How to Fix Politics

Shrink it, and surround it with other social bonds.

Comments: 244

  1. The roots of our dysfunction lie with our corrupt political elites. This is as true on the right as it is on the left, and is the reason why we are seeing the implosion of the GOP and a rather sizable split is now evident on the left.

    I've been writing about neoliberalism vs. progressivism since a couple of days after Election 2014, starting with a piece on learning the lessons of election 2014. The leadership of the democratic party, both in Congress and the DNC haven't heeded the signs.

    The WSJ has an incredible illustration of the revolt on both sides. I urge readers to follow the link and take to heart what they are about to see.

    Change is needed in both political parties and change is needed in our government. For that to happen, the sides need to listen to each other and a leader, perhaps Sanders, is needed to help this nation find its way back to democracy.

    In Trump's America, Which Democrat Will Republican Voters Pick:

  2. "In Trump's America, Which Democrat Will Republican Voters Pick?"

    Good question. Hillary is Republican-Lite and thinks most like them, but she is the very core of the Democratic Establishment they fear and despise.

    Bernie is anti-establishment, which they like, but they already have that in Trump, who is crazy but not "commie."

    Those are hard choices for Republicans.

  3. Rima--you're repeating yourself again. I think you posted this comment yesterday. Time for a new topic.

  4. I've lived through the fifties, sixties, etc. The time when the balance tilted towards the kind of individualism that divides us today was the 1980s under Ronald Reagan. It's a simple matter. Reagan and his Republicans made greed fashionable. The result is what we have today: inequality and tax evasion. Don't knock individualism, which is what made America successful. Greed is the aspect of individualism that has tipped the playing field and has driven many others towards racism, prejudice, and other forms of contempt for others.

  5. Not only did they make greed fashionable, they exported the idea all around the world, in modern, post colonial times. The colonial masters had exhibited nothing but greed, but then they amassed the loot, wealth, treasures amongst their top elites and aristocrats tanks to the Industrial revolution some of the wealth benefitted starving and impoverished masses of the colonial countries. In modern times, the obscene wealth is concentrated among those who chant daily mantra of greed. These wealthy influence and wield power on politicians who are then beholden to wealthy interests (Mrs Clinton being a poster person of this phenomenon, up and down the democratic party). Only the Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and now Bernie Sanders have the guts to repeatedly bring the strong message that Gosh, we have got to address this problem of fashionable greed.

  6. Thank you for spotlighting the difference between economic individualism, in which the CEO is free to command 400 times the pay of his average worker, from social individualism, in which disparate human beings can function as themselves without being jammed into narrow categories of varying acceptability by the forces of dogma.

    There is no reason why the latter cannot flourish while we do something to curtail the excesses of the former.

  7. ....and tax avoidance which is another euphemism for tax evasion and also only available to the very rich.

  8. One of the problems of allowing politics to become a major facet of our identity is that the cynicism and inherent distrust in politics also become part of our identity. Politics also teaches caution so as not to lose support. Doing nothing real, saying nothing (of value that means anything) is politically safer than taking a chance.

    If "we" pull back and attempt to shrink politics, as Mr. Brooks suggests, there is that gnawing feeling that the "other guy" viz., the "other party" is not and will not do the same and will just seize upon our good will as weakness and take advantage.

    So the issue becomes not only instituting a cultural change, but of who has the courage to take the first step and politics is not a catalyst of "first-steps". Most who do take that first step ultimately lose.

  9. If we’re going to salvage our politics, we probably have to shrink politics, and nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within.

    Now there's a leap in logic... how does one "shrink politics" and nurture the "thick local membership web" when wage slave Americans are working longer hours to maintain the necessities for survival in a nation where tenure rights and union protections are under constant attack by the twisted "family values" reactionary right. The "local membership web" has been consistently attack since Reagan famously threatened to fire the flight controllers three and half decades ago. All of our political leaders must serve the common good. A political party that erodes the very foundations of community, that has been hijacked by politicians that gain power by attacking those foundations is now in a death spiral. Perhaps Americans will have sufficient clarity of thought to finally make the point clear in this election cycle-- now there's a cause for national celebration... the Republican party no longer has a national leadership role because of its corrosive effect on our need to nurture a community of concerned and compassionate citizens.

  10. Capitalism replaced the thick local membership web of the Middle Ages with creative destruction. It works best when people are ready to abandon their memberships and seek their fortunes wherever (the frontier).

  11. "It’s possible to imagine an elite solution. The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: “We’re going to change the way we do business in Washington. We’re going to deliberate and negotiate. We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.” That kind of leadership might trickle down."

    Yes it's possible to imagine such a solution. Possible if you have been unconscious for the last seven years. Wake up, Mr. Brooks. You've been sleep-writing.

  12. "It’s possible to imagine an elite solution."

    But we are a democracy, and for good reasons.

    The American Revolution that Republicans speak of so often was against elite solutions, in favor of things like taxation only with representation. Elite solutions is why the Tea Party threw the Tea in the harbor.

    It is still ture. Yes, I know Republicans have never really believed in it, even as they are first to say it.

  13. I agree with you, Mark. David Brooks has never been a fan of democracy.

    An elite solution might be imaginable if one could imagine an elite with imagination.

    We should also distinguish between an elite acknowledged and empowered democratically to act responsively, and a self-empowered and unresponsive elite, such as we seem to have now.

  14. In the world according to Brooks, that quote is but the tip of the iceberg. "Elite" is the Pavlovian bell that makes Brooks salivate. This is yet another column dripping with noblesse oblige and illusions of grandeur, delivered in a poor imitation of the contemptuous voice of William F. Buckley. Lacking his mojo, it comes across as a whine.
    Rather than return to the golden days of yesteryear, wherein lived the Cleaver clan, Father Knows Best and we all went to church in our good clothes, why doesn't Mr. Brooks try to find a galaxy of warm places for the millions out in the cold, emotionally and financially? Maybe help them get a decent meal and some health care while you're at it. Brooks embraces Wally and the Beav, but disallows the very existence of Eddie Haskel and Lumpy. In this I see dangerous parallels to the right to lifers who care nothing for you once you're born.
    Everyone has those "middle ring" relationships, we're all forced to get along with people we may not like personally. I'd argue that pressure is perhaps greater now than "back then" as Brooks alludes to. We've always had a penchant to "ignore inconvenient viewpoints and facts" but nowadays our political "leaders" are encouraging us to do so on a grand scale, and cashing in on the resulting friction and heat.
    I suppose once you attain punditry you have momentum, and each column or appearance winds your mainspring. Sadly, in the case of Mr. Brooks, he's not even right twice a day.

  15. "With fewer sources of ethnic and local identity, people ask politics to fill the void. Being a Democrat or a Republican becomes their ethnicity."

    Brooks offers no evidence for this strange assertion.

    In fact, it would seem an identity (racial) is pretty essential to a lot of Republicans, hence Trump.

    The central premise of this column is even more bizarre, ahistorical and misguided. Where to even begin? Hmmm... David Brooks might want to look at just how great things were for, say, black people in rural Alabama back in the 1930s before whites and their black neighbors were corrupted by the late 20th century individualism he claims did such damage to community and civility.

    On a lesser plane, did the grandchildren of Irish immigrants get along better with the children of Italian ones back before everyone got all selfish and stopped clinging to ethnicity? Did either group get along better with the Jews in their community back in the good old days before the Second World War?

    David Brooks evidently can't bear to think about Trump and what it says about his (Donald AND David's) Republican Party. This isn't a column; it's a desperate attempt at avoidance via bad pop-sociology.

  16. "Being a Democrat or a Republican becomes their ethnicity."

    Independents? That is a fine American tradition, and it is growing as we grow disgusted with both Parties. What is their ethnicity?

    I think this is a problem of people living in their own bubble, projecting their own bubble life onto the rest of us.

  17. "The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: “We’re going to change the way we do business...we’re going to deliberate and negotiate...we’ll disagree [but] we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport."

    Mr. Brooks, been there; done that: exhibit A: the current president at the outset of his first term. Does "one-term president" ring the cherries?

    "The idea was that individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others."

    Mr. Brooks, America's history was built on *ignoring* the rights of others. Why was Brown vs. Topeka necessary? America has never been a "healthy society...a galaxy of warm places." The Civil War was fought just 150 years ago; our technological advances since then make 1861-1865 seem like a primitive epoch in our history. The sins of this striving nation: the genocide of its original occupants; slavery; Reconstruction; women's suffrage; civil rights; the dysfunction that today is our crowning "glory" owns its roots to proud division.

    Our government has always been controlled by the wealthy. The "elites" dictate "the people's" choices: they decide, by wealth, by birth, by privilege, by station.

    We've awoken, Mr. Brooks, to the realities of a rancid system controlled by "elites"... "who use the power to enhance their own interests at the expense of the public.”

    Reagan torched America with "government is the problem." We're still burning.

  18. "The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: “We’re going to change the way we do business...we’re going to deliberate and negotiate...we’ll disagree [but] we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport."

    This as as useless as Hillary's position re wall street/banker crimes -"I'll tell them to cut it out".

  19. "ring the cherries"?

  20. Yes, this column posits an earlier golden age, but it was even modestly golden for a tiny minority who were rich enough to claim "rights" for themselves while denying them, and sometimes even personhood, to others.

  21. False equivalence, thy name is Brooks.
    The Democrats have never shut down the government but Viet Nam draft dodger Gingrich and Ayatollah Ted have, twice.
    When Reagan was eyeball deep in the high crimes and misdemeanors of Iran Contra the Democrats did not try to impeach him.
    The republicans did impeach Clinton over la affair Lewinsky, where no innocents were slaughtered, no money or arms diverted illegally.
    When the Viet Nam dodging duo of Bush and Cheney were committing war crimes on a daily basis the Democrats did not try to impeach them or send them to den Hague.
    When President Obama was elected in the midst of ongoing national disasters, two needless, bankrupting wars, the economy headed for the cliff, the republicans sole response was to obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

    It is only the republicans who have the multi-billion dollar disinformation/ agitation propaganda operations of the continuing criminal enterprises of serial Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violator Faux Noise and the eco terrorists of Koch Sedition, Propaganda & Pollution, working 24/7/365 to subvert our democracy.

  22. craig - Hear, hear !

    Dems would have been called seditionists (and worse) had they engaged in the meetings GOP'ers did on the night of Obama's first inauguration:

    plotting to keep democracy from functioning, and undermining the system of law that has made us civilized over the 800 years since the Magna Carta by deliberately under-staffing the Judiciary:

    by blocking even GOPers' own nominees.

    Paul Krugman is right: I.O.K.I.Y.A.R. (It's O.K. If You're A Republican).

  23. bravO!

  24. You forget they also threaten to impeach him several times.

  25. When I moved to Chicago I could not believe how segregated the city was. It was segregated racially, ethnically, economically ,and religiously.
    I grew up in Montreal which was a very segregated city but we were the Canadian mosaic and the US was the melting pot.
    That was 70 years ago and the US is no longer a melting pot and it isn't even a mosaic. The GOP has drawn distinct lines between winners and losers , givers and takers, Red and blue, New York values and good Christian values.
    The game is over and it is time to reap what was sowed.
    You watch and read different media, your ideas on basic truth is different and "All the KIng's horses and all the king's men" won't put Humpty together again.
    There is no such thing as a liberal think tank or a conservative think tank you think or you react.
    I watched Geraldo Rivera explain to O'Reilly what was meant by New York City values and I watched O'Reilly's denial. I've been to Iowa
    and Geraldo spoke the truth.
    Why did I have to read this and see this in Isreal's Haaretz? Why isn't this front and center in the NYT? Why do I have to see the video and read the commentary in an Israeli newspaper?

  26. "Trump voters don’t seem to realize how unelectable their man is because they hang out with people like themselves."

    And you, Mr. Brooks, never anticipated or credited the Trump constituency, even though it's obviously been the plurality of your own party for some time. Why? Because you've been hanging out with people just like yourself.

  27. Precisely. This editorialist, who appears sometimes to know nothing about what humans actually are, continues in his Kantian slumbers. People don't want comity; they want domination. They don't want harmony and peace, they want conflict and struggle. Only through conflict can humans refine themselves and even at times supersede themselves. As Hecuba said, the Trojan War was hideous, but without it, we'd never have seen what Hector became.
    Brooks imagines we all want to go down to the beach, join multicultural hands, have a clam bake, and sing folk songs together, a hellish scenario that reduces, is reducing, men to swine.
    tito perdue

  28. I am happy to fault both Brooks and Kant (to a far lesser extent), but I would never confuse the with one another.

  29. Those who Kant write columns. Those who can become progressives.

  30. Is there any other country other than the US where the campaign for a four year government position requires four years of campaigning? While we pay the salaries of the officials vying for their new positions, we get nothing.
    Is it not possible to learn everything we need to know in a focused two or three month period; we are always fooled once the election is over anyway.

  31. Yes, Sam,
    I, too, would like to know why it is that we continue to pay people to not do their jobs. Either we should require that a sitting elected official resign before campaigning for a different position, or that they take unpaid leave while on campaign business. That would certainly shorten the amount of time spent campaigning by those in office, but so nothing about people like a certain developer who hasn't ever been elected to anything and doesn't need a pay check. Some places have legal limits placed on the length of political campaigns, which also seems like a good idea. It wouldn't stop anyone from opining that they intend to run for this or that office at any time, but it might reduce the ennui being felt by the public at the current endless round of debates and attacks.

  32. America has always been a land that celebrated freedom and rugged individualism, but this was, until about fifty years ago, balanced with a sense of duty to something greater than ourselves, a commitment to be a Shining City on a Hill. Starting in the 1960s with the sexual revolution, a largely spoiled generation decided that “following your heart” was more important than any sense of duty. They rejected the most fundamental duty of any human being, to responsibly bring new life into the world, conforming your personal behavior to contribute to stability for the next generation. They believed that they could engineer solutions that did not involve self-restraint or self-sacrifice, and they were profoundly wrong.

    Mr. Brooks, I welcome your rejection of the follow-your-heart movement, but we may not be able to put the genie back in the bottle. The culture has been greatly corrupted. Collectively, too many Americans have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, trading a great cultural ethos for instant gratification and false promises of self-fulfillment.

    Donald Trump is the ultimate manifestation of the break down in a cultural ethos of duty and self-restraint. Data is now showing that he does best where social connectedness is weakest. Mormons in Utah, who have the highest social connectedness score of any group in America, overwhelming rejected Trump, and it is no coincidence that they are one of the few enclaves in America still resisting the sexual revolution.

  33. Charles,

    I am a member of that 60s generation. I, and many of my compatriots, were heavily involved in making the world a better place for all members of society, i.e. the Civil Rights, women's rights, and anti-war movements. The sexual revolution was clearly occurring simultaneously but "following your heart" meant much more than that. Following my heart led me to become first, a social worker, and then a professor of Sociology. I have lived my life with that strong social consciousness I first experienced in the 1960s.

    The "me" generation was more a construct of the 1970s. It also coincided nicely with capitalist individualism and "personal responsibility" that are the mantras of the right wing. Trust me, it's not the liberals who came of age during the 1960s who support Trump. So you and Mr. Brooks need to look beyond Mormonism and resistance to the sexual revolution to explain the breakdown. Might I suggest Fox News and right wing talk radio as a place to begin?

  34. Ahem. Speaking as a non-mormon living in Utah, I can absolutely tell you that most Mormons are great people as individuals, but the or on culture is an authoratorian model based on early eighteenth century ramblings of a convicted felon whose banishment from another church inspired him to conjure a fantastical tome out of thin air. It is a super-sexually repressed culture that leads the nation in pornography addiction, and often ostracizes homosexual members to the point where they commit suicide. They are like the Borg on Star Trek.

    If politics needs an overhaul, it would be a truly backward looking goal to pick Mormons as a cultural model. Mormons backed Cruze because their favorite son Mitt Romney asked them to, another example of their lemming mindset.

  35. A Republican suggests we shrink government and privatize its functions to churches and such. Wow. Shocking, surprising suggestion.

    In fact, he wants to shrink all of "politics." That at least is new.

    Somehow, I don't think he means to shrink Republican politics. Just Democrats. He'd like other ideas to go away.

  36. Surely a column devoted to “make our politics better” could recognise that it is not Politics in general terms that is failing, it is Representative Politics that is failing. Representatives accumulate too much power and are an easy target for those who purchase corrupt decision-making. The massive amount of money devoted to purchasing corruption could be diminished if me chose to make our politics better by promoting direct democracy and extending direct decision-making so widely that we live in true democracies.

  37. It is hopeless. Forget it!

  38. Brooks is mad
    And I am glad
    But I know what will please him,
    A choice, you know
    Of Rubio
    Instead of Trump will ease him.
    The individualist turn
    He says has led to Trump and Bern.
    Alas it seems he does not see
    The blight of Inequality.

  39. Many of the relationships to which Brooks refers require leisure time for them to flourish. The trajectory of our economy since the 1970s, however, has sucked a progressively higher proportion of the adult population into the work force and required employees to labor more hours, to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. The stagnation of real income over the past generation has contributed to the development of a treadmill-like existence, in which Americans work more hours per week than do the labor forces of most other industrialized countries.

    The centrifugal forces Brooks identifies, particularly the growth of individualism and the revolutionary expansion of social media, have also played a role. But neither of these trends developed in a vacuum. The weakening of communal ties that has helped to isolate the individual, for example, owes much to the eclipse of labor unions and the sharp decline in job security, both of which have benefited corporations at the expense of their employees.

    A society that defines progress in terms of GDP growth will subordinate the welfare of the working class and the non-economic needs of almost everyone to the imperatives of the industrial machine. Companies will frequently shift location, seeking lower production costs, oblivious to the effects of such instability on the lives of their employees. This is not an environment that enables Americans to participate in activities or institutions that require a time commitment.

  40. David, you make a reasonable argument, but predictably stop short of where you need to go in this column.

    The hyper-individuality of our times has been largely propelled by a hyper-capitalism, or capitalism that emphasizes the profit of rapacious individuals over every other social, cultural, or environment concern, a capitalism that glorifies a marketplace that commodities human beings rather than valuing either every person's potentially unique contribution to an interdependent whole or the vital importance of collective economic efforts.

    My argument today could be framed in purely partisan terms - and that argument would likely garner more recommendations - but such an argument would also be dishonest, inasmuch as their are liberals among us equally willing to support the ruthless economic isolation of our times so long as they are able to retain their autonomy in the sexual realm.

    While personal freedom remains important, IMHO, it is not nearly as important as a real-world economic freedom, a freedom from hunger, from want, from from homelessness, and from joblessness.

    The reality is that "we the people" have allowed largely extraneous wedge issues to obstruct our view of systematic gutting of the American economy - a process that has clearly devastated both blue and red America, as witnessed by the furious support for the Trump campaign.

    David, let me strongly suggest that if we wish to salvage our politics, we need to instead emphasize an economy that binds us.

  41. The way to fix politics is to fix politics, not to shrink it.

    Our top problems are problems shared by all people in the world. These problems demand large-scale political solutions, not a return to some idealized memory of what actually was provincialism and tribalism. Do we believe that the answer to Europe's problems is that the EU shrink its politics?

    In the U.S., our identity groups are ethnic, racial and religious. Religion has become our politics, not politics our religion. Our politics has become the "neighborly" vision that Brooks perversely extols. Some of us are fighting to recognize that we are all humans, all valuable, instead of seeing just those in our identity communities as human, and all others as less than human.

    The post WWII social "breakdown" which Brooks posits, and Yankelovich supposedly measured but fails to explain convincingly ("Doubts?" Why not greater self-assurance?), could have been caused by prosperity itself, which allows individuals to rely more on themselves. There have been good consequences. Women who once stayed in bad marriages had the economic means to leave them. We valued our new mobility. The breakdown we see now has more in common perhaps with the pre-WWII pre- and post- Great Depression, the last time we had such income and wealth inequality - and the solutions then were indeed political and national.

    Politics will function if obstructors will allow it to - or we dis-empower the obstructors. That would be real re-socialization.

  42. I can't believe David means this. The way to fix our politics begins by crushing the Republican party in November, allowing true conservatives to start over with building a rational national party.

  43. Whatever happens in November, if Donald Trump successfully siphons off the low-info, racist/bigoted, angry white Christian-in-name-only vote, my hope is what remains of the Republican party will realize it does not need to cater to that sort of voting base any more--it will be a real opportunity to rebuild the party. What remains to be seen is if they 1) understand that they need to change and 2) are ready, willing and able to do so.

    After the unsuccessful Romney/Ryan presidential bid, the post mortem strongly indicated that Republicans needed to be much more inclusive of women and minorities, yet the party has been stampeding in the opposite direction--trying to destroy Planned Parenthood, blocking women's reproductive rights wherever possible, blocking voting rights of anyone who even might consider voting Democrat, assailing immigrants. All of that created the perfect storm that is the Donald Trump campaign.

    So can Republicans learn and grow? Can they chance from representing the .001% to all of us? I guess anything is possible but they have to really want to change first, and that is truly a long shot.

  44. You write as if this has been a grass-roots evolution, as if millions of Americans had independently had the dubious idea that their desires were more important than their society, that their political convictions were partisan and non-negotiable. No. This has been orchestrated by people in power for their economic advantage. As government became a tool of the powerful, politics became the art of manipulation. Partisan hate-mongering is pretty much the only thing that defines the Republican party at this point. It rallies their faithful and terrifies their opponents and prevents meaningful discussion. Lecturing your readers about values just makes you part of the problem. If you want to reorganize society around social institutions and needs instead of political-eonomic power, you're going to have to change the rules.

  45. We are no longer “One nation, with liberty and justice for all.” We are less focused on competing with the rest of the world than we are focused on competing with our fellow countrymen. We are losing our stature on the world stage. This has provided an opening for the remainder of the world to catch up and take more of a leadership role. This in turn has led to our present in

    The past foretelsl the future. This country is changing. People of the country are changing philosophically. The country is more politically divided than it has been for generations. The wrestling match within the country revolves around how do we keep our world dominance. The GOP, believes we can bully our way back to dominance and at the same time implement an austerity program geared towards the working class and poor. Democrats are not addressing the problem at all but rather want to buy their popularity with programs and no means of paying for them.

    No one is thinking long term. The rest of the world is catching up.

    The U.S. was not a world power at the beginning of the 1900’s. It was a nation mostly of people with roots in Europe. It was a struggling nation. The 1918 flu pandemic infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide. It killed more people than all the wars of the twentieth century combined, It ravaged families. In my Dad’s family alone more than half of his brothers and sisters were killed by this influenza before he was a teen.

  46. Thank you David for composing thoughts I have had and writing them down so well. I couldn't agree with you more.

    In this piece I find NO politics and it is refreshing. I hear a David who is a person and I listen to him as one.

    Now if we can only all realize that there is a Teisha, an Aziz, a Mauricio, an Erika, a Goran, a Jin, a Jonathan, aTrey, a Venkat, a Tiffany, a Bjorn, an Ebele and many others that feel like us, have needs like us, and gifts to give!

  47. Brooks asks, "Have you noticed that most people who call themselves “connectors” are actually excluders because they create groups restricted to people with similar status levels?" This sounds suspiciously similar to the hapless George W. Bush's "I am a uniter, not a divider".
    Brooks has summarized his party's credo well - connect with the 1%, the rest be damned.

  48. Brooks fails to realise that the American right-wing is deeply loathsome to the entire rest of the developed world. This is not Democrats v. Republicans, this is Republicans against the billion or so people that make up the 'first world'. If he wonders why American politics are so volatile it is because he refuses to see the intense hatred and wilful ignorance of his party. Yes, those Americans not in thrall to bigotry, xenophobia, hatred and theocratic inclinations are going to react pretty strongly when these Bronze Age forces try to control the government!

    The answer is not always 'in the middle' of two positions. Sometimes one is simply right, and the other is simply wrong. On practically every issue, from climate change, to foreign policy, to human rights the Republican ideology is simply wrong. Dare I say it: extremism in the defence of science and basic decency is no vice.

    Either Republicans choose to join the entire rest of the developed world, or the struggle will continue. It is as simple as that.

  49. David Brooks always misses the obvious answer to his questions. Capitalism initially destroyed the extended family because it was better for a business to deal with single family units than extended families. Late capitalism is only interested individual workers what are seen to be replaceable widgets. They hire and fire them at will to make sure that the elite share holders get their dividends and that top executives get their mega-salaries. Employers have no loyalty to workers. The breaking of unions insures that workers have no loyalty to each other. CEO's were once happy in 1965 with 20 times their average employee's salary. Now they want more than 300 times that salary. The great divergence started under President Reagan. It also enable the wealthy to essentially buy both parties. Late Capitalism is destroying the middle class. That is what is fueling the candidacy of Sanders and Trump. Stop talking to your rich buddies and spend more time talking to ordinary Americans. If you practiced what you preached here, your arguments would carry some weight. If you would give up the blinders of elite society to the need to address income inequity you might find some useful solutions.

  50. I feel Mr. Brooks has spent a lot of time lately trying to blame society for a phenomenon that emanates largely from the side of the ideological spectrum he has so staunchly championed for so long. It's as if he can't wrap his mind around what that creation has become, or his role in it, so now he's turned to public admonition about how we all can be more spiritual, more civic-minded, less individualistic because, because because - the problem really lies with us.

    I say it's pretty factually clear that major responsibility for the problem he identifies lies with the people who launched the politics of demonization, who launched their own "news" networks to stream 24/7 hatred, scorn and vitriol of others, who zealously seek to divide and disenfranchise their fellow Americans, and yes those who fostered and nurtured a society where economic forces leave so many people gasping for air and hyper-occupied with making ends meet that there's no time - literally no time - for those sacred PTA meetings. Or bake sales. Or Boy/Girl Scout meetings. Or Little League.

    An ideology that unravels the fabric of society leads to - the unraveling of society. Who knew.

    So let's stop pointing fingers and start working as citizens to unravel those exceedingly dark forces. One helpful start would be for a lot of influential like Mr. Brooks people to say "I was painfully wrong - my ideas did not lead to the America I want. So we need to turn away from those ideas and the ills they've spawned."

  51. Oh you said this so perfectly, Steve Tripoli. "An ideology that unravels the fabric of society leads to - the unraveling of society. Who knew". Beautifully articulated.

    Additionally, your sentence starting with "I was painfully wrong . . " is elegant in its accuracy, as regards to Brooks and anyone else caught in a lie or massive failure of judgement. One of the monumental problems with politics (which Brooks wants to fix; right?) is the stunning absence of humility on the part of politicians, to ever say they are wrong or misguided or whatever, when they are so often wrong and misguided. Instead we get non-denial denials and fake apologies along the lines of "if anyone was offended", or worse, "my comments were taken out of context".

    And politicians wonder why they are so loathed. Here they go again, looking to place the blame on the American public when the answer lies with those causing the problems.

  52. Don't hold your breath.

  53. Very well said. David Brooks started churning out platitudes about civic and moral virtue because his cheerleading of Republicans wingnuts became socially inconvenient. He's long been part of the problem, and is too gutless to admit his mistakes.

  54. Ain't gonna happen, Brooks. Instead people are going to have to choose:

    The 6,000 year old world; scientists don't know anything; tax cuts for the rich (disguised with the help of a compliant media as tax cuts for all); LBGT back in the closet; abortion is murder; unshackle business to pollute the air and water, clear cut forests; teach "creationisim" in public schools; nuke the Muslims; deport the Mexicans; health care only for those who can afford it; work hard/still poor? Tough.


    Progressive tax policy; concern for the environment; healthy respect for empirically derived expertise; civil rights for all citizens; recognition of the humanity of non-citizens; individuals making their own decisions about private matters; a living wage for those who work; prudent circumspection before loosing the dogs of war.

    No dredging up of Maslow, no shrinking, no "middle ring relationships"... no Brooksian nonsense.


  55. Wow, the best post so far. Well said.

  56. This sounds a bit like the existential despair of a center-right Republican aware that he has no political home and that his party is "on the rocks". Poor fellow.

  57. >>>>>

    Ok, send me a postcard when any of this happens.

  58. First the finish, the lowest level Maslow's needs has nothing to do with group survival. Point of fact, it has to do with brute force individual survival, food, shelter, clothing and the like. Group/ sharing comes in the middle. Second, Maslow's needs is an unproven construct. It is a less damaging version of trickle down economics. And lastly, the libertarian principle of I an do what I want as long as I don't harm others is fine. Except the "libertarians" never pay for their externalities. They assume them away conflicts with society at large or usually through criminal activity such aa chemical dumping in rivers, fumes from coal sludge and poor/unsafe working conditions. Worst of all, they now dominate the public space with the wealth acquired through criminal means. What does this all have do with Brooks bi weekly missive? This loss of public good was not a mistake but a concerted effort by the business class to strip the worker from the one thing he could fight the power of business to subjugate individual citizens, solidarity with his fellow man.

  59. A book with dozens of sources of over 1,000 pages could not adequately cover this subject. Further, while some of the blame for rancid politics might lie with misdirected, an overly individualistic mindset, that is not half the story.

    I will take the bait on one issue, however: neighbors, friends and sharing. I am currently on the island of Mallorca, Spain (sorry you couldn't come along). Here, walking the streets of the small town we are in, I see local people standing around having extensive, apparently serious conversations. In my neighborhood in Maryland, I almost never see this out of the streets. The neighbor to neighbor conversations I witness there are most often at the supermarket or at the farmers/artists market my wife and I run on the weekends.

    Yes, our social life in America is shrinking, withering to a few connections and online superficiality. People who don't connect with others, who don't have anyone to talk to tend to get angry and see the world as hostile.

    We are far too competitive. The ethos of corporate life has invaded every aspect of most of the lives we live. Get higher by pushing others down is the unspoken mantra. This hits America at every level.

    The real problem: the Republicans, in the form of Newt Gingrich, decided in the late 1980s that cooperation had kept them from congressional power for 40 yrs. They vowed, NEVER AGAIN! That plus campaign consultants have pushed American politics to the edge. This yr., we're jumping off.

    Doug Terry

  60. While Brooks makes a cogent argument he misses one salient point: we have evolved into a bellicose based police state. When Pres. George W. Bush declared that: "You are either with us or with the terrorists" the lines between both parties and people became widening gaps.

    It would be great to see the return of a civil society where we focus on our common values and discuss issue of great importance to all of us. Unfortunately, in todays climate, anyone who disagrees with me is "The Enemy" and the enemy has to be utterly and completely destroyed. We don't need to treat the enemy with humanity or compassion, we only need to destroy them.

    In a bygone day elected officials at all levels spent time working and socializing. Now that person you disagree with is simply the enemy and spending time with them makes you a traitor to your party and a co-conspirator in evil.

    We can awaken to a civil society but it will not happen soon. Hatred is such an easy, and satisfying, emotion. Being one of the self-identified elect is intoxicating and comes with lots of privileges that you can deny the enemy. Until, of course, your circle decides that there are impure members and you get purged.

    Like "The Highlander" the real mantra is: "There can only be one!" But we don't realize that until it is too late. America has chosen hatred and will purge itself till nobody is left. Civil society is doomed and we did it to ourselves. "The enemy is us."

  61. And elected officials spend more time fund raising than anything else. And the donors have agendas that better get met or else.

  62. OMG ... David is blaming society for the rabid nature of the Republican party and its propaganda arm Faux news. Let's recall this party of Newt Gingrich and its demonizing of Bill Clinton, complete with impeachment. Then the catastrophic willfullness of George the Dauphin and his sneering Regent Cheney.

    This same party then *refused* to cooperate with a President for two terms, insisting on the invented Hastert rule, and an abuse of the filibuster that was unknown until Obama was elected.

    The Republicans are not an ill of some general societal malaise. They did it themselves. Tell your own party to behave David. They have rigged Congress to be dysfunctional.

  63. trenary - Brooks acts as if there were no Tom Delay, et al with their little black book of ' pay to play ' in the Dubya years, and as if there were no K Street Project to place only GOP'ers in lobbying positions in D.C.; Brooks ignores the mid-decade re-districting GOP'ers engaged in to get rid of even moderate Dems in places like Texas, where Chet Edwards, the best friend Veterans ever had was put out of a job by Delay et al, so the Congressman for Dubya's ranch home would not be a Dem of any stripe.

    The demonization of Dems that began with Clinton carried on through the Dubya years with GOPers' un-bridled power consolidation tactics setting the stage for GOP'ers scorched earth policies under Obama, funded by the Citizens United enabled Kochtopus/A.L.E.C./Chamber of Commerce political complex.

    Brooks hasn't had enough experience under GOP'ers whose only definition of politics is " do it my way - no wait, that's still not conservative enough - now I want it this way ".

  64. I am sure the Koch brother call David up for advice. LOL!

  65. Mr. Brooks is still wondering around his last labyrinth, fantasizing about Utopian solutions to the Society which cause the dysfunction in politics, Again Mr. Brooks ignore the fact that the problem is caused by the GOP and the Conservatives who are not willing to declare bankruptcy of their old principles and they don’t want to adapt to the demographic changes in America and the economic misfortune to the majority of the voters including Republican voters. Keep burying your head in the sand until the likes of Trump and Cruz destroy what left of your party.

  66. Brooks is not neglecting the train wreck that is the GOP. He is trying to crawl out from under the wreckage and sneak away without even he himself remembering that he has been a cheerleader for the con men who have exploited every venal impulse of American individualism in order to shred civic life, the decline of which he now so piously laments. He is the Dr. Strangelove of psychobabble, whose left side doesn't know, or want to know, what his right side has done. But even now, the message is getting through - let's shrink our government - oops, I mean politics - and return more power to the states - wait, did I say states? I meant local memberships, or something like that. Whatever.

  67. Today's Tea Party Republicans have demonstrated very clearly during President Obama's term that they are not interested in governance; they want to shut down government. They see government as the enemy. They took the word of their Saint Reagan literally. Nuff said.

  68. Add to that the fact that most of these Tea Party Republicans don't realize (or stubbornly refuse to acknowledge) all the government benefits they receive daily.

  69. They see govt as the enemy, but they are certainly not behind enriching themselves at our expense.

  70. "Once politics becomes your ethnic and moral identity, it becomes impossible to compromise, because compromise becomes dishonor. If you put politics at the center of identity, you end up asking the state to eclipse every social authority but itself. " Good thoughts. But it should extend to all of the limited identities. People are human beings with a spiritual core first. Rather than identifying primarily with nationality, religion, race, gender, or politics, if people could connect mainly on the basis of the human bond we share, it could help put things in a bigger context, and make international, national, and interpersonal problems and differences much smaller.

  71. I agree, there has been a loss of middle ring relationships in America. Unfortunately, this is the place where families live. Families have been abandoned by a society that lost interest in their local community. Our national focus on identity politics is evaporating the normal bonding that once occured between neighborhoods. Now we are each labeled with our "tribe" and not expected to trust "the other". The constant chatter about racism has only hurt the feelings of whites and further divided the community.

  72. Galaxies of warm places can also be very oppressive. The South used to be two warm places, one black and one white, and the two could meet and be warm only when people knew and did not fight their places. The white South was also not a warm place for Yankees, city folks, unions and union organizers, Jews, race mixers, gays, and anyone else who did went outside the narrow list of accepted roles and identities.

    The old ways are still popular in some areas, but these areas are generally supported by other areas that value individualism. One old way that has declined in popularity and power is the political machine, and it was often a strong source of identity and neighborhood cohesion.

    Both politics and thick local membership webs can be bad or good. Your politics can be a politics of compromise and consensus or a politics of the opposite, except that if any major faction pursues a politics of no compromise your politics of compromise will not work with that faction. Thick local membership webs can be cloying and restricting, or liberating

    If we are going to salvage our politics, we must move it from marketing campaigns to education campaigns. For dueling sales pitches we must substitute actual discussion and debate, where hard questions are explored and answered rather than artfully dodged. Republicans have forgotten the difference between sales pitches and honest discussions; only restoring that difference would salvage our politics, but it would destroy them.

  73. Oh for Pete's sake, Mr. Brooks.

    The Republicans won't even meet with Garland (let alone hold a vote), Obama's moderate choice for the Supreme Court. The man right behind Donald Trump is Republican Ted Cruz, who shut down the government and who Lindsey Graham joked could be murdered in the Senate and no one would be convicted. That's how well-liked that Republican senator is by his fellow Republican Senators (I don't like him much either).

    Speaking of Republicans, I mentioned Trump earlier. Need I say more?

    Then you have the original Trump, Sarah Palin.

    Speaking of Republicans, you also have those lovely Koch brothers.

    You have Republican debates where the candidates talk about such pressing voter interests such as the size of fingers, who would defund Planned Parenthood faster and who would build a bigger wall.

    In contrast, you have the Democrats debating about such issues as income inequality, regime change, trade, Wall Street and big banks, money in politics and Citizens United, Glass Steagall, minimum wage, college debt, healthcare, and climate change, which the Republicans say they don't believe in, or even if it does exist, there's nothing we can do about it (Rubio really said those last three statements in the same breath).

    And you state that we need to fix politics? How about writing an article on Republican gerrymandering and trying to stop people from voting.

    Really Mr. Brooks, your false equivocating of what we all can clearly see is becoming embarrassing.

  74. Yes, exactly, Brooks misses the obvious. He suggests a President might say "We’re going to change the way we do business in Washington. We’re going to deliberate and negotiate. We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.” That kind of leadership might trickle down." That was exactly what Obama campaigned on and tried so hard to achieve. Instead of spending 2009 flying around the country decrying Republican obstruction vs a larger stimulus or their stonewalling improving access to health care, as we Democrats would have liked, he spent the time trying to have lunch with Republican Senator Snowe to work with her.
    David's Republicans have made dysfunction the center of their agenda.

  75. v - Indeed; the party Brooks shills for 2 times per week won't even have a photo taken of them with the Dem POTUS, won't even accept invitations to go to the White House for Super Bowl viewing parties, and don't even return calls from the White House:

    during negotiations to keep the government from defaulting on its debt, producing a debt downgrade in fact.

    These are tactics begun under Newt Gingrich in the '90s with the assistance of John Kasich, widely celebrated by movement conservatives in Brooks's orbit, who need to all come back to the table they get up and leave each time they don't control all the levers of power.

  76. I don't know how Brooks can keep saying "why can't we just get along" . Poor thing, as he whimpers, we just need to talk to one another. What a Joke.

  77. Mr. Brooks, you are echoing Arthur Brooks' piece on Sunday, where he urges each of us to be more "welcoming" and "warmhearted" to those who disagree with us politically--sort of a "let there be peaceful discourse, and let it begin with me".

    Many here, including me, thought that ridiculous given the one sided nature of the polarization during the Obama presidency. But, Mr. Brooks, here you are arguing that we self-isolate from the possibility of larger community that's within our reach. To that I would say, hold it: I live in a typical western suburban of Boston, where civic engagement is high, both in schools and in town organizations. I am friendly with my neighbors, even if I disagree with their politics. It's hard to believe that Massachusetts is THAT different from the rest of America.

    But since you didn't mention it, Mr. Brooks, I would posit that what makes our politics so nasty is cable TV. If you are listening to the channel that reflects your views, and you never venture out of a given mind-set, of course you get polarized. If you never read a variety of print media--or read anything at all--of course you receive constant reinforcement that the opposing side is the devil incarnate.

    To end polarization, citizens should broaden their horizons as well as their connections.

  78. ...and cancel their cable TV, which will be a big infusion of spending money into the local economy, too.

  79. I am with Matt. We canceled cable in 2009 and it's been nothing but peace, especially from talking head punditry.

  80. A reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine would go a long, long way toward taming the malevolent influence of 24/7 cable "news".

  81. I don’t much care about the politics of my neighbor unless he tells me that his religion requires me to have unwanted children or that I must hate homosexuals.

    It was the rise of conservatism that drove a wedge between people. The Old Tyme politics that Mr. Brooks longs for was blissful in its ignorance of biology and diversity. As long as women were in their place and gays were content to be demonized and minorities understood their lowly status, everything was fine. But when we started granting rights to these folks, all hell broke loose.

    The Moral Majority rose up to counter the heresy of sex and rock and roll. Just Say No was the simplistic mantra of those who locked up people for smoking pot. Granting women the right to control their bodies was unacceptable. A black president? You’ve got to be kidding. Gay marriage was the last straw.

    Candidates for president proudly run for office on a promise to re-demonize these lesser sorts. We’ll build walls to keep people out and tear down the wall between church and state. We’ll punish wanton women. We’ll reconsider death to gays. All these “individuals” will wish they’d never been born.

    Brooks says people experience joy helping their neighbors make it through the day. Well, our neighbors are of all colors and genders and sexual orientations. Conservatives need to realize that there’s no middle ground between hate and acceptance that we’re willing to occupy.

  82. this is so true. I stopped visiting my father years ago once he started listening to Fox and Rush, he couldn't go 5 minutes into a conversation about anything without going into a rant about socialism.

  83. The way to "fix politics" is to replace personality and poll driven political reporters with journalists who care deeply about the substance of the issues and so will report on comparisons between the policy proposals of the campaigns.
    Then the choice will be less about who "says it like it is" or might be "fun to have a beer with", and more about a whole range of specific policy choices, from tax structure to investments in everything from education to roads and bridges to defense and health care.

  84. Politics used to be a bloodsport, now it's a nuclear world w/out MAD (mutually assured destruction).
    Brooks seems blissfully unaware that the approaching-a-decade gridlock affecting Congress began, is fanned, and has become increasingly cemented in one party. Sometimes--- and I know this is going to rattle many who feel that to appear "fair-and-balanced" all problems must be laid at the feet of both parties-- one party is to blame.
    Is there a Democratic Party equivalent (or even close) to the Tea Party? Did any Democrat congressperson, years ago, signal that any and all legislation proposals by W were "dead on arrival?" Or did a Democratic party leader announce that the #1 priority for the next four years would be to defeat the just elected president?
    Mr. Brooks' continuing public thrashing about is painful to watch. Doesn't he realize that to win absolution a sinner first must admit his guilt and, the hardest part, perform penance?
    Step one appears beyond his reach, to this point.

  85. David Brooks is willingly blind to the political problem.

    95% of the problem is due to the GOP's reactionary, bigoted, anti-scientific, small-minded, overly-politico-evangelistic, racist, misogynistic voter base; in combination with its patrician-banker-oil-militaristic ruling class. Worse yet, the GOP refuses to govern or act rationally. The GOP is a Frankenstein Monster comprised of discarded rotting parts, running amok.

  86. Dear Mr Brooks, let me shorten your column for you:
    "Will the peasants please stop revolting so the elites can tell them what is good for them and therefore for us?"

    You speak blithely about the sixties as though people just woke up one morning in the sixties and decided to become hippies. No mention of a needless Korean war and an even more ridiculous Vietnam conflict. No, the fact that young men were ordered to die for a cause they did not believe in had nothing to with it.

    Similarly, you treat the current lack of comity as something that is a result of selfishness. No mention of the systematic shift of wealth away from the poor and middle class using the classic 'give us the money and we will trickle it back to you as good supply-siders' bait-and-switch

    As in all addiction, the first step is to recognize the problem. You have not yet taken that first step: "I admit that the Republican Party has broken the country"

    Until then, wishing for a pony is just a wish.

  87. David Brooks is depressed by the Presidential campaign, while I find it refreshing to see the first signs in 30+ years that American voters have finally awakened. While Brooks claims he wants to fix politics, his depression and response lead to the conclusion that he simply wants to defend a system that offers him and other "respectable" pundits (several of whom write for the Times) special privileges and elite status as members of the plutocracy.

  88. exactly James.
    Brooks really is still clinging to the elite's message of telling us proles that we are the problem and we need to do the bidding of our elites for our own good.
    Brooks is feeling his identity being shaken and resists, by looking back to the good old days when we knew our place.

  89. Mr Brooks, I disagree that the roots of political dysfunction lie deep in society: it's increasingly clear to me that the primary root of America's political problems is that the US Constitution is no longer fit for purpose nor fit for a society in the 21st century. Indeed it's possible to imagine an elite solution, one that takes place at a Constitutional Convention at which no elected official or senior party member would be permitted to attend. The "Elites" should come academia, composed of historians, constitutional law experts, social science experts and journalist like yourself, just to name a few. The key political problem is not that society has changed, it's that the Constitution is too week to govern a society as large as America in the 21st Century - the problem is structural. So lets change it by rewriting the rules, drawing on our lessons of political failures and the success of other democratic countries. Some suggestions: End the Senate or significantly limit it's influence; Reasonable term limits with Congressmen elected every 4 years; End primaries and caucuses in every state and limit campaigning to just 2 or 3 months before the general election cycle which itself lasts only 2 or 3 months; Restrict campaign spending to a few dollars per constituent; End the Electoral College; Expand the number of Supreme Court Justices to at least 19; and redraw the states to limit of about 20 to 25. The list is endless. Let's not pass this mess on to another generation.

  90. The problem certainly does not lie deep in society but as you say in a broken system. What worked 250 years ago, doesn't work now and this shouldn't be a surprise.

    Systemically people have a limited voice. We are locked into choosing one candidate or another, we are for or against, which debases the conversation and pushes candidates into negativity; not just negative ads or campaigns but negative policies. Politicians are rewarded for obstructionism while the infrastructure crumbles and economy stagnates.

    Meanwhile people gleefully hurl insults and columnists right that we should all just get along.

    I disagree with many of your suggestions, but that is fine - we at least need to debate what would work and why rather than keep our collective heads in the sand and believe everything is alright.

  91. Welcome to Club America, As you muse and ramble about a utopian existence you show all the signs of Burn Out. Well, move over, your not the only one under the bus. If this election cycle does not prove we need a publicly funded elections and a much shorter period of campaigning, months not years, ...... I just hope (?) we can get used to strangling ourselves.

  92. Amen!!!!

  93. Much of the media feeds off of the dysfunction and, parasitically, keeps it alive. It takes no side except controversy.
    But there are some outlets, like the NYT, that try to tell it like it is.... and they must keep at it.
    Oh yeah, and Americans need to grow up. We are not sophisticated and can hardly tell a lie from the truth.
    Oh yeah, and too many people have been marginalized... Oh yeah, and.... this is a Hydra of many, many heads....

  94. Oh, David. Where to begin.

    With what rose colored glasses are you looking at the America of the past - the warm fuzzy America that you must have experienced by hanging out too much with people like yourself.

    "A galaxy of warm places"? Broken homes and child abuse, substance abuse, segregated schools and neighborhoods, poverty and hunger, joblessness, discrimination, violence, gangs, rural isolation, lack of health care, incarceration, children sent to fight wars, sexism, ageism, gay bashing, need I go on?

    It was not all bad - of course not. But neither should we forget that there was oh so much work to do and that it was basically through politics that it was done - and continues to be done - and dare I say it - by the Democratic Party and our champions - that what has been accomplished has been.

    And that what still needs to be accomplished - and don't fool yourself that there is oh so much yet to do - will be accomplished by the Democratic Party - and that is why politics must remain a central part of my life.

  95. The root cause of dysfunctional politics is institutional decay and contempt for the democratic norms not the loosening of community bonds or the loss of traditional socio-cultural identity. For, the basic foundation of modern democratic politics is individual choice not the community guided course to be followed by an individual. Not only the primordial loyalties and traditional community ties are supplanted in the course of democratic evolution in modern society but such traditional markers of individual identity are replaced also by new institutional identity and bonds that define the public life of an individual. So ascribing political decline to the loss of the ethical community values appears less than convincing an argument.

  96. I agree. Societal bonds are changing, but remain strong. The basic family unit remains intact, and social bonds are now global due to the virtual world. My son, a gamer, has friends from Europe, Africa and Asia through on-line communities and gaming groups. These latter, neoinstitutions, are replacing paleoinstitutions (various clubs and rotaries, societies, etc.) that bonded together societies and people.

  97. Yes, social bonds are going to remain there but not in the same form, as they are subject to change from time to time, specially true in the realm of modern politics that requires individual participation without much consideration for the traditional community ties and influence.

  98. Thus far, the comments inducate Mr. Brooks is right. No one has engaged him on his central thesis, and everyone is throwing printed spitballs. The rancor surprises and depresses me.

    We live in a small town where community involvement has dropped precipitously. Political life has not yet gone off a cliff, but it has become more contentous. The town charter mandates proportionate representation, and this helps smooth the edges. Having more citizens in the mix would help, but that is not happening. Unfortunately. Over time, elbows have become sharper as a result.

  99. Silas, I thought many commentaries engaged the main thesis very well:

    Once upon a time, Americans were civic minded. They engaged with "middle ring" (secondary) relationships, with people with whom they may have disagreed, but had to negotiate, to compromise. Then (post world war II?) people became more individualistic, focusing on "me" and "mine."

    Let's, just for a moment, assume this fantasy-version of reality is true.

    What is the best hypothesis for why this happened? Yes, one may take the conservative view that human nature, being fundamentally base and selfish, was bound to win out, but I'm sure even the most biologically or original sin-oriented conservative might be willing to acknowledge at least some environmental and cultural factors.

    What do we find when we look in that direction? The most relentless assault of commercialism in the history of humanity - an assault aimed almost entirely at emphasizing exactly those values that conservatives claim they oppose - selfishness, lust, pride, ambition, competitiveness over collaboration, etc.

    A certain cultural consensus kept these forces at bay for several decades after World War II - then, Mr. Brooks, when the people you support began taking over - why, just around 1981 - do you remember your former colleague, William Safire, penning, on these very pages, his "Ode to Greed"? - there was really no chance for that consensus to survive.

    Then Gingrich, McConnell, etc. At last, at long last, take responsibility!

  100. Maybe people are too tired working several jobs to make ends meet to participate in what other well paid members of the community have time for

  101. I have a better quicker solution. Make conservatism of any kind socially unacceptable.

    In my early sixties now I've lived through the conservative trashing of America from Nixon to today. Lord Brooks rattles on about how we used to cooperate and considered sacrifice of the now for the future a noble and desirable trait. That of course was before the greed and selfishness of the conservatives demanded to take charge. Tax cuts for the rich, keep the people of color down, and women silent. And then let's have a war.

    I am filled with Glee to witness the demise of the Republicans and all that they stand for.

  102. We democrats are the progressive party.
    Republicans are the regressive party.

  103. The GOP mantra: money is good for the rich; bad for the poor.

  104. When David speaks of the post WWII "community membership mindset", he is describing an illusory world. Has he forgotten the racism evidenced by the American Apartheid of Jim Crow in the South, and social segregation in the rest of the United States? Has he forgotten the suffocating male paternalism which dominated the work place and government? Has he forgotten the "civic invisibility" which dominated the lives of other gender and ethnic minorities? Was this really a society of "warm places"? The "autonomy mindset" to which he alludes, was a reaction against rules, both formal and informal" which subjugated almost everyone but white males.David,what per cent of Americans belong to the P.T.A. or volunteer fire departments? How many people call themselves "connectors"? I heard David say recently that he needed to get out of the New York- Washington-College corridor. Nothing is more illustrative of that than his surreal allegation that politics has become peoples ethnicity, and dominates their psychological, emotional, and spiritual lives. Mr. Brooks would really benefit from a new "lens"! The only group that has tied politics to its "moral identity" are the Evangelical Christians, who have become a major cause of Washington gridlock and our political dysfunction.Fixing our politics without funding reform is a Sisyphean task.

  105. It is easy to blame demographics - and there are some truths about the increase of mobility - but you know things won't go well when the GOP leaders said that number one goal is to oppose President Obama.

    After 911, the amount of goodwill, domestically and internationally alike, is astounding. High school kids decide to join the armed services instead of thinking of Ivies. Accomplished pros like Tillman gave up their lucrative jobs for a dangerous low paying job. Even the perennially international competitors provided help, superficial it may be. Instead, the W Administration gave it all away. Cronyism far exceeded pork barrel policy. VP Cheney allowed the industry to write energy policy. And the neocons opted for power grab and professional purge (remember Valerie Plame?)

    2008 should have been the wakeup call. Instead, even before the Obama Administration took the White House, Brutuses were working hard. Their scheme not just tried to undermine the new administration but it essentially was an attempt to stab America herself in the back.

    With leaders like these, what do you expect from the followers? And what example does it set for the young minds? One could imagine their patrons like Roy Cohn are smiling at them from some place very hot!

  106. Interesting, if wishful, piece. This thoughtful side of Mr. Brooks has grown on me (or worn me down?). But the problems are still infuriating.

    First of all, doesn't the second paragraph describe exactly what we had in January 2009? What happened to that? And please, David, at long last admit that you've learned that nothing in American society trickles down.

    More importantly, the reason people aren't as engaged in community these days is that no one has the time. Corporations are booming, as are job responsibilities and expectations. Our professional lives increasingly encroach on our personal and family lives. People have to be in constant contact, on call, online--forget taking vacation--for fear that they'll lose their position or job. The successes of some states in enacting higher minimum wage and minimal parental leave laws is considered a remarkable political coup. Profits are skyrocketing, but salaries aren't and more and more families today need two of them to survive.

    PTA? You've got to be joking. Who's going to give the kids dinner?

    Church? Get serious. Sunday is the one day most families have together. Saturday is for chores and shopping, if you're lucky enough to not have to work. The other five days are spent worshiping the real American God: the dollar.

  107. I see these people every day - going to PTA meetings, coaching, volunteer firefighters, and so on. What is missing from their lives is leadership by decent human beings who put country before their political party. There are a few still, but not many.

  108. Our problems do not lie in excessive selfishness and egocentric individualism. The social context in which we now live has been forced upon us by economic forces that conservatives like David Brooks continue to deny or ignore. When the economic safety nets that provide the basic needs of life, ensuring that people re not "ill-housed, ill-fed, ill-clothed" -- or just plain ill -- fall apart, social bonds disintegrate. When people are told by employers after 20 years of service that they are no longer profitable, and therefore out of a job; the business community informs employees that they work at their employers' will and had better be ready to fend for themselves at a week's notice; hiring is done via computer and firing via mass lay-offs; evictions and homelessness mount, supportive services lose funding; and so on and so on -- what do you expect will happen to our sense of community? We'll all go out and join the Elks? No -- communities will crumble.

    Your Republican brethren created this jungle, David. It's your "Lord of the Flies," but we're living it. Rather than asking us all to sing Kumbayah, maybe you might open your eyes to the catastrophe that has been created by the rampant capitalism, because that is the source of myth of rugged individualism, a lie told by the rapacious corporate interests -- and shame on Lincoln Center for putting your David Koch's name on George Ballanchine's building, that urge Americans to join clubs, even as they club us to death.

  109. In reply to RCT:

    Wow! Well said, Sir or Madam, as the case may be. Well said. And thank you.

  110. "...shame on Lincoln Center for putting your David Koch's name on George Ballanchine's building..."

    THANK YOU!!! I thought I was the only one who felt this so acutely.

  111. "The social context in which we now live has been forced upon us by economic forces that conservatives like David Brooks continue to deny or ignore. "
    I had to add; conservatives like Brooks have invented, promoted and hyped, and excused the failures of this con game they have played on US these last 35 years.
    And they still bow and pay homage to the man, R. Reagan, that foisted this calamity on US. Even though presently Reagan would be booed out of a republican revival meeting.

  112. Throughout this presidential cycle, Democratic candidates have treated each other with civility and restraint. Indeed, one can measure the depth of that civility by noting the vast hue and cry when a the rare lapse occurs. By contrast, Republican candidates have collectively rolled about in the gutter. Although Mr. Brooks says he wants to fix politics, what he actually needs to do is fix Republicans. It is Republicans who have brooked no compromise and nurtured the insularity descried in the column. Now the Republican Party stands on the brink of epic collapse at the presidential level because it has no middle-ring of its own. The party of Trump appeals to the worst impulses on one slice of the electorate. The party of Cruz, and by extension the party of the Koch brothers, panders to another small slice of the electorate. Neither version of the Republican Party offers a compelling vision of the future; they represent politics at its most regressive. Thus, before Mr. Brooks can fix politics, he needs to pick up a hammer and fix his own house. Make that a sledgehammer.

  113. Mr.Brooks seems to be trying to excuse his party from any guilt they may feel for the total destruction of our government and most of all their own party.There is no excuse Mr.Brooks. the truth is plain to see.The Republican Party created the Trump Candidacy.So deal with it Davvid.

  114. BTW, It's been two months since Antonin Scalia died, but still no comment from Mr. Brooks on the unconscionable behavior of Republican Senators in refusing the President's nominee a hearing. Mr. Brooks: fix Republicans first. After that, American politics will fix itself.


    --Ronald Reagan

    Barry Goldwater used the same ideology in 1964 and went on to lose his presidential campaign 40% to 60%. But his inability and personality were antithetical for a success in his ability to win.

    But, Reagan (who had years of being an actor and spokesman for General Electric and talks with Nancy's father had converted him from an FDR Democrat to a conservative ... and his pleasing personality led to eventually a philosophy often repeated now: "make government so small so that it could be drowned in a bathtub."

    We do need government as we see the infrastructure crumble to that of a third world country. Other factors have had a crippling effect on our nation: that 'the world is now flat' which has added to our economic maladies; the introduction of the world wide web; and so many of our "relationships" have become virtual rather than real.

    Community interactions have shrunk to such a degree ... we hardly know even our close neighbors ... we have taken the American concept of individualism too far ... so micro relationships have almost become extinct.

    With our public educational system deteriorated as few K to college students know basic civics, history and the arts many citizens have become ignorant islands trying to survive.

    So we try to survive alone sans others and less government and this has led to ineffective politicians who are selfish as we now need them more than ever.

  116. Said the man who was head of the government. How ironic.

    And now the Republicans want to use the power of government to invade my right to marry whomever I want, to invade my bedroom, to invade my right to a wedding cake, to invade my physical body.

    But leave my gun alone -

  117. For a long time an answer to so many questions about "gee! what has happened to America" seems to have one very big problem we back away from: our individual and collective greed and selfishness. 300 million "me's" do not a healthy democracy make. Good government is about "us"--all of us.

    Brooks' analysis isn't all wrong. The problem is his disconnect from diversity, from reality. The new immigrant mom and dad work at multiple jobs, are unable to attend a PTA meeting or other school activity. They may feel, not foolishly, that the neighborhood watch group is more likely to see them as "people we need to keep an eye on" than as "members of our community." Indeed, it has a problem with their otherness and it wants them outta there.

  118. "Middle-ring relationships?" Dunkelman? Yanekolovich? "community/membership mind-set?" "galaxy of warm places?" "nurture the thick local membership web?" Maslow?

    How, about, David, thinking about something a bit simpler?


  119. Money and POWER.

  120. This nation's politicians have become corrupt, Democrats and Republicans. The politicians take payola and forment social and political divisiveness. Don't blame it on the population. The strata of social interaction that has been destroyed is that which have people a political voice and that destruction was deliberate. Part of it was promoted by the media but a lot of it was caused by the nationwide impoverishment of the citizenry. Eventually we will have some kind of social war, a revolution or riots and social unrest.

  121. You fail to mention "Citizen United." Are you unaware of its effects, or are you so blinded by anger that thinking is impossible.

  122. I don't know about you, Mr. Brooks, but here on the Bernie train there is unanimous agreement that the only way change is gonna come about is from the bottom up. We have solidarity in the notion that We The People will rise up together to make real change. Making politics smaller or more of a sideshow is precisely what cannot be done at a time of such rampant, one sided obstructionism.

    The political revolution is a love train, baby. Make the whole map blue.

  123. The diagnosis is apt, and the prescription sensible, but there is nothing offered beyond vague hope as to how to implement the cure.
    For starters on that score:
    There needs to be an end to continually denying that the two national political parties are ideologically, morally, and in terms of policy effectiveness, bankrupt, that a dumbed -own news media adopting a sound-bite approach to compete with the mind-numbing fog of social media is making matters worse not better, and that money=speech (both corporate PACs and personal internet clickavism) is a recipe for cynicism, apathy, delusion, and ignorance.

  124. How about public financing of elections?

  125. Give me a break Mr Brooks. To answer all you questions, I urge you to look at President Obama's relationship with the Republicans. (ie Mitch "one term president" McConnel and Joe "you lie" Wilson.

  126. I will never forget the "You lie" in the middle of the State of the Union. The disrespect, the anger that a black man was now the most powerful person in the world. And then the shock that the Republicans were proud of Joe Wilson, approved of what he had done. It was a truly unbelievable moment for me as an American. And so very sad that President Obama was hated simply because of the color of his skin. There is no other way to look at it. Or is there, Mr. Brooks? Do you think Joe Wilson yelled, "You lie" because of Mr. Obama's policies? If you do, you really don't understand.

  127. Mr. Brooks: The individualistic mind-set you describe is embedded in our constitution and in the philosophy of capitalism. Mitigating the culture of greed and self-centeredness, which has become more extreme since the Regan era, requires a broad social understanding that our resources, including the fantastic technology that's evolved over the past generation, should be serving us, not the other way around.

  128. Thank you Jenifer. Tribal cultures that indeed profess a community sense in that the community is the important thing and the individual is only important as a member of that community has never been a value in the United States.
    However, I think those community values are only extended to members of the community which is currently why we see so much distress when the community clashes when another community that shares different community values.
    And so what Brooks fails to realize is that even in community based values there can be difficulties because two subsets of values may conflict with each other.

  129. The only historically effective mitigation of the culture of greed and self-centeredness was the graduated income tax which during the iconic Eisenhower years was 99 percent at the highest levels.

  130. I like the President's demonstrated plan better. The I Ching perfectly accords its steps and conditions:

    "There is no negotiating with the Established Order.
    Perfect timing is essential.
    Let the abuses of power become apparent and oppressive to those around you before making your move.
    Lay the groundwork, sow the seeds for Revolution without tipping your hand prematurely.
    You will need a strong foundation, because you will have to bring about this necessary change alone.
    You cannot count on popular support, so you must wait until there is massive dissent.
    Then the avenue for your assault will be cleared."
    --Revolution, No. 49, Fire over the Lake

  131. While the time for most of these appeals seem too far gone now (shrink politics, helping neighbors make it through the day being the highest joy, etc), if Brooks would just focus on the type of people who now populate Congress, he probably could have saved himself many philosophical discourses. If there has ever been a Brooks article that contained an honest appraisal of the effects of the Tea Party of Gingrich, or the obstruction of the McConnell - Boehner years, or even the current whimsical "we'll work with the President - no we won't" spoutings of Ryan, then please point the way. Brooks has never accounted for the real reasons why nothing gets done in Congress, ignoring the 800 lb gorilla in the room, while floating lofty proposals - covenants, shrinking government and campaigns, being better neighbors. "Bowling Alone" is a good read.

    The problems which face this nation can no longer be glossed over, or made to seem like if only people "got along", then it would all work out. The country is locked in a death match now - those who would continue to worsen the condition of the many in favor of the few, and varying degrees of the opposite approach. One of the opposite approaches to Brooks' leanings should win in the Fall. The majority of us will be grateful for that, because the alternative is unconscionable. No amount of philosophical fluff from Brooks can mean much now.

  132. DB starts today's sermon by calling the presidential campaign depressing. Again, again, again, AGAIN...a failure to notice that it's depressing just on the Republican side. Until Republicans start cleaning up their own house, I'm starting to tire of Mr. Brooks's over-generalizations.

  133. There is only one reason to read Brooks, either one of them.
    The comments that take him to task are the meat of any of his pieces.

  134. Lots of us here in WV, KY and OH are getting together to work on the heroin crisis, so there is that. Neighborhood watch, learning how to administer Naloxone, helping with the needle exchange, sewing quilts for drug addicted newborns. Maybe we should have a conversation about that, Mr. Brooks. Getting people off drugs is probably an easier problem to solve than making the Republicans stop taking vindictive joy in politics as a blood sport.

  135. Let's be fair, there is some of the "blood sport" mentality on my DNC side as well. I agree, it needs to end whatever side you identify with.

  136. Ms. Murray, I think you just proved Mr. Brooks' point.

    I would be interested to know whether your heroin crisis group is fully unified politically, or whether they have set aside their political beliefs to address a serious community problem. Either way, please accept my sincere appreciation for taking it on - it is a serious problem here in Pennsylvania, as well, and a group like yours is stepping up to address it, thankfully. I am part of a foundation that is providing funding for the effort.

  137. The most effective way to fix politics is with a constitutional amendment to get the money out and return to the fairness doctrine where TV stations provide free time slots for all candidates in order to retain their license to operate.

    Reinstatement of The Fairness Doctrine with no political or issue ads, flyers or robocalls. Congressional districts to be contiguous and have no more than a 2:1 ratio of dimensions except as constrained by geography. Only requirement to vote is citizenship.

  138. Good post. Concise, sensible. Like the 2:1 ratio... Where did that come from?

  139. That's sincerely to be hoped, but hate is BIG BUSINESS in this country, and politics has become the cultivation of hate and fear to remain in office in a manner which prostitutes one's oath of office to serve the voter, the nation, its needs, and the Constitution.

  140. Who will, or can, bell the GOP cat in Congress?

  141. 1. Bring back the draft with a national service option. That will give young people a baseline of shared experience and purpose that, in time, will infuse our entire society with a better ability to get along with each other and a positive sense of American ideals.

    2. Make Congress live by the same rules as the rest of us regarding investments, health care and retirement.

    3. Reincarnate Walter Cronkite.

  142. Mike Marks you have nailed the solution with precision.

  143. For Step 1 you'll need a Step 0: a constitutional amendment modifying the 13th Amendment. Because if service-by-consc ription isn't involuntary servitude I don't know what is.

  144. I don't think step 3 is remotely possible.

  145. What pure rubbish. I can't take Brooks and his faux pop sociology whines anymore.

    There are real issues out there, real problems to solve, and Brooks just wants us all to have a group hug and sing "Kumbaya".

    Please. Enough already.

  146. Read it for amusing, fantastical entertainment, not serious content.
    That's what I do.

  147. Nailed it, in true Brooks fashion. I've lived in and reported on partisan Washington and I have a strong family life. But I've been fortunate to embrace that "middle ring" now in a small New England village, where it's not easy to be anonymous. So I chaired the school board and now ref youth basketball and go to the Legion Hall for a fundraiser when someone's house burns to the ground. What's more, I play poker with blue-collar guys who don't like Obama and can't stand Hilary. Fortunately, those topics don't come up at the poker table because we're friends and we that trumps everything else.

  148. It's fine to make grand pronouncements about how we all should behave in order to get along better as long as you don't go back to failing to call out your own when they fail to do so. A little mea culpa wouldn't hurt either.

    I won't be the only one to say it, but there are facts, and as long as one side denies them, the other side is not going to cozy up and say, We understand why you must deny climate change or women's rights or must send a signal to trans people that you don't want them around by making it impossible for them to empty their bladders, how can I help? It just doesn't work that way.

    What might work, Mr. Brooks, would be someone supposedly in the middle like you explaining to them the error of their way, instead of speaking to the readers of the NYTimes as if we're the problem. I know Maslow's hierarchy. It's not about the joy of helping an ignorant bigot make it through the day, it's about leading by example, something you repeatedly fail to do.

  149. I have seen and heard Mr. Brooks do exactly what you demand of him. He has lectured and spoken in conservative circles, colleges and organizations, and his tone and message doesn't change - respectful, but clear and direct.

    Conservative audiences willing to listen hear him. But too many have done exactly what Mr. Brooks describes in this article - they wear their political conservatism like a thorny crown - and that is why Mr. Brooks is condemned on Limbaugh's show and other far-right-wing venues as a RINO. I would argue that he practices what he preaches.

  150. Your last paragraph reads as something out of Berkeley in the '60s. When I read sorrowful stuff like this I think, "you had your chance". Middle-ring relationships was what organizing in the '60s was all about, and then some, taking it to the streets, but we all know how that went, thanks to J.Edgar Hoover, Ronald Reagan's Cheetah and Jane and Tarzan speech as well as his Lets Get On With The Bloodbath after Kent State and like minded John Birch Society (Heritage Foundation) akimbo a few assassinations. Do you read Harper's, Mr.Brooks, about Ehrlichmann's admission the War On Drugs was the first device to ensnare that generation creating an archetype for Oliver North's Iran Contra funding by cocaine dumped in L.A. and Cleveland?
    All the sorrowful regrets should be directed to those actions against what conservatives branded anti-American in the '60s during the anti-war movement, civil rights and women's rights movements. There you'll find the social context to trickle up from. Please do not trickle down anymore.

  151. "That kind of leadership might trickle down", says Lord Brooks, as he glosses over the trickle-down poverty and trickle-down propaganda that the Republican Party violently rode to national destruction by appealing the darkest angels of American nature.

    'Moderate' Republicans have gone extinct in America because their environment - social moderation, reasonable compromise, reason, the ability to reach across the aisle - was exterminated by decades of Fox-Henhouse 'News' and hate radio trumpeting the Democratic 'end times' while ceaselessly singing, humming and chanting "I Wish I Was In Dixie".

    Education is the uniquely exceptional challenge of the human condition.

    And the Republican Party made a conscious, strategic decision to de-educate and disinform Americans for political power, demonizing both fact and public education while riding their magic red carpet of religion, rednecks, racism and resentment to electoral victory, creating the entirely separate, autonomous country of Republistan within American borders.

    Just one example, healthcare - when the ACA passed, not a single Republican voted for it, contributed to the process, or has ever offered a credible alternative to it ? They did however, vote to repeal it 62 times, offering to replace it with right-wing spite and GOP Death Panels.

    America could have had something dramatically better, but such a basic concession to reality shall never be bridged by Neo-Confederates happy to blow up Union bridges for a living.

  152. Today's Republicans rely on poorly educated voters for their continued existence. An educated electorate is not in their best interests. Life is simple.

  153. This column seems confused in its premises. I’m not at all sure that I agree that Americans post-WWII came to believe that “individuals should be liberated to live as they chose, so long as they didn’t interfere with the rights of others”. After all, this became the time of the company man, to whom loyalty to the job and the firm was the price of middle-class sufficiency – to Democrats and Republicans alike; and this required a willingness and an ability to subordinate individual ideological imperatives to a collective will. But, then, for a long time we were led by more confident and better trained leaders.

    No, that “I stand alone” culture really started in the 1960s, with the declaration by our youth that individual rights trumped the social convictions that once bound us – interestingly, a youth almost entirely of the left, not the right. The rise of the “me” generations also was coincident with the Great Society and the massive shift of our resources from traditional uses by government, such as infrastructure, defense and basic research, to social entitlements on the European model. Now THAT’S a connection I’d like to analyze in ANOTHER 1500 characters (including spaces).

    But premises aside and regardless of how David gets to his conclusions today, I agree that we polarize because we lack the wide net of communal interdependencies that we once were so good at maintaining; and that to become less ideologically polarized we need to rebuild those interdependencies.

  154. The GOP mantra: blame it on the sixties. Never mind that a generation of men were drafted for a pointless ideological war, killing 50,000 Americans.

    Richard naturally blames "The Great Society" as well, which had the nerve to legislate Medicare.

    Richard wants to make America great again by letting grandma write checks if she needs to see a doctor.

  155. Richard--I think you're right that this really accelerated in the 60's with the Left (or with part of the Left), but it was soon taken up by the Right with a vengeance. What began as the Right's (arguably) legitimate criticism of some negative effects of social welfare policies, identity politics & permissivness quickly evolved into the right-wing's own politics of identity, victimhood and permissive "me-first" politics on everything from taxes & industrial pollution to irresponsible gun ownership. Today, no matter what your politics are, it gets sold back to you in a flattering, black & white ideological form because that's what's useful for the media and the politicians.

  156. David:

    Those men were drafted and sent to war by a Democrat whom you love to own when talking about the Great Society, but kinda leave the room when talking about Vietnam. And what have those men to do with a hard turn on our part to the left and the consequences of that shift, socially as well as fiscally?


    The left needs to answer for 50 years, the right for the past seven; and actually, only five of the last seven.

  157. The lament is a common one for those of us who actually volunteer to make our community better. When I look around at the meeting room, those who volunteer are overwhelmingly of our age group (55 and above), the numbers of those between the ages of 25-50 are an endangered species, and the numbers of those less than 25 are padding their resumes for college and invariably stop going to community events after their own kids are born. Community involvement and volunteering used to be part of your civic duty. Something happened between the time our parents brought us along for community events, our children who attended community events (and are still attending as part of the endangered group) and the rest of society. Community events used to be the mixing bowl where one did meet a cross section of your community. The current generation raising children are "too busy" taking them to every event associated with their own children and ignore the community at large, living in their ideological and class silos. The all about me generation is missing something but don't know they are missing it. Luckily, and slowly but surely, we are seeing the millenials who seem to have a better sense of what community involvement means to civic discourse and hopefully the pendulum will swing back.

  158. Yeah, maybe it will swing back when both parents don't have to work 11 hours a day. Did you ever consider that the severe lack of time is a factor? Two hours in travel to and from work plus a nine hour day with no lunch, the pick up the kids, get home and cook dinner so everyone can eat and maybe get the kids in bed before 9 after helping with homework. Tell me, where are the hours for volunteering? Midnight to three am? Get real.

  159. Most of the older folks who can spend their time volunteering are relatively financially secure. They aren't working two or more poorly paid jobs to keep the family clothed and fed. They have time to cook rather than grabbing unhealthy fast food on the run. So many of the things that older folks lament - such the decline in civility, frugality, and moderation - can be attributed to changing economic conditions. The stocks I own that are part of my economic security (as one of those older volunteering folks) are in corporations that have actively created those economic condition through outsourcing and pursuing the bottom line rather than supporting employees. I am part of the problem even as I volunteer to try to alleviate it.

  160. Tom writes, " The current generation raising children are 'too busy' taking them to every event associated with their own children and ignore the community at large"

    As a long-time volunteer who raised a couple kids and is now a retired empty-nester -- I don't think people are quote unquote "too busy," I think they are literally too busy. Back in the day, you often had one spouse working (who could often leave work at the office after 5 pm) and one spouse free to pitch into volunteer activities or watch the kids while the working spouse went out in the evening. Kids could often walk to their own activities, sell their own Girl Scout cookies without a parent along, etc.

    Now both parents probably work and bring work back home with them. The kids activities and fundraisers require parents to kick in considerable time, as the price of their kids' involvement, and the kids must be driven to and from. There are still all the chores, errands and shopping to be done. There really truly are not enough hours in the week, even for comfortable middle-class parents. (Now think of the ones struggling to get by...)

    THAT'S why you see so many retired folks supporting the community at large. It's not they are more virtuous. It's just that -- once jobs and kids are no longer sucking up all their time and energy -- they can finally show up. And even have lunch with friends sometimes! If our society again gave people the time, I'm convinced you'd see community involvement rise again.

  161. Perhaps David is on to something. The rise of independents with no party affiliation is surely one of the stories of our times. People, particularly younger ones, look at the what the two parties have become and want no part. Self-identification as a Republican is way down, but the trend on the Democratic side is right behind. Thank god for open primaries, or 40% of the population would be unable to participate.

    Look to the cities - that is where the action is. That is where individuals are nurturing "thick local membership webs". And, as Sunday's article about mortality rates among the poor makes clear, which city you choose to live in can make a big difference. Some are doing it much better than others. Regardless, cities are less affected by gerrymandering, per se, and somewhat insulated from toxic state politics. They can, and do, develop their own character.

  162. "...scale back the culture of autonomy...", hmm. The phrase, "culture of autonomy" probably evokes (in those of us old enough to remember) thoughts of "do-your own thing" attributed to liberals.
    However, it should be obvious that the biggest advocates of breaking down these "rings" of culture--specifically Brook's "middle ring", come from the Right. From Libertarians to moderate Republicans, doesn't personal freedom trump the greater good?
    I submit that salvaging our politics might be possible if its problems had their genesis in 60's cultural shift, but this is not from where these problems emerged.

  163. Talk about chutzpah! Coming from Mr. Brooks whose rightwing politics has been built on pandering to our worst narcissistic instincts ever since Goldwater, Nixon, and Reagan is a complete joke! Seems he forgot who uttered those words about "Government is the problem".

  164. Wrong, wrong, and - oh by the way - wrong.

    First: Change has to come from the elites. The nation follows the elites, the elites don't follow the lead of John and Joan Q. Public.

    Second: This thing started falling apart not after WW2, but in the 1980s when Reagan and his disciples decided that individual action was more important than group compromise, that military spending was more important than social programs, and that unions were meant to be broken.

    Third: Nobody other than people with brain hypoxia from breathing the beltway air identifies more with political party than with locality or ethnicity. Have you not been paying attention at the "throw the bums out" messages from the left and the right?

    Wrong diagnosis leads to wrong prescription. What needs to happen is the conservatives need to stop-stop-stop railing against collective action, stop-stop-stop cutting education funding, stop-stop-stop legislating women's bodies, and stop-stop-stop worshiping at the alter of lassaz-faire capitalism. Finally, conservative political elites need to stop-stop-stop demonizing people across the aisle, and stop-stop-stop being obstructionist do-nothings.

    Then we can talk about middle rings, middle earth, or whatever this other business is. But until then, you're wasting time by trying to affix blame to and than expect reform from the 99%.

  165. Here's how to "fix politics"- campaign finance reform. Start by overturning Citizens United. Big money and special interests have corrupted the political process. Follow-up by overhauling the way elections are funded. Finally, making it easier for you and I to vote will make politicians responsible to the electorate, not special interests. Seeing that our votes count and our voices matter that will go a long way towards increasing participation in the process and establishing and maintaining the "community" that Mr. Brooks writes about.

  166. Republicans Anonymous: Step 1 : Admit to the depth of the dishonesty and admit your contribution to the problem. Then healing can begin. Perhaps you could start with Supreme Court hearings?

  167. It seems to me just living in a large urban center, one rubs shoulders with so many people that one does not know, and urban infrastructure needs good local government, so some of this excessive autonomy rubs off. In contrast, it is the rural folks who feel they need to be armed to the teeth; and it is they who vote to be the libertarian monads. Move to the City, and fulfill yourself!

  168. I know my neighbors here in Baltimore and I always have. I'm not unique. Baltimore is a disfumctional city in many ways, but one thing is has is lots of strong neighborhoods. We need more of them, of course, and our problems are myriad. But the middle ring is still available in places like this. You need to get out more David.

  169. Perhaps in his study of history, Brooks never studied Occam's razor, commonly stated as ''the simplest explanation is usually the correct one.''

    His broad cultural theories, which he tries to support with diverse snippets of new and old research, usually read as special interest pleading, citing selected sources, to rationalize his own version of ''conservatism.''

    What has happened to our politics is certainly not primarily the failure of those at the bottom, as Brooks argues, but rather the skill of those at the top to manipulate politics to serve their own interests.

    This corresponds to the change Brooks describes, that time in the eighties when Supply Side (a.k.a., voodoo) economics replaced policies that fostered mobility and middle class prosperity. This came with a strong surge of regressive conservatism, in which civil rights gains of all kinds were pushed backward,

    Mobility declined, the middle class shrank, and fewer people felt part of, or were able to participate fully in, our society.

    It is not nearly as complicated as Brooks tries to argue, and the solution is not to ''shrink our politics,'' but to include many more of us in the way our politics works.

  170. A booming economy requires booming consumers. How hard is that?

  171. ClearEye, we have to remember that Mr Brooks is a political pundit not a philosopher.

  172. Rising inequality, gated communities, I don't think it's surprising that our political system is broken. it's us against them. don't raise my taxes and don't cut my Medicare or social security. I don't see things changing.

  173. How about "stop spewing hate from talk radio"?

  174. What Mr. Brooks is proposing is that the basis of a healthy rewarding life is the community. He is illustrating that pursuing a hyper-individualistic lifestyle causes one to lose out on the greatest joys of life. Social concerns are private concerns and vise versa.

    Well Mr. Brooks, there is this thing called the Republican Party that has done everything it can to break down the community and support hyper-individualism. It even labels community driven policy as "socialism" which they claim will rob us of our freedom.

    So they created a world of isolation, and loneliness, the freedom to drop dead in the streets, loss of employment, and lack of purpose and belonging. They replaced it with a world where people work for 60 hours a week and get paid for 40, spend little time with their kids, commute three or four hour a day and have no pensions. Those are the lucky ones.

    So Mr. Brooks, in light of your new understanding, does this mean you will be voting for Bernie Sanders, the self-proclaimed democratic socialist?

  175. The isolation you talk about characterized the USSR. The root cause was slightly different: repression, secret police etc - but the effect was the same. People retreat into their private lives and don't truly participate in public life. While we don't have the same state controls, the emphasis on the individual, doing it all alone has the same paralyzing, isolating effect - people don't connect. Funny how you can get to the same place from different directions....

  176. 796 words on "How to Fix Politics" and not one of them is "gerrymandering", "voter suppression", and "income inequality". The oxygen of democracy is free speech.

    There is an assault under way in America trying to neuter democracy with extreme gerrymandering, voter suppression and an assault on free speech by multimillionaires who have attempted to turn our political discourse into a cauldron of propaganda and demagoguery.

    The only force fighting to wrestle back our democracy is the millions of small donors propelling Bernie Sanders to the presidency. If they succeed they should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize because the Earth is in the Balance not just democracy in America.

    No David your 796 words are not part of the solution. They are part of the cauldron of propaganda and demagoguery.

  177. The middle ring disappeared around the same time that corporations decided they needed to focus on shareholders more than employees and downsized, outsourced, and avoided taxes in order to increase profits. There was a time not so long ago when middle managers weren't expected to be on call 24/7, when unionized line workers made enough to sustain a middle-class life-style working 40 hours a week on ONE job, when CEOs did not expect to make more than ten times what the lowest paid full-time employee received, and when paying taxes was viewed as a corporate responsibility and not a burden on shareholders. During that time in the 50s and 60s each level of the economic strata had something they lack today: FREE TIME! Our current economic model requires highly compensated managers to maintain obsessive work schedules, requires both husbands and wives to down full time jobs or multiple part-time jobs in order to achieve "middle class" status, overcompensates the CEOs and Boards that oversee this system, and starves the tax-funded institutions of the money and volunteers they need to thrive. The by-product of this economic model is the loss of the middle ring relationships that lead to civil politics.

  178. Might it have been when deductible executive compensation was capped at a million so stock options became the new way to compensate executives? Long term planning became a goal of the past. Short term share price was and is the rage.

  179. I always wonder why this issue isn't voiced more often. One might legitimately offer that paying constant attention to the bottom line, so as to attract more investors, is a desirable business strategy. That is, until one realizes that the vast majority of rapid growth stocks benefit the most wealthy among us. Yet another way that has been devised to concentrate wealth to those who already have the largest share of it.

    Taxing those gains at half the rate, as opposed to the gains one obtains via labor, should prove to everyone that concentration of wealth is, and has always been, the driving force behind a certain political party. For one thing, labor unions get in the way, therefore they must be squashed. As for a living minimum wage, that too takes away from the bottom line. Condemn it at all cost. No need to mention healthcare or Social Security. Security should only be awarded to those with the most wealth. All others be damned.

  180. The great unrecognized factor in modern social change is marketing. Every year, untold billions of dollars are spent on research into ways of getting us to buy things. The research has grown ever more sophisticated and is based on an ever deeper understanding of human emotion and psychology.

    The great carrier wave of modern marketing, whether of sneakers or smart phones, is making consumers feel good about themselves in association with brands they choose. It's about feeling, and works at a non-rational level. "You deserve a break today" and "I'm lovin' it" are not rational arguments, yet they work.

    Marketing aims at affecting individual consumers, even though it works on a mass basis. Its cumulative effect over the past decades has been to atomize the population. We are no longer citizens who think about society; we are consumers who feel about our own needs. The concept of the common good is no longer part o the way our minds operate.

    The effects on governance are profound. Previous generations of citizens saw the sense in having everyone contribute to build physical and social infrastructure; today's atomized consumers are concerned only that their own personal taxes be decreased.

    As long as the consumer economy is immersed in the continual flood of marketing, the concept of "We, the people" will remain an antique. Politics will be just another selection of brands and there's no way to fix that.

  181. As a college professor, I am aware of how popular a marketing degree now is too. Students at my university flock to it and few major in politics, which I teach. Why? Not only because it's easy to earn As in marketing classes, but also because they're told that there are many jobs available in this field. When these same students take my American politics surveys, they are surprised to find that they have to read books that are mentally challenging (because they don't simply parrot partisan views expressed in sound bites by politicians) and analyze information about complex political phenomena, when they normally are accustomed to expressing uninformed political opinions. I'm not sure how much they are changed by my classes, but I do know that many of my students who are business majors are resentful that they are made to work so hard in my survey courses. In any case, students seem to have few incentives to "think outside the box" and empathize with others who do not share their values or political views.

  182. Good post. Should have been a chosen post by the Times. I would only add to that: Television. It is impossible to escape its banality. Television of course is only the method by which what you have described has infiltrated every aspect of American life. I find it difficult to describe my shock at reading a decent book only to come into a room or place with a television on and then be assaulted by the triviality, banality of it. People need not fear a loss of "America" or "Common Identity of Americans" or "National View". We are all these common, trivial, banal, have a coke and a smile people.

  183. Spot on. One could add that the culture and industires of the media, through which marketing works, exacerbate the problem.

  184. Mr Brooks,
    What you have just described - at the social level - is...

  185. I recently found myself in an extended car ride with a business associate from Europe. Initial talk of fearful U.S. politics soon led to more philosophical discussion about the core values of Europeans vs. Americans. He commented that when an American recently said goodbye to him with the words "take care of yourself" he really thought he was being insulted. The European interpretation of this phrase is "take care of yourself (because no one else will)". In contrast, Europeans feel some responsibility for each other.

  186. Perhaps your business associate should have said thanks for your country's contribution to NATO. We are a member of that organization and have felt some responsibility for other members. Three of my twenty years in the military were served in Europe as part of NATO forces. During that time I got to go visit Dachau. These wonderful core values are relatively new.

  187. There you go again with the "The Democrats are just as bad" mantra. Shutting down the government because you lost a vote and don't want a new law it to be funded? Blocking moving forward on nearly every nomination made by a siting president, including a Supreme Court justice?

    Mr. Brooks, it has been evident for some time now that the single greatest threat to human survival on planet Earth is the Republican party.

  188. And the second is the Democratic Party, they are nearly indistinguishable on most issues, in the service of corporations, yet waving the progressive flag to fool us all.

  189. Funny , President Obama tried your elite solution upon taking the oath of office. In exchange he was called a socialist Muslim, a dictator, feckless and most famously a liar during his state of the Union address. Your party has been practicing and teaching the policies of discrimination, hatred and of course focus on the individual in particular the wealthy conservative older white males. They have with an assist from Fox News transformed this nation from one revered and respected and emulated throughout the world into a laughingstock and a hypocrite. Clean house your own house first Mr. Brooks before you start searching for idealistic and unrealistic solutions to the incivility , chaos and policies of hatred and destruction your friends created.

  190. C'mon, being called a liar by a congressman from South Carolina is an honor. The president probably values that moment as much as his Nobel.

  191. I moved to Washington DC after law school and have been here the entire Obama presidency. Working on Capitol Hill. What you are saying about Barack Obama is a fallacy. Barack Obama is a two term POTUS which means he's going to be in office for 8 years. As of April 12, 2016 there are 214 Republicans in Congress who Barack Obama has never spoken to in person, sent a personal note or email or been in the same room with. There are over 20 US Senators from the GOP Obama has never spoken to. Obama refuses to even pretend to respect Congress.

    Obama was lying during the SOTU, something he promised he'd never do. As a matter of fact the 3 core promises of Obamacare that Mr. Obama campaigned on were all lies, one of them earning the 2013 Lie of the Year from a LIBERAL news organization.

    I'd ask Mr. Obama and his supporters to clean their political house, but the Obama presidency burned it to the ground long ago.

  192. Interesting observations coming from a member of the bar. If I recall when the President was elected and then sworn in he inherited perhaps the biggest mess since FDR succeeded Hoover. With America and American's suffering and the financial system hanging in the balance while fighting two disastrous wars , Senator Mitch McConnell famously said our goal must be to insure that Obama is a one term President. Definitely a fellow worth sitting down and talking to.

  193. "People experience their highest joy in helping their neighbors make it through the day."

    Then Republican legislators are mighty strange, they get their highest joy by restricting the vote, controlling women's bodies, destroying health care and social security, getting guns into university classrooms, and the list goes on. Do you think they're under the delusion they are helping their neighbors make it through the day? They're the ones who make the day difficult to get through in the first place.

  194. "Strange"? Honey, "strange" doesn't begin to cover it!

  195. I'm reminded of the immortal, though inadvertent, Boston Globe headline about Jimmy Carter: More Mush from the Wimp. David, your recurring theme that the world would be better if only people were exactly like you is getting very tiresome. Matthew, the servant in A Man for All Seasons, has it right when he says, "I wish rain water was beer. But it ain't!'

  196. I remember when people knew their neighbors. It's possible to reclaim at least some of that camaraderie. We're mot hopelessly isolated. We just have to start seeing other people as human beings. That's can't be too much to ask.

  197. David,

    Thank you for quoting Yankelovich from 1981, since his statement makes clear -- in the typical doublespeak of the 1980's Reagan Era -- that the gaping chasm that exists now between the tiny elite of the rich, and the mass poverty of the rest of America, was already visible back then.

    It's money, David. It's money. You and others can go yip-yapping and prancing all about regarding spirituality, family ties, neighborhood committees, politics and whatever other diversion you want to pin our current divisions on, anything but the truth, right? Here's the truth: it's the money. Start with economics.

    At a time when 60% of Americans don't have even $1,000 in savings; when 40% of the $2 trillion in student loans isn't being paid, or is in trouble, with late and delayed payments; when 50% of California's working population is helped by commitment to a $15/hr minimum wage that will kick in, oh, some time over the next ten years, gradually (in other words it'll be there by the time "starting homes" are $1M and cheap Toyotas are $90,000 and a gallon of milk costs $10....); when most Americans have poverty and despair and heroin as their most likely retirement plan, how can you claim any morality at all in whingeing on about the loss of middle class values and commitments and community?

    Will salaries suddenly automatically double for the majority of working Americans if they attend PTA meetings? Get real, sir, and above all stop fooling yourself. You certainly don't fool us.

  198. That was great! thanks!

  199. Very well said. Has Brooks no shame? The problem I suppose is that the people at The Times talk only to each other.

  200. Nothing like hitting the nail directly on the head. Terrific comment!!

  201. Brooks has it backwards: it's the insular lives of Americans, with Americans segregated by income and class and race, that has divided America. Turning inward rather than outward will only exacerbate the insularity. Today, Americans are divided by the cites and towns, states and regions where they reside. What's needed is a national campaign for a single, national identity, an American identity, something like Alexander Hamilton's vision for America. If Brooks saw the wildly successful musical about Hamilton, Brooks missed both Hamilton's and the musical's point.

  202. Insular lives segregated by income, class and race....
    And gerrymandered Congressional Districts.

  203. A large portion of the electorate is unsophisticated. National politics is a contest for that portion's support. Those voters are won over with patriotic appeals that gain traction. The surest way to bring out the flag waving is to prevail militarily, appealing to the "America is the greatest" crowd. Unfortunately, the USA hasn't won a war in 70 years unless you count Granada, Panama or Bosnia. So, the patriotic cause today is "immigration" control. That is not a big enough issue to enough of the electorate to define the campaign, so other issues are percolating to the surface--income inequality, pervasive structural racism, denying the 47% their hammock, etc. I don't find it depressing that the ugly divisions in American society are being exposed. I only wish that presidential campaigns were compressed to about three months. The sham candidate selection process should be eliminated and party regulars select their candidates at conventions in August, informed by public opinion polls, which at bottom are what the primaries and caucuses really are. Then accept the mandate of the voters in November and get on with governing.

  204. And it seems that the States' rights movement by Republicans will further divide us from a "one nation". It used to be that we were all in it together, now this state is competing with that state for companies to move it (usually at huge expense --Corruption!!) Each state says we'll take care of our poor, you take care of yours. Of course, all states don't take care of their poor. Each state has Medicaid, and my state, Virginia, makes it so difficult to qualify that it may as well not exist. Divided we fall...

  205. A wonderful day in the sun yesterday where everyone met, the cab drivers having a time of it making a living, followed by shoppers and workers at the huge supermarket, not far from the City were smiling. It lifts one's spirits when one feels welcome by all and sundry; an 'observer of the Great Recession', while sleeping on the floor of an empty house in luxury.

    People are 'hurting' is a tacit understanding. There is a feeling of solidarity in the air. Joy is missing. Listen and look at people of all ages and cultures in the eye. Politics came up with an American Haitian, divorced, and he wants Hillary Clinton to become our first woman President. We both agreed that when Politics become 'Personal', manners go out the window and all is lost in the brawl.

    True, my spirits took a brief droop when a sign 'Cruz' was noted outside of a neighboring house. Friends and I rarely speak of the Political Parties, but I will admit that a dislike is forming for this G.O.P. and the Republicans. What are they doing? 'It's crazy', an ongoing refrain between us, has come to an end.

    Hoping that Mr. Sanders and Mrs. Clinton, 'the Lion and the Unicorn', will drum Mr. Trump out of town, surprise us with a show of plausible presidential material, while remaining 'contained and clear-headed' in their difference of views.

  206. It won't matter. If the Republicans (who are owned by the large organizations hidden and manipulated by the Koch brothers and their friends) are still in power in Washington, then whoever is the President will be stopped, frustrated and criticised by the Congress. Few Americans educate themselves on what is going on in America and in the world.

  207. Yes, we have become more tribal. Ironic since many would see the tribal nature of societies like that of Afghanistan as 'backward.' I have felt despair in the past few years over the possibility of our coming together again both politically and culturally. Despair, though, is not helpful as it tends to paralyze.

    Although it is tempting to think that a strong leader could set off a reversal of the current polarized mess, I am inclined to think that change must happen from the bottom up. I am not part of the right and, therefore, tend to see them as hopelessly bias (which likely reflects my own left-of-center bias). I know we have a lot of work to do on ourselves on the left. We have for far too long been dismissive of the right refusing to listen to them (we claim the supposedly high moral ground of being "open minded," but are quite closed minded and judgmental when it comes to conservative opinions). The paralysis, obstruction, and negativity are not all coming from the right. We must fix our own perspective as a beginning move if there is any hope to healing this torn nation.

  208. You're not biased at all, just sane.

  209. Being "open minded" does not obligate me to accept an idea after considering it--just obligates me to judge (as objectively as my flawed humanity can) whether it passes the smell test. Many Repub ideas used to pass. Not recently.

  210. In the middle of this depressing presidential campaign I sometimes wonder, How could we make our politics better?

    Stop thinking and talking and simply address the issues:
    1) Illegal immigration. Enough time has passed. What are we waiting for? Do we want to know who is in our country and living and working where, or not? (In Wisconsin, not. The farm workers are hidden from sight.) How will local governments, like schools or emergency management systems, know how to plan for the future, if we are uncertain how many lives are at stake in our area? Immigration needs to come out of the closet as an American issue, and this cycle, it finally has. Action is needed, they are not going away and people won't avert their eyes anymore.

    2) Inequality. How long will the country manage if we keep importing rich people with money wanting to become Americans (see Chinese-birth hospitals to have American citizens) and keep paying our own people so little? Do we want to emulate Britian, where we are all born into classes and what your Daddy does matter more than one's own innate talents and skills? Because that is where a "networked" America is heading, where everyone buys their statuses and occupations, and for their children.

    3) Foreign wars and lobbyists. Only a denier would doubt that America's military actions are putting people in refugee camps. Likely, America is committing war crimes in Yemen, and via our drones-everywhere policies.

    Those are just three issues at play...

  211. Excellent ideas. There is no reason these could not be done now and what a difference it would make. Leaders in Congress and business could insist that these things be done now and done with the two parties working together. Anybody who has lived in a small town knows that political parties make no difference in solving problems like zoning changes, the need for a new fire truck, or fixing a broken water line. Yet similar problems on a state ot nationalvel don not get solved because we play politics.

  212. You're missing his point. It's not about issues per se. It's about how we work with each other. That makes all the difference.

  213. Midway, I think I am you. I have been an activist my whole life. And I agree with everything you write. Still Brooks has a point. I have gone door to door every election in my precinct and elsewhere. I notice how few people know their neighbors -- the names of their kids for example. Progressive urban planner Jane Jacobs predicted 50 years ago that TV and air conditioning would keep people inside off their front porches. The policies you and I advocate will make America better at home and in the world, but there are a lot of non-political people who won't feel the need for compassion and kindness unless they have relationships with their neighbors. I disagree with Brooks frequently but he has a point here.

  214. Commenters here seem unwilling to grant Brooks may have a point. Agreeing with the thrust of this column doesn't mean you have to think "the good ole days" were great for women and minorities. It doesn't mean you have to think the fault for our current situation is equally shared between Democrats and Republicans. But really, hang out on the leftish end of the internet and you'll find plenty of childish and outrageous behavior. I find myself in agreement, politically, with some people I'd be frightened to sit next to at dinner.

    Somehow we have lost the ability to be highly principled but not nasty and petty. It is hard to imagine great leaders in the past living for the next flame war -- they called people to a vision of the great society, rather than spending all their time congratulating themselves for seeing it first.

  215. "the fault for our current situation is equally shared between Democrats and Republicans."
    Democrats can point to real world countries that govern by the principles they support.
    The GOP cannot point to ANY real world countries that govern by small government, low tax, low regulation policies.
    There is no center ground for a real world position and a mythical one.

  216. "We" in this case is the disgusting republican party. No false equivalencies anymore.

  217. No mention of "you lie," Tea Party, Citizens United, or the 1%'s outsized political power. Maybe you should read your newspapers headlines.

  218. "The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: 'We’re going to change the way we do business in Washington. We’re going to deliberate and negotiate. We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.' That kind of leadership might trickle down."

    The last "next president" already tried that. We elected the person we wanted to lead us, and the GOP did everything in their power to prevent him from leading us. In my 58 years as an American, I've never seen anything like it. Although I know a number of smug, intransigent people on the left, most of them became entrenched in their leftism as a result of blind-swaggering, elite-first Reaganism. They became that way because Republicans made sane negotiation, tolerance, and compromise impossible.

    It wasn't the post-World War II era that fragmented America, and David Brooks, who's only about three years young than me, knows it. I grew up in a rural evangelical church where education and science were respected and encouraged, and pride was taken in what the U.S. built. It was union-busting and shipping jobs overseas that destroyed communities, and valuing corporate profit over public good. Reaganism deliberately destabilized and disempowered the working and middle classes. It created politics for the unpatriotic 1%.

    The night before Reagan took office I had a nightmare of nuclear holocaust. Turns out the annihilation was perniciously slow-motion.

  219. As to your first paragraph: Isn't that what Bernie Sanders has been advocating for .... OH, I dunno .... nearly 40 years?? I call it: 'Putting the D back into the word democracy'

  220. Indeed, I have come to see Republicans as wrong on every issue, they are entrenched in wrong, it's uncanny. Climate science, nyet, separation of church and state, a big fat nyet, family planning, nyet, one man, one vote, nyet, unions, nyet (the most needing unions, hate them), paying taxes, nyet, compromise, nyet, diplomacy, nyet, acceptance of others, NYET, brothely love, surely you jest, decent wages, nyet, healthcare for all, nyet, I could go on. The Republicans I sit near at the farmer's market chat about voter fraud and the latest email chain proving it, political correctness, and how they wish Northern Virginia was more like Texas. I'm working on developing selective deafness and inner calm.

  221. I would agree that self-actualization is connected to group survival, but I believe Maslow suggested that individuals will not focus on higher level needs if their lower level needs (physiological ones and safety) are not met. So for individuals who are fed fear and little else, the message that they will find their highest joy in helping others (when they're barely getting by themselves) falls flat.

    That message should be one communicated to the one percent and the rest of us who can't take a step back to see that a society in which the occasional handout (aka point of light) from the rich might ease tensions for a while doesn't compare to one in which the economy is set up to serve human beings and not vice versa. We bail out the big banks that have been set up to make us all, in one way or another, slaves to debt, and blame that debt on individual debtors.

    We can't fix politics or anything else by simply telling people to be friendlier or nicer. We have to take a step back to examine the system in which we live, a system set up by humans, not naturally occurring as some free marketeers would have you believe, to determine if it is structured to serve human beings, not corporations. Then, perhaps, more of us will feel secure enough to think less about survival and more about the greater good.

  222. How can we make our politics better?

    We can start by being honest, especially with ourselves. If we were honest with ourselves, we would recognize that, platitudes aside, Mr. Brooks characterization of some shift in our "mind-set" after World War II was never seen in public policy, until around about 1981. The post-WWII generation created the GI Bill, expanded college opportunities to broad swaths of Americans, built an interstate system which was and is the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken in the United States, saw malnutrition and did something about it, created Medicare and Medicaid, created the EPA and the legislation that agency uses to better our lives, started NASA and went to the moon, and drug the southern states (against their will) kicking and screaming into the 20th century. There may have been politicians in that era claiming that government was the cause of all of our problems, but if there were, nobody was paying attention to them.

    And then came Reagan, and tax cuts for the rich, and more tax cuts for the rich, and tax cuts for the heirs of the rich, and tax cuts for corporations, and eventually financial deregulation, and suddenly government, which had done so much to make us prosperous, was now the enemy of prosperity. And still is, to the people of Mr. Brooks' way of thinking.

    So if we are going to draw temporal distinctions of the "mind-set of America, let's at least get it close to being right.

  223. Mr. Brooks, you say "If we’re going to salvage our politics, we probably have to shrink politics, and nurture the thick local membership web that politics rests within." No, if we're going to salvage OUR democracy we must shrink the influence of the ALEC/Wall Street/Koch brothers/u s chamber of commerce/radical religious right/nra/major media Corporate Conglomerate. You know, those people you represent?

  224. If we are going to shrink the influence of Wall Street the best place to start is to NOT VOTE FOR HILLARY who has received almost $15 million in speaking fees from Wall Street while not producing any of the transcripts.

  225. How to fix politics: Draw districts using non-biased computer algorithms, take 90 percent of the cash out of the system, and expand voter access to polls. Then watch the middle emerge.

  226. Another great suggestion which will go nowhere under McConnell s do nothing congress.

  227. Spot on. Just not doable, thanks to the 1%. They have systematically starved the people of enough income and basic living standards to have the resources to thrive. We have gone from one income households to multi generations living together to get by. Jobs have been sent overseas and local governments burdened by the need for high property taxes, as Federal and State funding is part of the "cut income taxes" mentality. Maslow assumed that the hierarchy of needs all fell below "survival."

  228. David Brroks writes:

    "It’s possible to imagine an elite solution. The next president could get together with the leaders of both parties in Congress and say: “We’re going to change the way we do business in Washington. We’re going to deliberate and negotiate. We’ll disagree and wrangle, but we will not treat this as good-versus-evil blood sport.” That kind of leadership might trickle down.""

    .....Which is precisely what President Obama did, and please note the response from the Republic Party and the American Right Wing Movement!

    How did David Brooks manage to forget about this?

  229. JFK implored us to ask not what the country can do for us but what we could do for the country. Perhaps that was the last expression of a community ethic of common purpose and common sacrifice that had been part and parcel of the moral fabric of the country for decades.

    The reliance on wedge issues like abortion and immigration has served to emphasize what our differences are. And politicians find that setting up scapegoats, whether they be immigrants or banksters, are great for polling.

    Maybe it is time for politicians to ask something of us rather than telling us what they will do for us.

  230. What a great comic opening.

    This President has met with the Republican leadership in an attempt to work out deals. To wit: A few years ago he said he would throw old and poor people under the bus if the Republicans were willing to agree to very modest tax increase. Hilarity ensued.

    You may not have noticed, but two radically different visions exist for this country in the years ahead. One viewpoint subsumes patriotism to religious fealty and racial pride, and would like to put gay people back into the closet and is hell-bent on keeping women from enjoying sex without having to worry about pregnancy. If you're confused by this description, you might want to look at anywhere Sarah Palin is popular. Ya see?

    The other viewpoint asserts that we have progressed in many ways as a nation since that day that MLK stated that he had a dream. Much of it is still a dream, but one that many of us share. When Tony Kushner wrote "Angels In America" in the 1980's gay people were dying in thousands from a disease that President Reagan wouldn't even address. Whiny Christian bakers and other oppressors have become the oppressed.

    Whether or not one works as a volunteer fireman with a Klansman whom one comes to admire because he says he doesn't really hate black people except that they're always doing stuff that drives him crazy, two competing visions for America exist. One sees Galt's Gulch as an ideal, and the other sees Denmark.

    That isn't going to change because we all go to PTA meetings.

  231. "But it’s increasingly clear that the roots of political dysfunction lie deep in society. If there’s truly going to be improvement, there has to be improvement in the social context politics is embedded in."

    Now lemme get this straight: It's our fault, huh?

    The traditional notion of a "bank" which serves a community has lost relevance in an era of "financialized" economies, when communities, and even nations, are disposable, and "private finance" in the US has become concentrated within a few huge conglomerates which manage investment, commercial, insurance, commodity, municipal, pension, hedge and other funds for highly selective benefit, beneath regulatory regimes riddled with loopholes and spread across dozens of federal agencies with conveniently revolving doors.

    The two major political parties of the US have colluded to exclude third party participation in presidential campaigns and debates with formation of the "worse than dysfunctional" (Ann M. Ravel) Federal Election Commission in 1975, and the duplicitous Commission on Presidential Debates in 1987.

    As Jane Mayer revealed in "Dark Money" the Koch Brothers, after 1980, decided to "buy their way to political power."

    “The political establishment has no credibility, and they are terrified that we the people would start to get together outside the two corporate parties ... funded by predatory banks and fossil fuel giants and war profiteers.” -- Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein

  232. The roots of the current Republican intransigence and vitriol date to Newt Gingrich. He brought a new generation of young Republicans into the system, coaching them in the fine art of demagoguery.
    "The Blueprint. Back in 1994, while plotting his takeover of the House, Gingrich circulated a memo on how to use words as a weapon. It was called “Language: A Key Mechanism of Control.” Republicans were advised to use certain words in describing opponents — sick, pathetic, lie, decay, failure, destroy. That was the year, of course, when Gingrich showed there was no floor to his descent into a dignity-free zone, equating Democratic Party values with the drowning of two young children by their mother, Susan Smith, in South Carolina." -- Deconstructing a Demagogue, Timothy Egan, New York Times, January 26, 2012.
    That shameful approach worked--worked, in fact, so well for Republicans that it drove out all other forms of campaigning, and steamrolled the Democrats.
    How do you put the genie back in the bottle, take the poison out of the pill? I'm not sure it can be done short of a total collapse and reconstitution of the GOP.

  233. Just as Wall Street is rigged, so is Politics. People are angry about a lot of things, and when people are angry they tend to reach for easy (and often misguided) solutions to their problems. Add to this feckless politicians who are more interested in exploiting anger than they are in governing, and you have a very toxic brew.

  234. The world you describe was wonderful... for straight white people of certain religions. But when that homogeniety and their control began to unravel in the 60s, all of that "wonderfulness" became exposed as the mirage that it was.

    Individualism may have driven some of these changes, but in America, as with most places, it's really about specific groups' struggle to maintain or obtain their piece of the pie. These battles get pretty nasty, eg, the civil war.

  235. The society and norms of the 40s and 50s had warts, but they were not a mirage. Small towns worked through cooperation across boundaries of race, class and ideology, farmers traded work to accomplish timely activities, and schools actually taught people to read, write and count. All this in spite of McCarthy, the Cold War and the John Birch Society. The confused rebellion of the late sixties, the Viet Nam war, and federal rural/economic policy blew it up, for good.

  236. I am afraid that the people who need to read this article the most do not read David Brooks. The people I am talking about are conservative republicans.

    And how can you talk about helping one another when you support a party that wants to do away with the social safety net.

  237. Didn't I read an article a few weeks back wherein Mr. Brooks wrote about it being "a great time to be a Republican?" But now he finds the presidential race depressing, and blames the peasantry for the damage that (primarily) the Party of No has wrought. The autonomy mind set started kicking in when the government started being bought up by the wealthy.

  238. Oh good luck, Brooks, in attempting to fix our dysfunctional political system with a lot of wishful thinking about how things used to be in the good old days. Just think-- Republican and Democratic lawmakers actually talked to each other in a reasonable manner!! Supreme Court nominees met with the leaders of the opposition party and got their confirmation hearings without the process turning into a partisan hassle. Today's us vs them take no prisoners style of politicking isn't going to end regardless of who becomes the 45th president. Can anyone imagine President Sanders or President Trump even agreeing to listen to what opposing lawmakers have to say?? Not a chance. The new political order of things is "my way or the highway." Better get used to it. The dysfunction in Washington isn't going to end anytime soon.

  239. Senator sanders has worked with leagues on both sides of the aisle. With good success, no hard feelings or bitterness.

  240. It is clear that we have a fan based culture. We are not only fans of sports teams but politicians, schools, computer companies, designers, and on and on. It is almost if we have forgotten how to be objective because we have to be a fan of something - without this, we don't feel connected or valued. This exists even in light of us being a fan does not really benefit us or anyone else to any large extent. Except it benefits the thing we are a fan of making that thing (or person) better than any of us. This need or desire always confused me and made me concerned that this desire creates a rift in our conversation.

  241. How to make our politics better:

    Well....get rid of Citizens United
    David Brooks have a forum with Charlie Rose on this ongoing that you and your opposites give rise to ...what you have
    posited in this article...
    Well...because politics ...will not have a chance to just posing
    you angst this OP ED...because it will...not occur to those who should
    be clued in to to change to political process
    This subject will not be tackled in sound bytes....on the PBS news hour.
    No....a roundtable progression....on this subject.
    or.....ask Those who could conduct a debate process as W.F. Buckley did.
    ....I would love to see a W.F. Buckley take down Donald Trump...wouldn't you ???

  242. Yes, I rarely agreed with anything Buckley said but I loved listening to him say it.