Poor David Brooks. All he wants is for everyone to get along.
He watched the disgraceful push to seat Brett Kavanaugh* and, like many Americans, is appalled by what he characterizes as naked partisanship and hyperpolarization:
Reactions to the narratives have been determined almost entirely by partisan affiliation. Among the commentators I’ve seen and read, those who support Democrats embrace Blasey’s narrative and dismissed Kavanaugh’s. Those who support Republicans side with Kavanaugh’s narrative and see holes in Ford’s.
Brooks goes on to detail what he didn’t like about the confirmation process, but as time is short, please bear with me as we skip ahead to his proposed solution:
It’s clear that we need a new sort of environmental movement, a movement to police our civic environment. That environment isn’t polluted by a vague condition called “polarization.” It is polluted by the specific toxic emissions we all produce in our low moments. Those emissions have to be precisely identified, classified, called out as shameful.
I’ll go first: Brooks’ column is a toxic emission, should be classified as rank hypocrisy, and is shameful.
You might reasonably gather from his writing that Brooks himself admires the environmental movement, and simply hopes to replicate that glowing model of success in order to address the existential threat posed by rampant polarization.
Just one problem: the real environmental movement can hardly be counted a triumph. Species go extinct at an alarming rate, dangerous emissions spew from exhaust pipes large and small, and climate change isn’t just coming — it’s already here.
Moreover, you may not be surprised to learn, one of the primary culprits behind these developments is the very sort of polarization Brooks wrote a column just to decry. And because Brooks would prefer we not merely condemn some “vague condition called ‘polarization'”, I’ll name a name. Here is Brooks back in 2010 — he’s been cool to the idea of keeping our planet cool before it was cool:
I totally accept the scientific authorities who say that global warming is real and that it is manmade. On the other hand, I feel a frisson of pleasure when I come across evidence that contradicts the models. I don’t know if this is just because I distrust people who are so confident they can model complex systems or because I relish any fact that might make Al Gore look silly.
I totally buy the argument that we need to set a cap on carbon emissions. But I feel myself sometimes rooting for people in coal states like Indiana who feel that they are fighting against a bunch of rich toffs from the Vineyard who are trying to take away their livelihood.
If that block was too long for you, allow me to briefly summarize: “I recognize that the science of climate change is real and we must therefore act, but I’m more interested in dunking on Al Gore and owning the libs.” Environmental issues are important, sure, but not as important as rooting for the home team.
In case I’ve somehow failed to communicate his obvious bad faith, Brooks hopes to address hyperpolarization by replicating a movement he not only doesn’t believe in but that has run aground precisely because of opposition by people, like him, who are openly motivated by… hyperpolarization. Not once does the column’s author recognize that perhaps, just maybe, he might be part of the problem.
Brooks’ column on Kavanaugh hardly marks the first time he’s taken an active stance against the poles, and his solution was as thoughtless then as is his approach now: melt them.
*To be clear: Seating him was a disgrace.