The Twilight of David Brooks…


Via Crooked Timber, this deeply ironic column last week from David Brooks displays the singular lack of self-awareness for which Brooks has become legendary:

I don’t know if America has a leadership problem; it certainly has a followership problem. Vast majorities of Americans don’t trust their institutions. That’s not mostly because our institutions perform much worse than they did in 1925 and 1955, when they were widely trusted. It’s mostly because more people are cynical and like to pretend that they are better than everything else around them. Vanity has more to do with rising distrust than anything else.

In his memoir, “At Ease,” Eisenhower delivered the following advice: “Always try to associate yourself with and learn as much as you can from those who know more than you do, who do better than you, who see more clearly than you.” Ike slowly mastered the art of leadership by becoming a superb apprentice.

To have good leaders you have to have good followers — able to recognize just authority, admire it, be grateful for it and emulate it. Those skills are required for good monument building, too.

Chris Hayes might have something to say about why we have lost faith in those institutional elites.

The fact that Brooks has been horribly, astonishingly, unequivocally and ludicrously wrong about almost every major issue of the decade and still manages to keep a job as New York Times columnist is precisely why few people trust institutions like the New York Times. If a political analyst and prognosticator were as consistently wrong as Brooks in earlier eras, there would usually have been accountability for it.

Leaders are only worth following when they get things right. Unfortunately, few of the people who actually get things right are in positions of leadership today.

If Brooks wants a nation where people trust institutional authority again, perhaps the first and easiest thing he should do is resign, put down the pen, and do some genuine soul searching about why he’s been so wrong over the years, and why the Times still saw fit to pay him for his scribblings.

See also driftglass‘ excellent take on the same Brooks column.