The Corner

David Brooks Understands America

Brooks shows yet again, on today’s NY Times op-ed page , that he is one of the most perceptive observers of the American scene. “Nearly 200 years ago,” he points out, “Alexis de Tocqueville was bewildered by the mixture of devout religiosity he found in the U.S. combined with the relative absence of denominational strife, at least among Protestants. Americans, he observed, don’t seem to care that their neighbors hold to false versions of the faith.” And Brooks offers a sensible explanation: “[It’s] because many Americans have tended to assume that all these differences are temporary. In the final days, the distinctions will fade away, and we will all be united in God’s embrace.” The entire op-ed deserves attention, but I was especially impressed by Brooks’s closing lines: “If George Bush and Howard Dean met each other on a political platform, they would fight and feud. If they met in a Bible study group and talked about their eternal souls, they’d probably embrace.” Now, I am both a) strongly committed to re-electing President Bush next year, because I think he’s doing a fantastic job; and b) just as firmly convinced that electing Howard Dean would set off a number of disasters in foreign policy, defense policy, and economic policy (for starters). But you know what? I think Brooks is right in what he says about that hypothetical Bible-study group. And that says some really good things about our country.