Every now and again, there are moments when establishment spokespeople suddenly grasp what's actually going on in the country and proceed to make statements that indicate a potential sea change. The most famous of these was Walter Cronkite's missive about Vietnam. But today, we may have another of these moments (granted, from a far less important media figure). That's right - in today's New York Times, elitist columnist David Brooks suddenly discovers that America is comprised of more than just the Washington Beltway.
In his column that echoes what many of us have been saying for years, Brooks notes that:
"Democrats are running strong Senate campaigns in the upper South (James Webb in Virginia, Harold Ford in Tennessee), in the big job-loss states (Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Claire McCaskill in Missouri) and even in a few places out West (Jon Tester in Montana). And in each case, the candidates are running as factory-floor populists who would throw up if they had to sit through a Renaissance Weekend...Today's most prominent Democratic candidates are more Mines and Mills than Towns and Gowns...The Democrats were once a free trade party. But Sherrod Brown wrote a book called 'Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed' and most of this year's strong Democratic candidates rail -- like John Edwards -- against outsourcing and trade agreements. Their core issue is the economic resentment of the struggling middle class."
Not surprisingly, in classic Brooks fashion, Brooks goes on to disparage what he has just reported on. He dishonestly caricatures reality by stating: "Can a politics that evades the modern realities of Islamic extremism and the skill-based global economy really be the basis of a majority movement? I doubt it." Right, because standing up for America's middle class and demanding trade deals include labor, environmental and wage protections would bring on the downfall of the modern economy and the worldwide victory of Osama bin Laden. Please.
Nonetheless, the damage is already done. Brooks has shown just how frightened the establishment is that ordinary people in the American heartland are running for office on platforms that represent - gasp! - ordinary people. The Brooks, Broders, Rothenbergs, DLC staffers and others are really scared out of their minds because their whole fake world and faux "centrism" is collapsing before their eyes.
I want to be clear - the 2006 elections will not be the final arbiter of all this. Brooks wants us to believe that if any one of the candidates running on this populist platform loses, it means middle-class populism is dead, and that we should go back to the "Third Way" nonsense that makes the cocktail party crowd comfortable. But that's a trap - the fact that the establishment is publicly throwing temper tantrums about candidates representing ordinary people shows that progress has only started to be made. This is a long-term movement that will carry on well after 2006 - and there's nothing David Brooks can write that can prevent that.