Another marketplace-of-ideas post, also from the NYT…
David Brooks was in kind of a dark place on New Year’s Eve, when the paper published “2019: The Year of the Wolves.”
Yikes. It starts out with an anecdote from a Willa Cather novel about two Russian brothers who had to come live on the American prairie because back home, they had literally thrown a bride and groom to the wolves when a pack of the animals attacked a wedding party. (Which is about what it would have taken to make me do something as insane as go to live on the American prairie in the 19th century, but we can discuss that another time.)
That sets the tone for the way Brooks foresees 2019:
It will be a year of divided government and unprecedented partisan conflict. It will be a year in which Donald Trump is isolated and unrestrained as never before. And it will be in this atmosphere that indictments will fall, provoking not just a political crisis but a constitutional one.
There are now over a dozen investigations into Trump’s various scandals. If we lived in a healthy society, the ensuing indictments would be handled in a serious way — somber congressional hearings, dispassionate court proceedings. Everybody would step back and be sobered by the fact that our very system of law is at stake.
But we don’t live in a healthy society and we don’t have a healthy president….
All of which is true, but come on, dude, leave us a little room for some optimism as the new year begins…
Of course, one reason I keep backing away from political topics in the wake of the election is that I feel this pessimism, too, and it doesn’t suit me. I like hope, and don’t surrender it blithely.
This week, the Democrats take over the House. I know that for a lot of people — probably including some of the folks I worked alongside of in the campaign — this is in itself a cause for hope.
But for me, it’s a harbinger of bitter division that leads to no good outcome. Now that the Republicans have passed on their chance to stand up to Trumpism — which we really, really needed them to do — every move the Democrats make, however needed or well-advised (or otherwise), will be interpreted as something they’re doing just because they are Democrats.
And that will further harden the widely held attitude that it’s all about this party or that party holding a majority plus one. Which mitigates against any likelihood of pulling the country together so we can get through this.
Looking at the bright side, at least I learned from this column a new word: kakistocracy. You can go ahead and look it up if you like, but fair warning: Doing so won’t make you happy…