David Brooks: Americans today "are easy prey for fact-free magical thinking" from "demagogues who blame immigrants" for all their ills

It's difficult to disagree with him here, no matter how far Trump slips in the polls

Published June 29, 2016 12:38PM (EDT)

David Brooks   (AP/Nam Y. Huh)
David Brooks (AP/Nam Y. Huh)

In his Tuesday New York Times column, David Brooks argued that "the reactions of smug elites to the Brexit vote demonstrate" that there's truth to the nativist idea that "cosmopolitan cultural elites" have destroyed the "sort of intense personal patriotism" that once defined American pride.

He based his argument on J.D. Vance's new book, "Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis," in which he documents the struggles of the white working class. The specific erosion of "loyalty culture," as Brooks characterized Vance's thesis, has led to a general disintegration in patriotism and the rise of an unhealthy nationalism.

"We need a better form of nationalism," Brooks argued, because the one that subtends current debates about building walls and banning Muslims is predicated not on honor, but on fear -- and a fearful people are "easy prey for fact-free magical thinking and demagogues who blame immigrants":

[T]he honor code has also been decimated by the culture of the modern meritocracy, which awards status to the individual who works with his mind, and devalues the class of people who work with their hands.

Most of all, it has been undermined by rampant consumerism, by celebrity culture, by reality-TV fantasies that tell people success comes in a quick flash of publicity, not through steady work. The sociologist Daniel Bell once argued that capitalism would undermine itself because it encouraged hedonistic short-term values for consumers while requiring self-disciplined long-term values in its workers. At least in one segment of society, Bell was absolutely correct.

There’s now a rift within the working class between mostly older people who are self disciplined, respectable and, often, bigoted, and parts of a younger cohort that are more disordered, less industrious, more celebrity-obsessed, but also more tolerant and open to the world...

Read the rest at The New York Times...

By Scott Eric Kaufman

MORE FROM Scott Eric Kaufman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Brexit David Brooks Hillbilly Elegy J.d. Vance Nationalism