David Brooks is the guy who coined the metaphor of Red States and Blue States. He's now a columnist for the New York Times, turns up on TV news commentary shows all of the time, and is well known as the conservative pundit who knows how to talk to the left.
The lefty blogosphere hates him.
We hate him because he has a knack for somehow sounding reasonable, thoughtful, and concilliatory when in fact, if you take a minute and walk through his reasoning carefully, you see that his comments are full of poison. And blogs' link-quote-and-comment style was just made for catching Brooks' trickery. Busy Busy Busy's format of snarky one-sentence summaries of pundits' essays does a good job of revealing this; they hit almost every column Brooks does.
At this point, I assume that if Brooks says something, there's some nasty trap for the left lurking inside of it. If I don't see the trap, I expect that it will be just that much nastier when I finally figure it out.
His latest column is a masterpiece of his technique.
Justice Harry Blackmun did more inadvertent damage to our democracy than any other 20th-century American. When he and his Supreme Court colleagues issued the Roe vs. Wade decision, they set off a cycle of political viciousness and counter-viciousness .... it took the abortion issue out of the legislatures and put it into the courts. If it had remained in the legislatures, we would have seen a series of state-by-state compromises reflecting the views of the centrist majority that's always existed on this issue. These legislative compromises wouldn't have pleased everyone, but would have been regarded as legitimate.
Religious conservatives became alienated from their own government, feeling that their democratic rights had been usurped by robed elitists. Liberals lost touch with working-class Americans because they never had to have a conversation about values with those voters; they could just rely on the courts to impose their views. The parties polarized as they each became dominated by absolutist activists.
activists focused their attention on judicial nominations
Every few years another civilizing custom is breached. Over the past four years Democrats have resorted to the filibuster again and again to prevent votes on judicial nominees
Republicans now threaten to change the Senate rules and end the filibuster on judicial nominees
Harry Blackmun and his colleagues suppressed that democratic abortion debate the nation needs to have. The poisons have been building ever since.
It's an argument I've heard before, and I really do recommend reading Brooks' telling of it. It parallels what a lot of smart pro-choice lefties have said about how Roe stands on rocky legal footing, and therefore didn't decisively resolve the debate or the legality of abortion, resulting in a whole host of problems. His column could take you in ... especially if you haven't learned to smell a rat whenever conservatives try to trick you into thinking that the rancor of our current political rhetorical climate has its roots somewhere other than on the right. Or you haven't noticed that conservatives' rhetoric about "judicial activism" has an evil smell. But it's pernicious nonsense, and the lefty blogosphere has risen up as one body to tell you so. Here I am, for example.
It's worth reading the column just so you can properly appreciate the lefty blogosphere's response. Busy Busy Busy makes an offering and indexes links to lefty responses for your convenience. I imprinted on the Rude Pundit's rant on the subject because I read it first. But whatever you do, do not miss Michael Bérubé hitting a home run with the help of some judicious text search-and-replace.