David Brooks, who writes for the New York Times, has been one of my favorite social and political commentators for quite some time. I first came across him on PBS’s wonderful Newshour, where in political commentary he’s the conservative counterpart to the liberal Mark Shields.
One of the things I’ve always liked about both Brooks and Shields, however, is that it has always appeared that to them being “conservative” or “liberal” does not mean being a part of a “team” that’s engaged in a win-or-lose competition. Thinking like that is what got us into the disgustingly polarized politics we’re in today. Rather, they seem to understand that these terms are general philosophical positions upon a multi-axial spectrum of governance. As such, they are not exclusive categories.
In other words, Brooks is an “old” conservative. He’s far more in line with men of Reagan’s ilk than are all the current Mad Tea Partiers and wingnutters who fall all over each other in the crazed dash to grab ol’ Ronnie’s fallen standard.
Anyway, I bring all this up because his most recent column is pretty darn perceptive. Most of them are, of course. Indeed, his previous column pointed out the fact — uncomfortable though it is for the ignorant “Obama-is-a-liberal-socialist-fascist-etc” crowd — that the sitting President has thus far been very successful in pursuing a much-needed “light but energetic, decentralized but forceful reform approach” to education in this country. That should be music to conservatives’ ears, but most of them (Brooks obviously excepted) are too busy shouting nonsense to actually listen to what’s being said. (Much of the hard left of the liberal party ain’t doing a whole lot better, though ironically they, too, are yelling at Obama, which actually speaks much to the truth of him.) This most recent column from Brooks is particularly close to my heart, though, since it essentially defends the humanities.