Thursday, September 29, 2005


That was my first reaction on reading David Brooks's most recent babble in the New York Times. But it was short-lived, I swear, and quickly passed into a study of what Brooks is saying about Tom DeLay's recent troubles, and this is that pretty much DeLay is over, and that the whole Bush administration is a mess. Heh. (Pardon me.)

Brooks uses sports metaphors in his column, calling DeLay "the designated hitter". He argues that DeLay is a good man who has done nothing for his own advancement. Instead, all he has done was for the team: the Republican party.

If Brooks is right (I have no way of knowing) it might be time to look at this team concept and the use of sports and war metaphors in general in political commenting. Feminists have long pointed out how this particular way of viewing politics makes it hard for women to run for elected office, because the concepts of war and sports are still fundamentally seen as masculine. But it is pretty clear that running politics like it was a war or a baseball game isn't ultimately good for the country, either.

Yes, I was gloating. It's a nice feeling, all warm and fuzzy and full of little lightning strikes of pure exhilaration. After all these years I'm allowed to feel warm and fuzzy for a few seconds. But Brooks doesn't really want that: he concludes his little piece by implying that the Democrats are not going to be any better at all:

Politics is a team sport. Nobody can get anything done alone. But in today's Washington, loyalty to the team displaces loyalty to the truth. Loyalty to the team explains why President Bush doesn't fire people who serve him poorly, and why, as a result, his policies are often not well executed.

Loyalty to the team is why I often leave meals with politicians thinking "reasonable in private," but then I see them ranting like cartoon characters on TV. Loyalty to the team is why someone like Chuck Hagel is despised in Republican ranks even though, whether you agree or not, he is courageously speaking his mind.

Will we learn from DeLay's fall about the self-destructive nature of the team mentality? Of course not. The Democrats have drawn the 10-years-out-of-date conclusion that in order to win, they need to be just like Tom DeLay. They need to rigidly hew to orthodoxy. They need Deaniac hyperpartisanship. They need to organize their hatreds around Bush the way the Republicans did around Clinton.

Funny. Didn't Brooks quite recently write that the Democrats are all scattered and confused because they never had this wonderful era of ideological purification that the Republicans went through? Or was it Tierney? In any case I have no doubt that there are corrupt Democrats. There are even corrupt priests, I've been told. But the danger of excessive party discipline on the left is very distant, to be anticipated around the time when the Devil opens the skating rinks in Hell.