Today’s New York Times offers one of David Brooks’ periodic communiqués from the alternate – and far, far more pleasant – universe in which he lives.
What is most charming and attractive about the alternate America in which Brooks resides is that there are no extremist Republicans in it. None. Not one. Things that happen here in our America because of conscious and deliberate GOP attacks, in Brooksland happen spontaneously and without malevolent intention.
Consider his description of why people resist the individual mandate in his alternate universe:
Already, it’s very clear that millions of Americans — and not just Tea Party types — do not accept the legitimacy of the government to overrule individual decisions, even on something like health insurance. This is not the America of 1932 or of 1964. This is an America steeped in distrust of government. It’s an America that is, on both left and right, steeped in the ethos of individual choice….
…In the age of the Internet, people are used to decentralized systems and maximum personal choice. The mandated elements of Obamacare may look good on paper and they may be necessary to get the plan to work, but they probably can’t survive the public sense they are illegitimate….
…Governing in an age of distrust is different than governing in an age of trust. Government now lacks the legitimacy to impose costs…People like Social Security, but I bet you that Congress could not pass a Social Security law today. If people were unfamiliar with the concept, you couldn’t pass a bill that said: Government is going to confiscate money from each paycheck and spend it on other things, but don’t worry because you’ll get it back decades from now when you retire.
There you have it, an explanation for the resistance to Obamacare in which the most ferocious, coordinated right-wing attack on a social program in modern history doesn’t play any role at all. If people are unhappy with the individual mandate and would even reject Social Security it’s because they are “steeped in the ethos of individual choice”, “used to decentralized systems and maximum personal choice” and, most of all “steeped in distrust of government.”
And gosh, that distrust of government just kind of popped up right out of nowhere, didn’t it? It certainly couldn’t be that the GOP and conservative media played a major role in creating that distrust by systematically misrepresenting facts about a program they originally conceived and once championed, or by creating imaginary threats and dangers (e.g. death panels) to spread opposition and even by throwing a fundamental conservative principle like insisting on an individual responsibility to plan ahead for medical expenses out the window in order to sabotage a plan that might make people trust government a bit more.
Things like that could not possibly have been consciously orchestrated by the GOP and conservatives in Brooks alternate universe because otherwise he surely would have mentioned it, wouldn’t he? In our America, of course, it’s just too big a factor for any serious person to ignore.