The political climate might be quite volatile these days, but New York Times columnist David Brooks expects to be his usual calm and reserved self for his Wednesday night appearance at Proctors.
“I’m not the sort of Ann Coulter-type person who generates a lot of shouting matches,” said Brooks, one of the nation’s most highly regarded and civil conservative voices. “People usually get their point across and also show respect. I tend to have pretty respectful conversations.”
Along with writing his column for the New York Times twice a week, Brooks is an author of several books as well as an analyst for PBS and a regular contributor to NBC’s “Meet the Press.” His talk Wednesday begins 7:30 p.m. on the MainStage at Proctors.
Brooks was born in Toronto — his father was working on a Ph.D at the time — and grew up in a middle-income housing development in Manhattan before moving to a more affluent Philadelphia suburb when he was 12. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1983 with a degree in history and started his newspaper career by covering the police beat for the City News Bureau of Chicago, which owned both the Chicago Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times.
In 1986 he was hired by the Wall Street Journal, initially as an copy editor for the book review section. He joined the Weekly Standard in 1995 and has been at the New York Times since 2003. His books include “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There,” and “On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense.”
Brooks, who also teaches at Yale University, spoke to The Gazette last week.
Q: What will you be discussing Wednesday at Proctors?
A: I often talk about something in the political sphere, but I also talk about what’s going on around society and sometimes I try to make it personal. In Schenectady I’ll talk about what kind of historical moment were in. There are certain years where you’re in a historical transition and a lot of big things are happening around the world. I think 1776 was one of those, and 1968 was one of those. Now we’re seeing a rise of popularism all over the world, and a certain set of social problems. We’re fracturing as a society, politics is becoming common warfare, and even on a personal level, the number of people who say they have close friends has dropped down dropped. Things seem to be falling apart, so I’m checking to figure out what comes next and how we can put it back together.
Q: How does President Trump fit in to all this?
A: He’s a symptom. I like to say he’s the wrong answer to the right question. A lot of people voted for him because they were in love with this character, they were angry and disgusted, and they wanted change. I’m one of those people who feel politically homeless right now. Most of the time I’m probably more in agreement with the Republican Party than I am now, but I’m a center-right person, and I don’t feel at home in Donald Trump’s party.
Q: When did you realize he had a legitimate shot at winning the presidential election?
A: It was around 11 p.m. on election night. I was watching on television and I was shocked. My kids and friends were all texting me, saying ‘this is crazy.’ I did not see it coming, and after he won I spent the next year trying to figure out how I got it wrong.
Q: So did you figure it out?
A: Well, there are people who are struggling, but it’s not hopeless. At the local level there’s a lot of people doing a lot of good work around the country so I am hopeful.
Q: What are you hopes for the Republican Party?
A: Well I’m a New Yorker, so I’n hoping the party gets back to where Republicans could compete in New York. And that’s a party that is not for big government, but a government that can help the people seek opportunity. One of my heroes is Alexander Hamilton, and that’s the sort of guy we gotta have in New York.
Q: What did you want to do when you were 18?
A: I knew I wanted to become a writer of some sort at 7. By 18 I wanted to become a playwright. I was a super socialist back then. But I always knew I wanted to do some kind of writing. In college I went into journalism, thought it’d be more fun to go out and meet people and cover stories and come home with a story to tell every day.
Q: How do you grade the news media’s performance lately?
A: I think it’s been a pretty good period for the media. We all make mistakes but I think most everyone I know is committed to the craft of journalism. People if you look at lot of scoops not only my paper, but other papers, they’ve pretty much been right on. Some errors have been made, but most of the stories, as the facts came out, suggested that the reporting is pretty correct.
Q: Are you working on another book?
A: I’m doing a book about how most of us make four big commitments in life; We choose a spouse, we start a family, we choose a vocation and belong to a faith community. So it’s about how we make the big decisions in our lives.
Q: You and Mark Shields have a segment with Judy Woodruff on PBS once a week. Can we expect to see you as a pundit on a cable news network anytime soon?
A: I don’t have any interest. I’m on NBC almost every week on “Meet the Press,” and I’m on PBS Friday night. I’m very happy with those two TV appearances each week.
WHERE: The MainStage at Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
HOW MUCH: $100-$35
MORE INFO: 518-346-6204, www.proctors.org
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