September 04, 2005

Column 2005-9-4 Commentary

Today, Brooks predicts that the political culture is about to change significantly: that Katrina is the event around which popular dissatisfaction will crystallize, leading to a sea change which Brooks compares with the Reagan revolution. What's really amazing about the column is not that Brooks predicts a major political shift, but that he admits that there is significant discontent among the American people. He retains some foolish optimism -- he is still unable to comprehend that GDP growth is not the be-all and end-all of economic statistics, and that a supposedly strong economy is not helping everyone, as the steady rise in the poverty rate and slow decline in real median household income over the last few years makes clear (and, of course, Katrina is unlikely to be kind to the economy, especially as gas prices skyrocket) -- but overall there is a palpable air of gloom hanging over this column. Much of the piece is a litany of depressing pronouncements: "confidence in civic institutions is plummeting", "Last week's national humiliation comes at the end of a string of confidence-shaking institutional failures", "this will be known as the grueling decade, the Hobbesian decade." While Brooks never mentions Bush or refers to the administration or Congress by name, it's an easy connection to make. After all, who has been president throughout this decade so far? It really seems that the hurricane has destroyed Brooks's confidence in the administration and possibly even in the Republican party as currently constituted: he's depressed enough that he can't even rule out the possibility of a "progressive resurgence" instead of one of his idols -- McCain or Giuliani -- taking over. And that is the amazing thing about this column: it's a conservative columnist writing "People are mad as hell, unwilling to take it anymore." Brooks has gone off the reservation, and if the Republican's can't keep Brooks under control, what hope do they have?