David Brooks: How Democrats Can Win The Morality Wars

David Brooks has an interesting article this morning in the New York Times.

New York Times:

“The phrase “moral freedom” captures a prominent progressive moral tradition. It recognizes the individual conscience as the ultimate authority and holds that in a diverse society, each person should have the right to lead her own authentic life and make up her own mind about moral matters. If a woman decides to get an abortion, then we should respect her freedom of choice. If a teenager concludes they are nonbinary, or decides to transition to another gender, then we should celebrate their efforts to live a life that is authentic to who they really are.

In this ethos society would be rich with a great diversity of human types.

This ethos has a pretty clear sense of right and wrong. It is wrong to try to impose your morality or your religious faith on others. Society goes wrong when it prevents gay people from marrying who they want, when it restricts the choices women can make, when it demeans transgender people by restricting where they can go to the bathroom and what sports they can play after school.

This moral freedom ethos has made modern life better in a variety of ways. There are now fewer restrictions that repress and discriminate against people from marginalized groups. Women have more social freedom to craft their own lives and to be respected for the choices they make. People in the L.G.B.T.Q. communities have greater opportunities to lead open and flourishing lives. There’s less conformity. There’s more tolerance for different lifestyles. There’s less repression and more openness about sex. People have more freedom to discover and express their true selves.

However, there are weaknesses. The moral freedom ethos puts tremendous emphasis on individual conscience and freedom of choice. Can a society thrive if there is no shared moral order? The tremendous emphasis on self-fulfillment means that all relationships are voluntary. Marriage is transformed from a permanent covenant to an institution in which two people support each other on their respective journeys to self-fulfillment. What happens when people are free to leave their commitments based on some momentary vision of their own needs?

If people find their moral beliefs by turning inward, the philosopher Charles Taylor warned, they may lose contact with what he called the “horizons of significance,” the standards of truth, beauty and moral excellence that are handed down by tradition, history or God.

A lot of people will revert to what the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre calls “emotivism”: What is morally right is what feels right to me. Emotivism has a tendency to devolve into a bland mediocrity and self-indulgence. If we’re all creating our own moral criteria based on feelings, we’re probably going to grade ourselves on a forgiving curve.

Self-created identities are also fragile. We need to have our identities constantly affirmed by others if we are to feel secure. People who live within this moral ecology are going to be hypersensitive to sleights that they perceive as oppression. Politics devolves into identity wars, as different identities seek recognition over the others.

The critics of moral freedom say that while it opens up lifestyle choices, it also devolves into what Zygmunt Bauman calls “liquid modernity.” When everybody defines his own values, the basic categories of life turn fluid. You wind up in a world in which a Supreme Court nominee like Ketanji Brown Jackson has to dodge the seemingly basic question of what a woman is. I don’t blame her. I don’t know how to answer that question anymore, either.

Under the sway of the moral freedom ethos, the left has generally won the identity wars but lost the cosmology wars. America has moved left on feminist and L.G.B.T.Q. issues and is much more tolerant of diverse lifestyles. But many Americans don’t quite trust Democrats to tend the moral fabric that binds us all together. They worry that the left threatens our national narratives as well as religious institutions and the family, which are the seedbeds of virtue. …”

I have two criticisms though.

The first is that there isn’t a progressive tradition of moral freedom. Instead, it is more like there are a series of progressive experiments. A century ago, the only people who lived this way in America was a tiny cultural vanguard in a few bohemian urban enclaves in New York City and Chicago. It was artists and other non-conformist malcontents in places like Paris in the late 19th century who pioneered modernism which is the sensibility that the Self and the pursuit of self absorption and self-expression should be elevated to the highest of all goods. The core idea here is that the individual pursuit of aesthetic lifestyles are more important than morality. In contrast, the Victorian era was dominated by confident moralism.

This worldview arrived in the United States from Western Europe in the 1910s. It rose with progressive liberalism in the 1920s and 1930s. It was popularized by Hollywood celebrities and a cultural vanguard of writers like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and H.L. Mencken and all the new magazines that date back to that era like The New Yorker. It wasn’t until the 1960s though that the modernist counter-culture, which can be traced back to the avant-garde, filtered down through elites and permeated the Baby Boomer generation which was the first generation that was raised on television and to attend college en masse. It has sunk deeper and deeper roots into our culture since the 1960s and 1970s. In other words, what had previously been a minority adversary culture became mainstream culture.

The triumph of modernism in mainstream culture unleashed a whole train of social experiments: feminism, gay marriage, contraception, abortion, no fault divorce, miscegenation, mass immigration from Third World countries, multiculturalism, “identity politics” and most recently the “trans” craze. The ultimate outcome of this experiment is unknown. No one knows if a culture can be permanently run on the basis of these ideas. There are many reasons to believe that it will prove to be too destabilizing and will end in a correction. These changes are too just too recent and unproven to be called a “tradition.”

The second criticism is that the modernists can be as intolerant as traditionalists. Wokeism, for example, is extremely intolerant. It is puritanical. It is important to remember that modernism started out as an adversary culture rooted in the avant-garde. Thus, the enemy or outsider or the Other has always been White Christian America, specifically a negative image or memory of Victorian America and people with traditional values. The modernists defined themselves against Victorianism. The Victorians were racists. They were antiracists. The Victorians were sexists. They were feminists. The Victorians were moralists. They were hedonists. The Victorians were nationalists. They were globalists. The Victorians were narrow minded bigots and nativists. They were cosmopolitans. The modernists abandoned God which they replaced with the Self. They also jettisoned traditional Christian morality, but replaced it with all the new -isms and -phobias which were derived from Freudianism. This is how you get to a place where motherhood is “slavery” and butchering your own child is a glorious “choice” which should be celebrated by society, but “transphobia” and “misgendering” people (those who are self-absorbed, obsessed with “finding” their “true self” and experimenting in pretending to be the opposite sex) are deeply immoral. The LGBTQ flag is always expanding as new novelties and lifestyles are discovered and incorporated into the “community.”

I’m sure that people in the comments will be quick to point out the ascendance of modernism in American culture overlaps the decline of the WASP elite which used to rule America and the rise of the Jews. There is a lot of truth to this. I’m only describing the change in elite sensibilities and values here. There are people of all races including Jews who fall into the modernist camp (irreligious, deracinated, self-absorbed) or the traditionalist (religious, group oriented, family oriented) camp though. There are Jews who are deeply religious and have high birthrates and others who are more loyal to atheism, progressivism and modernism than, say, Israel. Those Jews are out marrying and having small families. As we noted the other day, the irony of the Great Replacement is that Jews who have championed it the most are replacing themselves faster than Whites. They believe their own bullshit.

Jewish power is waning in part because of the Great Replacement. You never hear this discussed by either Jews or White Nationalists. It is much more acceptable now to criticize Israel. The ADL isn’t nearly as powerful as it used to be. The Israel Lobby isn’t as strong as it used to be either because Jews are a declining force due to miscegenation and low fertility. They are becoming mixed race urbanite bugmen like Matt Yglesias and losing their religion and ethnic cohesion. If this trend continues, it will have massive implications for the sustainability of “progressive” culture.


    • Yes, thank for catching that/good catch — with secular moral absolutism, there is nothing but conformity (or else, i.e. ‘cancel culture’), but the midwit Brooks is too stupid to see that.

  1. I have some criticism to make of this article. First of all: 1)it is not true that the left is for freedom of individuals, it is not true that it supports freedom of self-expression, and 2) it is absolutely not true that there is less conformity.
    1) Starting with the first point, the left does not support individual freedom and freedom to express one’s self, or at least today, because it has been for at least 15 years now that the woke and politically correct culture of the left has been trying to maintain freedoms for so-called progressives, but at the same time persecutes those who have different or critical views towards the woke culture. Liberals in the West who supported degenerate policies but at the same time granted freedom of expression to those who did not think like them existed between the 1960s until 2008/2010. In those fifty years there was already gay marriage, anti-racism, and other things, but they were obsessively carried out and above all individual freedom still existed for those who thought differently: in the 60s/70s/80s/90s you could walk around with a Confederate flag , you could walk around with a Confederate bandana or a T-shirt without being assaulted; you could hear the word faggot or nigger in movies without censorship and you made fun of Christianity but also of gays. Moreover, the statues were still standing and few or no one proposed their destruction, like the censorship of history in universities. In short those were the real liberal times, where there was evil but there was also a lot more freedom for those who think like us and you could make jokes to make fun of anybody, there was political incorrectness. Today, on the other hand, censorship, destruction of monuments and all other kinds of persecution, prevent individual freedom in the name of the big woke cult. I don’t even consider them liberals those on the left today because of true liberals accept everyone: both gays and those who are against, both the Marxist and Confederate flags.

    2) So briefly I arrive at the second point, today’s society is among the most conformist ever, precisely because those who do not conform are expelled from the university, from a movie, from a place or even they can lost their job. Today, conformism that does not accept criticism puts us all in line and obedient to shout: long live gender, long live LGBTQ, let’s kill conservatives, delete the history we don’t like, etc …

    This is the difference between liberals of 60’s/70’s/80’s/90’s and liberals of today: the liberals of today are not satisfied with proposing their policies but want also to impose them on the whole of society, they impose them on everyone else and they are troubles for those who reject the imposition or refuse to accept their ideology.

  2. I hope you’re right about the decline of jewish power and influence, HW. I’d rather have Red China as the world’s dominant power than the “Israelites”. Unlike the jews the Chinese don’t want to eliminate the white race or enslave the world, they just want to be everyone’s landlord.

    The swarthy, malevolent jew David Brooks talks about the need to allow people the freedom to be who they are. But he seems to believe that freedom should only be given to sexual deviants and shiksas who want to terminate their pregnancies. I think he needs to take an extended break from writing columns and put to work digging latrine trenches in a forced labor camp near the Arctic Circle.

    • Jews still have enough “influence” that people on our side pretend David Brooks has something significant to say. They’re still pushing through their resolutions with near 100% support in Congress. They still completely own and control this country. They’re even bringing “Mike” Chertoff back to police your internet posts.

      “Work from the board will be on hold for 75 days during the review, which will be conducted by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff and former US Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. The focus will be on figuring out how the department can address disinformation and achieve great transparency, while increasing trust with the public, said the DHS.”

      As the proxy war on Russia continues . . . .

  3. Oy vey… it’s the “conservative” (((David Brooks))), who is entitled to automatic citizenship in a foreign country, lecturing us goyim about moral values again… oy.

    How would I possibly know what is good for me as an American without Brooks and his Tribe telling me from the pages of the New York Times?

  4. >The phrase “moral freedom” captures a prominent progressive moral tradition.

    Honestly, I have never heard/seen the phrase ‘moral freedom’; I have a hard time independently concocting a reasonable definition of it (and I’m not interested in what Brooks says it means).

    >This ethos has a pretty clear sense of right and wrong.

    Yes, it does — this is what I have referred to as (increasingly fanatical) secular moral absolutism (which is, paradoxically, rather intolerant of heresy).

    I think the way I have phrased it makes more sense: via modernism (the proprietor’s view on this also makes sense to me, and is generally well expressed; he seems to have a special interest in this sort of philosophical question) the country switched from a Christian to a secular moral framework — within this secular moral framework, what is ‘moral’ (perhaps better: accepted or tolerated) is set by societal consensus, where the media has an outsized influence.

    So maybe the word the midwit Brooks is looking for is tolerance: by ‘moral freedom’ he means a ‘tolerant society’, one that ‘tolerates’ certain behaviors, within limits set by societal consensus (the secular moral framework).

    Whenever I hear something preachy about ‘tolerance’, e.g. a ‘tolerant society’, my first thought is always: Exactly what am I supposed to tolerate? And please be as specific as possible.

  5. Gottfried’s Nietzschean take was that the Jewish priestly class in academia/media etc promotes a slave morality but doesn’t succumb to its own poison. Also MacDonald in CofC that Jews exaggerate their demographic decline for group solidarity & stimulate birth rates.

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