by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Last week, famed New York Times columnist David Brooks penned a widely discussed column that encouraged his culturally elite readership to consider an alternative Trump-era narrative, one in which they, not the “distrustful populists” and “less-educated classes,” as he described them, are the bad guys.
Anyone familiar with Brooks’s speaking voice can imagine him testing his thesis at a dinner party on the Upper East Side while aproned servants pour the pinot and spoon the soup. His tone is nearly satirical; he analyzes the working class as if they were bugs under a microscope, not real people with valid concerns. Stylistically, it’s a cringe-fest from go.
But Brooks deserves more than a silver spoon’s worth of credit for challenging his thoroughly enbubbled audience to walk a mile in the underclass’s shoes. He correctly notes, for instance, that the erosion of moral norms around family and childrearing endorsed by the liberal elite has been destructive for the marginalized communities they purport to champion. Single parenting, which is a profound hindrance to social mobility, is almost exclusively a phenomenon among people without a college degree. Meanwhile, college-educated liberals have continued having children within the bonds of marriage, all while enjoying the social benefits.
He also correctly notes that the educated elite use language as a class barrier. Words such as “problematic” and “Latinx” serve to exclude and punish the culturally inferior. The shifting norms around language baffle and alarm the non-college-educated masses. To them, this newspeak is at once absurd and threatening, and the elite class enforces their ever-evolving standards with merciless glee.
But Brooks earns his highest marks for pointing out that the flow of information is disproportionately controlled by graduates from elite institutions. Citing a 2018 study from the Journal of Expertise, Brooks notes that 50% of staff writers in the newsrooms of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal graduated from a tiny collection of elite universities.