I have been increasingly critical of David Brooks’ past columns. Like the rest of The New York Times‘ columnists, he seems to focus more on making sound bites into columns – I’m looking at you especially Maureen Dowd. His conservatism has also seemed woefully unmoored – ready to accept any comers. I do not see in him an especially astute political strategist, technician, or wordsmith. His ideology seems a mish-mash that seems to center on trying to figure out what Teddy Roosevelt would do. There are worse role models, but I feel Teddy’s great wisdom as channeled through sound bites may not be enough.
However, as a social and political observer, David Brooks is astute. Today’s column, thankfully, illustrated this. Awkwardly titling his column “The Happiness Gap”, Brooks’s essential point of view is that Americans don’t want big changes. Rather, they want to ensure that America does not change too much from where we are now. And on this, I think he gets it about right.
In 1933, Franklin Roosevelt could launch the New Deal because voters wanted to change the country and their own lives. But today, people want the government to change so their own lives can stay the same. Voters don’t want to be transformed; they want to be defended.
“Voters don’t want to be transformed; they want to be defended.” I think they still want a leader who can guide them to some greater purpose, and to transform America’s position in the world. But domestically, my feeling is that Americans just want things to stay as they are, with some improvements on the health care front.