A Conservative Worth Listening To

In his speech a couple of weeks ago, President Biden made it a point to note the difference between the “maga-Republicans” and the more moderate, mainstream Republicans.  It often seems that the latter group are scarce, at best, but they are out there … the ones that are sickened and disgusted by the former guy, the ones who see the maga-cult as a very real threat to this nation, to democracy, to We the People.  Among those is David Brooks, a well-known conservative political and cultural commentator who writes for the New York Times and is also a commentator on NPR and the PBS NewsHour.  I find his latest OpEd to be thoughtful and thought-provoking.  Surprising coming from a Republican, a conservative, but Brooks has always stood above the madding crowd!

Why Is There Still No Strategy to Defeat Donald Trump?

By David Brooks

15 September 2022

One of the stunning facts of the age is the continued prominence of Donald Trump. His candidates did well in the G.O.P. primaries this year. He won more votes in 2020 than he did in 2016. His favorability ratings within his party have been high and basically unchanged since late 2016. In a range of polls, some have actually shown Trump leading President Biden in a race for re-election in 2024.

His prominence is astounding because over the past seven years the American establishment has spent enormous amounts of energy trying to discredit him.

Those of us in this establishment correctly identified Trump as a grave threat to American democracy. The task before us was clear. We were never going to shake the hard-core MAGA folks. The job was to peel away independents and those Republicans offended by and exhausted by his antics.

Many strategies were deployed in order to discredit Trump. There was the immorality strategy: Thousands of articles were written detailing his lies and peccadilloes. There was the impeachment strategy: Investigations were launched into his various scandals and outrages. There was the exposure strategy: Scores of books were written exposing how shambolic and ineffective the Trump White House really was.

The net effect of these strategies has been to sell a lot of books and subscriptions and to make anti-Trumpists feel good. But this entire barrage of invective has not discredited Trump among the people who will very likely play the most determinant role. It has probably pulled some college-educated Republicans into the Democratic ranks and pushed some working-class voters over to the Republican side.

The barrage has probably solidified Trump’s hold on his party. Republicans see themselves at war with the progressive coastal elites. If those elites are dumping on Trump, he must be their guy.

A couple weeks ago, Biden gave a speech in Philadelphia, declaring the MAGA movement a threat to democracy. The speech said a lot of true things about that movement, but there was an implied confession: We have no strategy. Denouncing Trump and discrediting Trump are two different tasks. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned, denunciation may be morally necessary, but it doesn’t achieve the goal the denouncers think it does.

Some commentators argued that Biden’s strategy in the speech was to make Trump the central issue of the 2022 midterms; both Biden and Trump have an interest in making sure that Trump is the sun around which all of American politics revolves.

This week, I talked with a Republican who was incensed by Biden’s approach. He is an 82-year-old émigré from Russia who is thinking of supporting Ron DeSantis in the 2024 primaries because he has less baggage. His parents were killed by the Nazis in World War II. “And now Biden’s calling me a fascist?!” he fumed.

You would think that those of us in the anti-Trump camp would have at one point stepped back and asked some elemental questions: What are we trying to achieve? Who is the core audience here? Which strategies have worked, and which have not?

If those questions were asked, the straightforward conclusion would be that most of what we are doing is not working. The next conclusion might be that there’s a lot of self-indulgence here. We’re doing things that help those of us in the anti-Trump world bond with one another and that help people in the Trump world bond with one another. We’re locking in the political structures that benefit Trump.

My core conclusion is that attacking Trump personally doesn’t work. You have to rearrange the underlying situation. We are in the middle of a cultural/economic/partisan/identity war between more progressive people in the metro areas and more conservative people everywhere else. To lead the right in this war, Trump doesn’t have to be honest, moral or competent; he just has to be seen taking the fight to the “elites.”

The proper strategy in this situation is to scramble the identity war narrative. That’s what Biden did in 2020. He ran as a middle-class moderate from Scranton. He dodged the culture war issues. That’s what the Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman is trying to do in Pennsylvania.

A Democratic candidate who steps outside the culture/identity war narrative is going to have access to the voters who need to be moved. Public voices who don’t seem locked in the insular educated elite worldview are going to be able to reach the people who need to be reached.

Trumpists tell themselves that America is being threatened by a radical left putsch that is out to take over the government and undermine the culture. The core challenge now is to show by word and deed that this is a gross exaggeration.

Can Trump win again? Absolutely. I’m a DeSantis doubter. I doubt someone so emotionally flat and charmless can win a nomination in the age of intensive media. And then once Trump is nominated, he has some chance of winning, because nobody is executing an effective strategy against him.

If that happens, we can at least console ourselves with that Taylor Swift lyric: “I had a marvelous time ruinin’ everything.”

27 thoughts on “A Conservative Worth Listening To

  1. He makes some good points and yes trump and others should definitely be held accountable or law and order and the constitution mean nothing…which translates into the end of democracy in many ways.

    As far as the elites, I agree they want to “own them” as they believe they are all liberal. I think some of the cult view them as the wealthy, unless they are big time trump contributors. Then they are one of them. They view movie stars and singers as elites because they too are rich, unless it’s a country western singer who is a trump devotee. They view lawyers and doctors as elites, because they have money, unless they save their ass in court and cure an illness. Then they are OK.
    And I sense they view people who go to the opera, like classical music, support the arts, enjoy poetry and fine literature, go to plays, drink wine, dine in fine restaurants and all this sort of thing, as millions do, as elites. I often wonder if it’s a jealousy thing or a lack of education thing that puts them ill at ease among those types of people. I don’t mean to pigeonhole, but you get my drift. They want the guy who’s one of them…..they think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While I tend to support his editorial overall, words today are a dime-a-dozen. Consider his observation about the “exposure strategy” — Scores of books were written exposing how shambolic and ineffective the Trump White House really was. — and yet, nothing has changed. The orange blob still holds the symbolic keys to the White House.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yeah, and that was more or less what I took away from his piece … that no matter what has been tried to convince people of the evil that is Trump, nothing has worked. I think it’s more the mentality of the masses, for he certainly has no appeal to most of us.

      On another note … your “words today are a dime-a-dozen” comment got me thinking … I write on average 2,000 words a day. At $0.10 per dozen words, that adds up to about $16.67 per day, or over $6,000 per year! Hey … I could use an extra $6,000 a year! 🤪

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahhh yes … wouldn’t it be nice if we to could be “paid” for putting our worthy thoughts into print? Surely our POV is as deserving as any other commentator! sigh Where did we go wrong, Jill?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Well, we could ‘monetize’ our blogs, but a former blogging buddy did that and he lost a number of his readers, including myself. Yeah, it would be cool to get paid for doing what we love, but … I think it would become less of a passion, more of a chore if I were constantly watching to see how much money was rolling in.

          Liked by 2 people

          • I was being a bit facetious. I would never “charge” for my thoughts. At least not on a blog. Now if I were a reporter for a news source, that would be a whole different thing. (And obviously, I charge for my book.)

            Liked by 1 person

            • I knew. We do what we do because we hope that somehow we make a difference, perhaps by helping bring topics to light that might otherwise fly under the radar, or by helping people understand the way the world is working today. Yeah, if I were writing for a newspaper, or if I wrote a book, it would be an entirely different scenario, but … in this context, what I do is for personal satisfaction, not money. And in truth, I’ve had plenty of personal satisfaction … I’ve acquired a whole new family through my blog!

              Liked by 1 person

      • All you ladies have to do is is go to Substack, and you can chose to charge your readers $5 a month to be members of your blog. I started a free blog there, as in free to readers, but it seems most readers there have no respect for free blogs. It’s better if you have to pay for it.
        They don’t advertise how many readers they have, but they are in the 100s if not 1000s. People who have no need of reader’s funding are making hundreds of $ writing for them.
        I stopped writinb there.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nah … I’ve got no desire to charge people for my opinions … somehow that would seem dishonest to me. Now people like Robert Reich and Dan Rather … sure, they are experts in their field with credentials and qualifications. But I am merely a person with opinions … and my opinions are and will always be free.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, they are experts, but they don’t need the money. I read one guy’s blog yesterday who quit his daytime job because he was earning enough on Substack to live a “better” life writing on Substack. I did not leave a comment (i,e. could not leave a comment) but if he is okay on prostituting his writing, than who am I to condemn him.
            I really was not suggesting you or Nan join Substack, I know both of you are aware of it, but suggested it because of something one of you said about being paid to write.
            If you had said you would join Substack I would have been greatly saddened.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: A Conservative Worth Listening To. |jilldennison.com | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  4. Jill, I have long found David Brooks’ observations astute, whether I agree with them or not. He and Michael Gerson are my favorite conservative voices. With that said, I am firmly convinced that Donald Trump needs to be charged with the crimes he looks like he committed. Seditious actions and words are even more criminal when the actor is the president or a former president of the United States. He certainly should not get hall pass for that. At the barest of minimums, we should at least expect the president to NOT betray his country. Setting aside the seditious actions, we are more divided as a country because of his shallow ego who cannot man up and say he lost the election.

    And, I am also quite tired of Republicans saying they liked what he did as president, just not how. That undersells his fraud and overstates his successes. He set out to crush the ACA and almost did, but thankfully John McCain voted it down. He put tariffs on China and allies which never work and punish consumers not China, although he consistently lied (about twenty times that China was paying the tariffs. His one big legislative achievement was to give more money to rich people and corporations and through his judges to help them keep it. And, more people died with COVID due to his mishandling and misinformation. Finally, he inherited an economy that was in its 91st consecutive month of economic growth and has six straight years of 2 + million per annum job growth. Yes, it continued and got a little better for a little while with the sugar high of the tax cut, but we fell into a recession with the pandemic.

    The trouble that Brooks did not say is the role of the sycophants in rationalizing and lying for the deceitful acting former president. Conservatives who speak the truth about Trump are targeted and vilified. Opinion hosts who spread misinformation and propaganda about the former president have done a disservice to America in my opinion.

    That is what this independent and former Republican and Democrat thinks. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • Agreed … both Brooks and Gerson, as well as George Will are the more sensible, moderate voices among today’s conservatives. Like you, I don’t always agree with them, but they make their points without vitriol and don’t dive into that vast, messy world of conspiracy theories, violence, and hatred that has come to define the Republican Party.

      And, I am in complete agreement that Trump must … MUST be held accountable for his actions, for his crimes in office, for if he isn’t, two results are likely: a) he will continue to rile the masses, to incite violence and promote his Big Lie, and b) every other president that follows will know that they can pretty much do whatever they damn well please and not pay a price, that they will truly be above the law.

      The sycophants, the boot-lickers, who lied, cheated, and stole from We the People must also be held to account, but that will be difficult if Trump is allowed to walk away a free ‘man’. I’m constantly amazed by some who keep changing their story, like Don Bolduc who promoted the lie about a stolen election in 2020 in order to gain the support of the former guy, and then once he won his primary, backtracked and said he believed Biden won fair & square, in order to attract more moderate voters! And ol’ Lindsey Graham whose story changes depending on the phase of the moon, I think.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jill, I am not as familiar with Bolduc, but Graham has damaged his reputation in my view. He has gone from calling Trump derogatory names to being screwed by Trump in the wall funding for DACA deal to being one of his biggest sycophants. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

      • Because he weaponizes the MAGA crowd by being “reasonable”. He’s part of the “both-siderism” sect that says that both the Democrats & the Republicans are as bad as each other … I won’t deny that the Dems have their problems but the GOP are much worse & there’s no denying this. & he’s a sap. He’s always been a sap. He’s not even a very good writer. Of course, that’s why he’s got a regular gig with today’s NY Times. Years ago, he’d be writing for some small-town weekly rag.

        I mean … aren’t you a liberal? Maybe you’re not. But I don’t get this “reaching out to the other side” to find reasonable conservatives. They’re not reasonable. They’re not even conservative. They don’t want to conserve anything, except their own privilege. Anyone who isn’t part of their club, they don’t like, they don’t want, they could care less about.

        I admit I’m somewhat of a cynic. I’m not an optimist … nor a pessimist … I’m very much a realist. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses & I don’t look for the silver lining in every cloud. (I happen to like clouds). The fact is, I don’t like David Brooks & I never have. I think he’s a lousy columnist & I always have.

        Thanks for asking!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. One talking point: The Democrats are not the elitists in America — that is who and what the Republicans are. They are the ones in the minority trying to rule the majority. THAT is elitism at its worst!
    But that does not make Mr. Brooks wrong. The way to attack Trump is to throw his ass in jail, along with every Repugh politician who ever praised him, or said the Big Lie was true. Whether they assisted in planning Jan. 6th or not, they condoned the attack on the Capital, and they are thereby guilty. Put them all in jail. Preferably Guantanamo, where they can be prote ted from all the crazies out there.

    Liked by 2 people

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