The New York Times’ on August 2 published a David Brooks’ column entitled, “What If We’re the Bad Guys Here?” and on August 9 this blogger published his blog post about that column.
Now on August 12 the Times published the following comments by nine readers of that column.
- Michael Hadjiargyrou (Centerport, N.Y.)
“I am sick and tired of people like Mr. Brooks telling me that I am the problem or the ‘bad guy’ because I am educated (and no, I was not educated at an Ivy League school, and neither of my parents finished high school) to justify the fact that 35 percent of the population are fervent supporters of Donald Trump, no matter what he says or does.”
“Moreover, Mr. Trump is also part of the elite, but his supporters simply ignore this. This is not because he identifies with them in any way (as a golden-haired billionaire living in a mansion), but because Fox, Newsmax, and other right-wing TV and radio media outlets, right-wing militias and Trump puppet politicians in Congress essentially brainwashed them with their daily dose of propaganda about how the ‘left wing socialists and communists,’ ‘elites, the ‘woke,’ etc., are all conspiring to take their country and only Donald Trump can stop them.”
‘In my opinion, this is the biggest problem, Mr. Brooks, not educated Americans who as you correctly state are ‘are earnest, kind and public spirited.’”
“So, let’s not beat ourselves up because the other side has been completely brainwashed, does not accept facts, scientific and otherwise, is obsessed with conspiracies and lives in a right-wing echo chamber.”
(2) David Mahan (Sebring, Fla.)
“While I grew up in a small Midwestern town in a middle-class family, education has offered me a satisfying life with a secure retirement. Many of my classmates who chose a more blue-collar life path have endured more struggles, starting with military service in Vietnam. I am quite confident that many of them today support Donald Trump, at least partly for the reasons that David Brooks suggests.”
“Mr. Brooks’ column was a brilliant, moving description of the unspoken arrogance of many of us who are left-leaning. I believe that some sincere humility and understanding with regard to the concerns of many who feel left behind would go a long way to healing some of our divisions. Thanks to Mr. Brooks for his insight.”
- Brian Smith (Dayton, Ohio)
“I’ll accept David Brooks’ plea that we not blame the logic-defying viability of Donald Trump on the wrongheadedness of tens of millions of Americans. I get the class resentment. I share the rage against excessive political correctness and the feeling that immigration is unchecked and overwhelming. I see his point that the elite stoke these resentments by voicing our support for the nonelite while spending most of our energy and resources protecting our own class privilege.”
“But let’s not gloss over the main factor here: Mr. Trump is the latest version of a leader who is little more than a self-obsessed expert at exploiting and inflaming the fear and resentments of the masses to benefit his own power and ego. Such a leader cares nothing about those who harbor these resentments, and certainly does not share the same fears.”
“On a more practical note, those who resent wokeism are shooting themselves in the foot by supporting someone who so many Americans, elite and otherwise, would vote for over their proverbial dead bodies.”
- Ellen S. Hirsch (New York)
“The irony behind the case that David Brooks makes for Donald Trump’s support is that this support is based entirely on words (primarily offensive) and not actions. What did Mr. Trump do as president to help his supporters and make their lives better?”
“His major accomplishment was the tax reform enacted in 2017, which heavily favored the rich and elites (including himself). His supporters love the way he attacks his ‘enemies’ and anyone who disagrees with him and feel he speaks for them. The lack of actual benefits they have enjoyed seems not to matter.”
- Jeffrey Callahan (Cleveland)
“Donald Trump, as loathsome as he is, has done one significant service for this country. He has made clear the great social divide that David Brooks describes in his excellent column. Now, how to fix it?”
“As a former naval officer and Vietnam veteran, I would suggest universal national service, with almost no exemptions. Being forced to live with, eat with, work with people from all over the country would teach all of us to be more tolerant. This would not just be military service; it would include working in national parks, teaching in underserved schools, and many other forms of service to the nation.”
“The only thing standing in the way is a timid Congress. Is there anyone in Congress brave enough to take this on?”
- James A. Lepone (Telfod, Pa.)
“David Brooks makes a familiar and not unreasonable argument about how the fear, resentment and sense of alienation that fuel the cult of Trumpism proceed from economic and cultural realities for which liberal elites are, in large part, responsible.”
“When Mr. Brooks asks, however, whether anti-Trumpers should consider whether they are the ‘bad guys,’ he embarks on an analysis that completely excludes millions of people like me who find Donald Trump and Trumpism appalling, without being ‘elite’ at all.”
“I was raised in a row home in northeast Philly by a single mom who was a cop. My dad was a union construction worker. I’ve been a musician and a bartender for most of my adult life. In short, I’m hardly part of the elite class that Mr. Brooks seems to equate with the anti-Trump movement, and yet I’m passionately anti-Trump!”
“Maybe this particular piece simply wasn’t aimed at people like me, and that’s fine. But all too often I see this oversimplified, false duality that leaves out all the decent working-class people who have themselves been hurt by neoliberal policies and narratives, and yet would never channel their frustration into an odious movement like Trumpism. When we condemn Mr. Trump and his followers, we do so with a clean conscience.”
- Jack Stern (Setauket, N.Y.)
“David Brooks identifies the privileges enjoyed by the highly educated class and the resentment of the less educated class that might cause them to be ardent supporters of Donald Trump. Mr. Brooks concludes with a warning that history is the graveyard of classes with preferred caste privileges.”
“What he fails to consider is that in the United States his identified ‘upper’ class encourages, both by words and action, members of the ‘lower’ class to join it. Nothing would make those with college or graduate degrees happier than if every capable child joined their class. This differs very much from any true caste system.”
- Phillip L. Rosen (Venice Beach, Calif.)
“David Brooks’ column gave me a new perspective regarding why people support this obvious con man named Donald Trump. Although Mr. Brooks makes excellent points regarding the anger that people feel, is it not the Democrats who advocate and pass legislation regarding the minimum wage, infrastructure, child care, education, the environment, middle-class tax relief, financial assistance with community colleges and technical schools, etc., all for the benefit of working- and middle-class Americans?”
“Mr. Trump and the current crop of Republicans have done nothing to help these people. In light of this, isn’t propaganda from Mr. Trump and his followers, as well as the cynical right-wing media, also to blame for this misplaced anger and anti-democratic sentiment?”
“David Brooks does an excellent job of setting up a straw man to bring down. Most liberals aren’t part of the ‘elite,’ no matter how many right-wingers parrot that lie.”
“Exit polls from 2020 found that Joe Biden outpaced Donald Trump significantly among voters making less than $100,000 a year, while Mr. Trump did better among those making $100,000 or more. Mr. Trump is no friend to the working class, and polls like these give me confidence that a majority of the working class recognizes this. And any member of the working class who supports him or today’s extreme-right Republican Party is going against their own best interests.”
“It’s liberals and Democrats (usually but not always the same) who support policies to empower workers and reduce economic inequality, and the other side doesn’t give a damn. Liberals are not the elite and are not the enemy of the working class.”
This Blogger’s Reactions to These Comments
I share the belief of one of the published comments that “Mr. Trump is the latest version of a leader who is little more than a self-obsessed expert at exploiting and inflaming the fear and resentments of the masses to benefit his own power and ego. Such a leader cares nothing about those who harbor these resentments, and certainly does not share the same fears.”
Although I am a liberal, I believe that some liberals or left-leaning people exhibit “unspoken arrogance” and that all of us need “sincere humility and understanding with regard to the concerns of many who feel left behind would go a long way to healing some of our divisions.”
One way to work at healing those divisions is the suggested “universal national service, with almost no exceptions, [such as] working in national parks, teaching in underserved schools, and many other forms of service to the nation. Being forced to live with, eat with, work with people from all over the country would [help] teach all of us to be more tolerant.” This suggestion, however, is practically and politically unrealistic.
The laudable goal of helping us all to be more understanding and tolerant of those with different political opinions, especially of urban and rural dwellers, could be furthered by having members of urban churches and civic groups develop programs for visiting and spending time with members of rural churches and civic groups, devoted to talking about these various public issues. A key for urban dwellers like myself, I believe, is recognizing that many rural areas in the U.S. are experiencing problems associated with aging and declining population. So too members of rural churches and civic groups could spend time with members of such groups in urban areas talking about public issues and the urban-area problems such as crime in the streets.
There also should be recognition by all that many Democrats advocate and pass legislation regarding minimum wage, infrastructure, child care, education, the environment, middle class tax relief, and financial assistance for community colleges and technical schools for the benefit of working and middle-class Americans.
Another problem not mentioned in these selected reader comments is all of us tend to watch and listen to radio and television news programs that are oriented to our existing opinions and orientations to public issues.
 Brooks, What if We’re the Bad Guys Here?, N.Y. Times (Aug. 2, 2023).
 Are Anti-Trumpers “the Bad Guys”?, dwkcommentaries (Aug. 9, 2023), .
 LETTERS: Are the Elite Anti-Trumpers the ‘Bad Guys’?, N.Y. Times (Aug. 12, 2023),