Graves Registry: Over a barrel of crude


I have found myself doing something lately that I hardly ever did before — reading David Brooks' column in the New York Times. Mr. Brooks occasionally lapses into his new role as observer and commentator of social mores, a form of self-defense that I always attributed to his understandable frustration at maintaining a level of credibility with reasonably intelligent people while pushing the conservative agenda in the United States.

Needless to say, Mr. Brooks, author of a recent bestseller with the lofty title of "The Road to Character," is mightily offended by the emergence of a conspicuously character-less figure as his party's standard-bearer. There has always been a generous waft of elitist snobbism in Brooks' pronouncements. For a man who taught a class at Yale that was called "Humility" (I'm not kidding here!), the notion of Donald Trump as president must be like enduring Miley Cyrus singing her way through the title role in "Aida" at the Met.

There is something downright pleasurable in watching Brooks and other long-haul enablers for the gluttonous rich assume this posture of righteous indignation; oozing offense over a man who really isn't saying anything different from what Brooks has been preaching in the Times for years. Mr. Trump just hasn't mastered the art of disguising what Elizabeth Warren correctly characterized as his "small, money-grubbing" nature into marketable GOP political palaver, rife with allusions to the flag and the ever-oppressive government and the alarming decline of moral standards.

It is Mr. Trump's abysmal lack of finesse, more than anything he proposes or represents, that really galls people like David Brooks. Greed can be camouflaged, but crude is right there for everyone to see.

The people who, for years and years, have worked tirelessly building the stage don't particularly like the little drama that is currently being played out upon it. Too bad Connie Francis can't amble into the spotlight and sing a few verses of "Who's Sorry Now?"

The vastness of support for Mr. Trump — never as extensive as the volume of noise emanating from his campaign rallies might suggest — is beginning to erode even further with his puzzling habit of trying to top his last idiotic or outrageous remark.

At least two factions, however, remain stalwart supporters.

The first group is comprised mostly of middle-aged white guys, who, for some completely unfathomable reason, have cast a self-infatuated billionaire as some kind of populist hero. There is absolutely nothing in Trump's pampered past that suggests that he has the slightest sympathy with the struggles of the middle class. There is plenty of evidence that he took terrible advantage of the people who built the structures he tacked his name upon.

Trump cannily exploits this group's deep-seated anger with government just as surely as they dismiss all the sleazy aspects of his business practices as distortions by a biased media. In effect, these people, whose own bad decisions have brought them to a state of permanent dissatisfaction with society in America, are now poised to make the worst decision they ever made in order to remedy it.

The second group is the same clique of individuals who have benefitted greatly from Mr. Brooks' tireless attempts to sing the praises of the wealthy. These people are acutely aware of the impact Hillary Clinton's proposed budget is going to make as far as turning off the golden spigot that has kept them awash in money while the rest of the country prays for rain. A number of GOP congressmen may prove to be casualties of Trump's epic defeat in November. If that happens, it is safe to speculate that the cushy days for the upper class may be coming to an end.

Mrs. Clinton has proposed, among other progressive ideas, the largest increase in infrastructure spending since the 1950s, when President Eisenhower recognized that it would not only improve standards of living throughout the country, it would provide thousands of people with good jobs.

Mr. Trump's budget plan, many aspects of which are identical to Paul Ryan's grim reaper proposals, is just another trickle-down bonanza of tax cuts for the rich that will ultimately result in a budget deficit measured in the trillions of dollars.

So, take your pick.

— Alden Graves is a regular Banner columnist


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