s next..

  14. Todd:
    good post,whereas,desantis is elected king,is the goal of the communists. their laughing their ass off for even being part of trumps crowning. the abserb happened,and they groomed it since stalin. seeing American democracy fail,is the goal. we are standing here with our laundry around our ankles if front of the world. i’m sure we all here remember school teaching the communist manifesto, and who. we all went out,in the world to see our futures solid and a democratic foundation kept clean(for the most part) i remember quite well the russian embargo’s of the 70s and such,spread out to other like nations. now it’s a conglomerate of social silos infested with vermin. within putin and his groove sqauad has made a great democracy into a laughing menance since Helsinki. i would have no problem calling putin out,in public,as we need to with the republicans who seek to further the insult to America. they are leading us to and authoritarian goverment..

  15. Please quit calling these reactionaries “Christians” as they are nothing but. At their core they are anti-Christian and toe the line established by John Calvin & Oliver Cromwell AKA Calvinists.

  16. Thanks Stan for your comment on calling reactionaries “Christians”. They seem to have forgotten that Jesus was nonviolent(except when he got infuriated because sellers were cheating people in the temple.)

    I have never owned a gun. I have never shot a gun. And I don’t believe that more guns will solve gun violence or curtail mass shootings.

    Covid 19 has brought out the best and the worst in us. I believe that COVID has in fact worsened the far right’s reactionary stance. Social isolation and social media silos are creating extremes in political theories.

    I listen to David Brooks on NPR. Throughout the years of the Trump presidency he gave insightful criticisms on Trump and his administration. And yes, his latest column is spot on.

    Martin Luther King believed that only love overcomes hatred. I agree with him. I recall that fundamentalist Christians protested a program called “The Ark” which traveled around the country and held within it the dreams and wishes of children for the world. We had “The Ark” in our UU church. The minister invited the fundamentalist preacher in and stated that he wanted to hear what he had to say. He refused to argue with him but simply listened. It took the wind out of the protesting minister’s sails. He left the sanctuary to rejoin the protest after speaking.

    How do we deescalate the radicalization of the GOP? Is there any way to do that which would impact many of them? I don’t know. It will take more than the vigilance of the FBI to liberate them from the cult ofTrump.

  17. After a few 2nd Amendment posts by a few right wingers that have not yet unfriended me, it has become clear that a widely support belief is that the reason to own guns is to overthrow an unjust government.

    My prediction is that we are going to see increasing radicalization of the Trumpian right, and will see more events like the 1/6 Capital insurrection, albeit smaller and less organized (I hope).

    The fear and anger whipped up in the right wing echo chamber is going to get people to vote and donate, and while few Trumpian Republican politicians realize this, even to take matters into their own hands. The example has been set. I can see these same politicians in the aftermath, “It should have been obvious that we were lying!”.

    I am holding my breath in the long dark shadow cast by Trump and his those who embrace his particular brand of unethical and unscrupulous mass manipulation.

  18. Stan and Robin; I heartily agree with your comments regarding the lack of Christianity in the reactionary “Christians”. I believe the Catholics have managed the greatest crime of identity theft in the universe; stole the name of Jesus Christ reversed his message to the world and bastardized the meaning of the term “Christian”. They are not acting alone in their endeavors.

  19. I think Brooks is right…the GOP has actually gotten more radical since Trump was in office. Somehow having Trump in office acted to limit the craziness. Now there are no limits. If you’re a Republican candidate and you don’t believe in the craziest stuff imaginable, you won’t be nominated.

    I wish I knew where this ends. There just isn’t a precedent in American history.

  20. JoAnn, I’m pretty sure Catholicism was the first Christian religion so we didn’t “steal” Jesus Christ or Christianity.

    Why is it wrong to bash Judaism, Islam, etc., but it’s okay to bash Catholicism?

    Catholics and immigrants were the primary target of the Indiana Klan during the 1920. While the Klan was long gone when I arrived in the 1960s, some of the attitudes remained. I remember literature being circulated around Madison that bashed Catholics for many things including a supposed allegiance to the Vatican. There was so much anti-Catholic stuff out there that my Mom had to have “the talk” with me explaining that there were some people who were going to hate us just because we are Catholics and there was nothing I could do about that.

  21. Paul @ 11:39 am “Somehow having Trump in office acted to limit the craziness. Now there are no limits. Somehow having Trump in office acted to limit the craziness. Now there are no limits. If you’re a Republican candidate and you don’t believe in the craziest stuff imaginable, you won’t be nominated.”

    “I wish I knew where this ends. There just isn’t a precedent in American history.”

    I agree with Paul’s statement. The GOP seems to be convinced the only path is to out Trump – Trump. The more fantastic the fantasy or conspiracy all the better to maintain and create more FEAR in the base. There does not at this point appear to be a bottom to Reactionary Right.

    As others have alluded to here today, there is no common ground with the GOP. Hygiene in the form of masks and social distancing have become a political statement. Receiving a vaccine for Covid-19, is also being resisted by the die hard Trumper’s. Pun intended.

  22. I’m a retired mental health professional, and I don’t like to throw around words like “crazies,” but we must acknowledge that Trump, Murdoch, and the rest of the Gaslighting Industry has virtually been feeding amphetamines to the crazies!
    The “White Christian supporters of Trump and the GOP,” are, apparently, visibly, feeling like animals backed into a corner, and, yes, “It’s scary.”

  23. This “us versus them” impasse we are currently undergoing is tame compared to the impasse of Reconstruction Days following Lee’s surrender to Grant ending the Civil War, though some think that such war never ended and have added its continuation to their grievance list of other wrongs such Fox-fed Trumpers are having to undergo, all either outdated or imaginary.

    This, too, shall pass, but only if we persevere in doing what is right and just; call out those who do not, and let time and reality effect their healing powers.

  24. Scaring people in your own party, to see where the internal opposition is hiding, then the night of the long knives, then street terror, that’s the way the nazis came in to power. Dear inside GOPranks is already there, threatening members into loyalty, street terror are also already there; nazism is the way the party is taking. Scary ?.

  25. From time to time over our history, attention-seekers have learned to throw rhetorical fire bombs to gain notoriety and followers who felt others were not paying THEM sufficient attention. The Ku Klux Klan threw in literal fire bombs by burning crosses and properties too. Joe McCarthy, Newt Gingrich, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and the Fox night-time line-up are only the most recent examples of bomb throwers.

    Radicalism went pretty far and continued for some time before the radicals of old were toppled, usually by scandal and/or hypocrisy. Tucker Carlson seems determined to bring himself down with ever more radical fire bombs to retain ratings. (Call the police on parents whose children wear masks outside. Apparently he’s never heard of masks against pollen for allergy sufferers.)

    In previous years, overwhelming majorities finally awoke to the bomb throwers shenanigans. Now I’m not so sure, with cable news outlets constantly lobbing new bombs and with social media providing the crazies like Q’anon with worldwide megaphones. I am truly worried for our democracy.

    P.S. On the matter of religious discrimination, a reminder – ALL the original Christians were Jewish and several were not only persecuted but executed for it.

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