On Sunday’s Chris Matthews Show, David Brooks explained how different audiences probably reacted to the Bush and Kerry performances during the first debate.
Look at the language between the two of them. Kerry’s language is like an engineer. We’re going to do X, Y, Z. Bush’s language is more moral, more personal. We’ve got to tell the truth. We’ve got to behave honorably. It’s a much more humanistic lanaguage, so you’ve really got two different styles, two different minds. I have a feeling that in our commentary we tend towards the Kerry language which is better debating language, more forceful. But out in the country, I think a lot of people, especially people of faith are going to like Bush’s more humanistic, more moral language.
I wonder if the people “out in the country” ever get tired of being condescended to so blatantly. Brooks is echoing not only a basic philosophy that is widely held by certain columnists and reporters; he is also giving voice to a core belief among those who practice, shall we say, nuance-free politics. What Brooks is really saying is that of course smart people like him can relate to and understand Kerry. But the dopes “out in the country” are a different matter.
The irony in Brook’s comments are that he completely contradicts himself. Yes, Bush employs moralistic language (and moralistic policy-making). But humanistic? Here is Websters definition of humanism which sounds a lot like the opposite of Bush’s tendency towards of sort of born again morality.
1 a : devotion to the humanities : literary culture b : the revival of classical letters, individualistic and critical spirit, and emphasis on secular concerns characteristic of the Renaissance.
2 : Humanitarianism
3 : a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially : a philosophy that usually rejects supernaturalism and stresses an individual’s dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason.
This is rather scary thought. The guy you saw squinting, blinking and grinding through Thursday night’s debate represents the coming of a new age of reason. Brooks is arguing that Bush uses secular language based in reason to connect with people of faith. Make sense? Don’t worry. Out in America, they apparently don’t get this stuff anyway.
I just get tired of politics being reduced to who we want to have a beer with. It’s patronizing. And besides, I think most Americans wouldn’t be all that scared to have a beer with someone who speaks to them like they’re adults. Of all of the negative trends in the way we think about politics, I think the embrace of the strategy that dumbing everything down for the folks out in America is one of the most frustrating and potentially dangerous.
New Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker:
We will not treat you like idiots.
There are more than a few folks who cover politics who would benefit from living by the same adage.
(Following Brooks’ comment, the Matthews panel spent a decent portion of the remainder of the segment explaining how the height of the podium made Kerry’s torso look a lot longer during the debate. And one can safely assume that the folks out there in America – especially those of faith – friggin’ hate a short torso.)