I suppose we all see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear, but David Brooks’ peculiar oped “Party of Strivers” in the New York Times Friday, concerning the putative — I guess you could call it libertarian — selfishness of Republicans at the Tampa convention, is worthy of examination, not so much because of Brooks, but because of what it reveals of the zeitgeist.
Brooks should appreciate that since he made his reputation describing the zeitgeist some years ago in Bobos in Paradise. Now he seems to be a victim of it. Here’s Brooks:
On the one hand, you see the Republicans taking the initiative, offering rejuvenating reform. On the other hand, you see an exhausted Democratic Party, which says: We don’t have an agenda, but we really don’t like theirs. Given these options, the choice is pretty clear.
But there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.
Hello, where were you, David? On Thursday evening, one after the other private citizen came forth to testify to Mitt Romney’s extraordinary personal charity and deep community spirit. I have never seen anything like it at a convention, Republican or Democrat. I don’t know if you would call it Burkean, but you would certainly call it eminently decent and highly laudable. The culmination was Ted and Pat Oparowsky of New Hampshire who recounted how much time and attention the young Mitt Romney gave their son, a child he did not know, when the boy was dying of cancer.