An economic conservative proposes that those at opposite poles of the political spectrum should learn to love each other.
American Enterprise Institute president Brooks (The Conservative Heart, 2015, etc.) welcomes the opportunity to share his views with those who might not agree with him. After a recent talk on a particularly progressive campus, one student told him, “I came ready to fight, but I really connected with that speech.” Many readers will have the same reaction—or at least the author hopes they will since he largely avoids grinding an ideological ax. “What is the cure for our culture of contempt? As I have argued throughout, it’s not civility and tolerance, which are garbage standards. It is love for each other and our country.” So how do we get there? Brooks argues that we must build bridges rather than walls, replace contempt with empathy, focus on the many values where we agree rather than on the relatively few where we disagree, and embrace each other’s common humanity. “Your opportunity when treated with contempt is to change at least one heart—yours,” he writes. “You may not be able to control the actions of others, but you can absolutely control your own reaction. You can break the cycle of contempt.” Because Brooks feels that the country at large has become addicted to contempt, much of the material parallels 12-step jargon; at the end, he provides “Five Rules to Subvert the Culture of Contempt.” He draws from neuroscience and psychology to support his hypotheses and rarely indulges in the sort of finger-pointing that proceeds from who-started-it accusations. “In the long run,” writes Brooks, “people are instinctively attracted to happy warriors who fight for others.” Since the last to embrace the “happy warrior” label was Hubert Humphrey, it will be fascinating to see whether a book like this has any influence.
Hardly groundbreaking but a straightforward and practical guide back toward human decency.