In the ongoing competition to see which NYTimes columnist I can’t stand the most, the insufferable Ross Douthat once again grabs the lead from the always annoying David Brooks – though not by much.
In yesterday’s commentary, Douthat trotted out the Republican talking point, which compared Romney’s 47% comments to Obama’s “guns or religion” “gaffe” during the 2008 campaign. Frankly, the only thing the two commentaries have in common is that they were perceived as gaffes. But to portray them as similar in any way beyond that is intellectually dishonest. Douthat himself even seems to acknowledge this by linking to William Saletan’s excellent piece on Slate that points out the specific and glaring differences – namely, that Obama’s comments were part of a conversation in which he acknowledged not just the difficulty but also the necessity of appealing to blue collar, disaffected voters; Romney has simply written off half of the voting population as undeserving moochers – not to mention that his trope about them not paying taxes is a bald-faced lie, since he conveniently overlooks the payroll tax that all working people pay.
Even more enraging though is Douthat’s conclusion that “elite” Democrats AND Republicans hate the working classes, just for different reasons. According to him:
What does it say that rich Democrats can’t fathom why working class Americans might look askance at an elite that’s presided over a long slow social breakdown and often regards their fundamental religious convictions as obstacles to progress?
First of all, I don’t know what “long slow social breakdown” he’s referring to. If it includes things like higher divorce rates, increased infant mortality, teen pregnancies and the like, these are “red state” problems. That is, the states who claim to be most concerned about “social” issues and “family values” are the ones doing everything they can to prevent women from having access to family planning and birth control services; with the highest rates of divorce; who are willing to take to the streets in protest over the VERY IDEA that all people should have access to healthcare; who insist that “abstinence” is the only method of birth control that should be taught. So, it’s unclear to me how this “social breakdown” can be pinned on Democratic “elites.” (Also, nice use of the Republican-approved code-word “elite,” Ross…)
Or is he making a veiled comment about opposition to gay marriage? Or the teaching of creationism? Or climate change denial? Because these are but three of many, many examples I can point to where it’s a fact that the “fundamental religious convictions” are obstacles not only to progress, along with the practice of fact-based science, but to the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that are foundations of the American form of government. When there is a portion of the population that believes that their religious views trump the views of other religions or of the Constitution itself, then yes, they are demonstrably obstacles to progress in this country. Democrats don’t suggest that anyone shouldn’t follow the religion of their choice – all we ask is that the laws of this country remain secular. If you don’t support same-sex marriage, don’t get gay married! If you are opposed to abortion, don’t get one! But don’t use your religion to instruct the rest of us on how we can or cannot live our own lives within the boundaries of secular law in this country.
Of course, none of this is much of surprise from Douthat, given that his most recent book would steer us back to a Eisenhower-era of Christianity, when it was “a driver of assimilation and a guarantor of social peace, and its prophetic role, as a curb against our national excesses and a constant reminder of our national ideals.” To paraphrase my comments about that, “Oh brother.”
Oh, and just to be clear, I’m not giving David Brooks a pass either. I was actually somewhat impressed with his column, “Thurston Howell Romney”, if only for the title. And he goes on about how Romney’s remarks further drive home the fact that he is completely out of touch with the vast majority of the American population, portraying retirees, the poor, veterans and other members of the 47% as freeloading victims.
But Brooks can’t leave well enough alone and ends with this observation re. Romney: “Personally, I think he’s a kind, decent man who says stupid things because he is pretending to be something he is not — some sort of cartoonish government-hater.”
Really? A man who is willing to say anything, to adopt any position, to pretend to be something he is not, all in service to getting himself elected to the presidency? That is not only unkind and indecent, it is craven, disgusting and un-American.