David Brooks channels Tom Wolfe (again!) today in his spot on piece, "Lunch Period Poli-Sci" (sub req'd). Brooks quotes Wolfe's 1976 Commentary essay which observed that adult political preferences are "sub-rational" reflections of adolescent affiliations. You know, the people who hang out together before class, in study hall and at lunch. For all time thereafter, Brooks claims, our fates are sealed: "nobody has ever voted for a presidential candidate they wouldn't have had lunch with in high school."
No matter the ex post facto explanations (as a demonstration of the accuracy of Brooks' observations, I almost resorted to the Three Stooges' ex post fatso construction of that phrase, a big hit in my own peer group) of our choices, their roots lie deeply ingrained in our psyches. As a rule, we like people who are like us. We dislike those who aren't. Our strongest +/- emotions are reserved for those special demons and nemesises (nemisi?) who haunt our early years, especially adolescence.
What else could explain even 32% of Americans still supporting the horrendous performance of George W. Bush? Transparent failure of this magnitude can only be ignored by those blinded by old loyalties.
But here's where Brooks' thesis breaks down for me. I would have had lunch with Bush in high school. Back then, he was probably a goofy, fun-loving idiot, full of fart jokes and stories of backseat conquests. Just the kind of stuff that made the grade in my corner of the Bronx in the early 60s.
It's today's version of Bush that I wouldn't have lunch with...then, or now. The sanctimonious, self-righteous "Decider" who's let the fiction of being the leader go to his head while the big boys in the back jerk him around like Howdy Doody. The only thing still intact from the old days is the goofiness.
We're watching a man completely at sea trying to outrun the consequences of a misplaced belief in the nature of his destiny. And at this point, we're almost all harkening back to the high school version of that person in horror.