“Why Partyism Is Wrong”

This is one of David Brooks’s better columns.

Politics is obviously a passionate activity, in which moral values clash. Debates over Obamacare, charter schools or whether the United States should intervene in Syria stir serious disagreement. But these studies are measuring something different. People’s essential worth is being measured by a political label: whether they should be hired, married, trusted or discriminated against.
The broad social phenomenon is that as personal life is being de-moralized, political life is being hyper-moralized. People are less judgmental about different lifestyles, but they are more judgmental about policy labels.
The features of the hyper-moralized mind-set are all around. More people are building their communal and social identities around political labels. Your political label becomes the prerequisite for membership in your social set.

There is much to this, though I would disagree that “people’s essential worth is being measured” by their politics. It would be more accurate to say that among nonreligious people politics is becoming a substitute for religion, an idea not unfamiliar to readers of this blog.

Where Brooks falls flat is in eliding the easily observable fact that the social politicization he discusses is much more characteristic of the American Left than of the Right. But there’s an election coming and the Democrats are set to lose big, so it’s time to anticipatorily attribute the outcome to societal problems rather than the policies of the losing party. Still, he makes good points and his column is worth reading.

8 thoughts on ““Why Partyism Is Wrong””

  1. The moralisation of politics he talks about seems to me to be part of the conversion to America 3.0. The Democrats see their model falling apart and they are becoming bitter clingers. Those who threaten their shibboleths are evil

  2. And we used to be proud of Brooks because he had graduated from U of C. He is now a blot on our escutcheon.

  3. “as personal life is being de-moralized, political life is being hyper-moralized”

    It was the Left that invented the totalitarian slogan “the personal is political”.

  4. I have five children. They range from 24 to almost 50 in age. Two are conservative/libertarian. Two are hard leftist. One is a leftist but can be talked to about politics. One conservative is married to very nice women who is very religious and I have not discussed her beliefs in detail with her. One of the leftists is married to a women who is a caricature leftist.

    I voted for Nixon in 1960 and for Johnson in 1964, the latter a vote I have regretted for many years. In 1992, I was ready to vote for Perot until he disintegrated into a nut. I am pretty conservative in economics and libertarian on social matters. My oldest son considers me a hopeless social conservative because I expressed reservations about gay activists going after religious people and churches to forces acceptance of gay marriage.

    Brooks has no idea.

  5. I don’t disagree that political politicization occurs on the right and the left. But question the assumption that liberals are driving this. There really is no equivalent of the RINO on the democratic side. Yes you can google DINO and find results but they don’t carry the same emphasis. Key republicans use the term often. There is an entry in conservapedia. It’s been the rallying cry for many tea party members. David brooks used be considered a republican by republicans. I am not saying that all democrats love each other. That blue dog democrats and liberals may never hold hands and sing Kumbaya but rarely do you hear sustained venom about each other. Can you say the same about republicans. If the Republican Party is so polarized then is it unreasonable to assume that the scorn felt for people with similar but not identical beliefs would feed and nourish the animosity felt for people with beliefs across the aisle I am not looking for a fight or trying to troll. I would love a well thought out counter argument but no interest in getting into an argument about who is right. I meant to say who is correct but the point of this response is too many republicans are arguing who is right or more to the right.

  6. Arik,

    All your words prove the opposite of what you are trying to claim. It’s on the right-ish, sorta-Republican side of things where there is genuine diversity–and, not surprisingly, some intramural controversy results.

    It’s the Left where the rule is Conform Or Be Banished.

  7. …one of David Brooks’s better columns

    A VERY small set… indeed this column may be the only member.

  8. Arik
    I don’t disagree that political politicization occurs on the right and the left. But question the assumption that liberals are driving this. There really is no equivalent of the RINO on the democratic side.
    political politicization? Sounds rather incoherent to me.

    The reason there is no equivalent of RINO in the Democrat side is that Democrats have a greater tendency to go in lockstep. A friend of mine calls himself a conservative Democrat, but I have not been able to find an instance where he disagrees with anything that Nancy Peolosi or Barack Obama has said.He even defended the “we have to vote for it to find out what’s in it” remark from SanFranNan. How can ANYONE concerned with good government defend that?
    One would think that a conservative Democrat would be concerned with growth in government spending. What does he call such people? “Teabaggers,” a term which means testicle licker. The POTUS has used such the term “teabagger.” Can you come up with an example of a Republican President in the last 30 years using such a divisive, insulting, degrading term to describe one’s opponents?

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