“How the Bobos broke America” David Brooks

Bobo kit

“The dispossessed set out early in the mornings. They were the outsiders, the scorned, the voiceless. But weekend after weekend—unbowed and undeterred—they rallied together. They didn’t have much going for them in their great battle against the privileged elite, but they did have one thing—their yachts.

During the summer and fall of 2020, a series of boat parades—Trumptillas—cruised American waters in support of Donald Trump. The participants gathered rowdily in great clusters. They festooned their boats with flags—American flags, but also message flags: don’t tread on me, no more bullshit, images of Trump as Rambo.

The women stood on the foredecks in their red, white, and blue bikinis, raising their Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys to salute the patriots in nearby boats. The men stood on the control decks projecting the sort of manly toughness you associate with steelworkers, even though these men were more likely to be real-estate agents. They represent a new social phenomenon: the populist regatta. They are doing pretty well but see themselves as the common people, the regular Joes, the overlooked. They didn’t go to fancy colleges, and they detest the mainstream media. “It’s so encouraging to see so many people just coming together in a spontaneous parade of patriotism,” Bobi Kreumberg, who attended a Trumptilla in Palm Beach, Florida, told a reporter from WPTV.

You can see this phenomenon outside the United States too. In France, the anthropologist Nicolas Chemla calls this social type the “boubours,” the boorish bourgeoisie. If the elite bourgeois bohemians—the bobos—tend to have progressive values and metropolitan tastes, the boubours go out of their way to shock them with nativism, nationalism, and a willful lack of tact. Boubour leaders span the Western world: Trump in the U.S., Boris Johnson in the United Kingdom, Marine Le Pen in France, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Matteo Salvini in Italy.” Brooks

Comment: I knew Brooks slightly. Larry Johnson was his neighbor in Maryland. Brooks accused me of anti-Semitism in the makeup room of the “News Hour.” I see that he has learned a lot. Professor Paul Fussell sat across a long table from me at a conference in New York. One of those long-winded things about the future of warfare. Fussell focused on me, ignoring the clutch of generals at the other end of the table which included the four star chief of staff of the air force. “You are the real deal. You remind me of my regimental commander in the Vosges mountains. He was Regular Army, like my platoon sergeant who was killed by an air burst while begging me to get down from a large rock where the Germans could see us. I was wounded. The colonel came upon me in the process of evacuation.” “A damned fool, you cost me a good man, a real soldier.” Fussell had a good eye. He is dead now. pl


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27 Responses to “How the Bobos broke America” David Brooks

  1. Peter+VE says:

    Interesting choice of words by Mr. Brooks: “yacht”. I do not think it means what he thinks it means. To me, a “yacht” is a large boat, whether motor or sail, run by a professional crew for the enjoyment of the owner. The owner generally does not have a clue how to actually operate the yacht. Think Mr. Howell on Gilligan’s Island.
    All those boats in the Trump regattas were emphatically driven by the owners, with greater and lesser degrees of skill.
    As for the women in their patriotic bikinis: aren’t we supposed to respect their body positivity?
    I thought PBR was the authentic beer for the woke hipster. I’ll skip it for a real beer, however.

  2. Babeltuap says:

    Pat, not to hijack but thought you’d appreciate Starbase tour with Elon.

    I need more time to absorb Bobos take. Thanks!

    • Fasteddiez says:

      I don’t know, but my take is that Trump and Bojo are nothing like LePen and Orban. It’s like comparing DeBlasio with Dick Cheney.

      • English Outsider says:

        I wasn’t happy either seeing Boris Johnson in that elevated company. He’s straight middle of the road Conservative.

        A senior UK civil servant who knew his way around Westinster, Sir Ivan Rogers, described Johnson as a “Butskillite”. I had to look it up. A throwback to the time when the Conservatives ran a mixed economy, before Thatcher and Reagan went on their faux Hayek spree.

        After the 2019 election there were small c conservative journalists and academics – equivalent to the paleo-conservatives over your way, I’d imagine – who got wildly excited about how Johnson was going to be the standard bearer of the anti-Progressives.

        They’ve gone quiet now. Johnson was put in to stop Farage destroying the Conservatives. He did the job so well that he got a landslide Parliamentary majority. That accomplished, Johnson is a mixture as before man. As long, that is, as the votes keep coming in.

        Nor is the Hungarian Prime Minister much like that massive phenomenon that heaved itself out of nowhere across the Atlantic. But he has his points. Here’s Orban being given a good telling off for not falling in with with the Great European Progressive Consensus –


      • jld says:

        Cool down about LePen, she is pseudo-right “controlled opposition” and likely always have been.
        Very convenient as a scarecrow to drive the bobos against fââchissme. 🙂

  3. AK says:

    I read this entire article to the end, only to discover it was simply a pitch for Biden’s legislative agenda.

    If there is an economic solution to the class chasms that have opened up in America, the Biden legislative package is surely it. It would narrow the income gaps that breed much of today’s class animosity.” Would it really though, Dave? And didn’t you spend a good portion of this article telling me it was no longer simply an income gap problem, but more a manifestation of differences in education, cultural preferences, and social mores? So the American Families Plan and the For The People act would cure all that, eh?

    Basically, Brooks is saying, “We bobos are so good at what we do, and what we do is so awesome, that the rest of the country just can’t fathom our greatness and/or are jealous of it, and that is what is leading to the current dysfunction in society. These rubes just need to realize that the only way forward is to sign on to our plan to make them wards of the state and control their existences. You see, the problem is we bobos control a lot, but we don’t control everything, just almost everything. Once we actually control everything, all the problems will go away.”

    Maybe the people who dislike you and your bobo brethren, Dave, are the people who just want to be left alone. I notice he gives a lot of treatment to the “resentful rubes” that succumb to populist nationalism, because they just want to be heard! It’s all the jealous rubes who just want to be heard! Poor dears! They’re just mad they’re not allowed in the club. That’s the only caricature that works as a foil for his side.

    Maybe most of us don’t want to be in your club, Dave. Maybe you should stop trying to conscript us. He conveniently leaves out the huge swath of Americans who just want to be left alone to live their lives, conduct their businesses, and raise their families as they see fit, without some holier-than-thou, multi-pierced, pink/purple/green-haired buffoon telling them the way they run their business ACKSHUALLY perpetuates patriarchal white supremacy—”You mean you weren’t aware that the black all-terrain tires you sell in your tire shop are racist dog-whistles? Do better, Rube.”

    Of course, he nor anyone else in his class can abide by the fact that there are millions of people out there who patently reject the bobo worldview and way of life on its merits, or lack thereof, and that these people simply want to chart their own courses free of interference from other people who live thousands of miles away, who don’t give a good goddamn about them as human beings, and whom they (rightly and wisely) do not trust. In other words, they cannot fathom that a huge portion of the country fundamentally rejects what this so-called “creative class” has created.

    This man hasn’t learned a damn thing…

  4. Anr says:

    I occasionally watched Shields and Brooks during the Trump presidency and I don’t think I have ever seen someone as at a loss as David Brooks was. Brooks seemed generally appalled and bewildered at the things Trump said and did and he didn’t seem able to comprehend how Trump could have been elected. Brooks is an intelligent guy but seemed out of touch and after reading his article he still does.

  5. Bobo says:

    Poor David still does not understand what is happening in the world. Writing about social class structures is a sure way to tell us who you are. Utilizing BOBO’s a moniker he utilized in years past tells us of his inner id is off kilter.
    Yes the rise of the Bobo’s tells us one thing-this country is not functioning properly and people are upset and will eventually marshal their forces (not in a violent manner) to correct the wrongs putting our country back on a proper path. Class structure is so passe but Brooks is still holding out for what it used to be but does not recognize that we are all equal and need to move as an equal group to create change.
    I can only ask him why my two grandsons with college saving funds that could easily pay for an Ivy League colleges, they were accepted, decide to go to colleges in the south. He would be aghast but as they say “we want an education but do not want to be taught by idiots that profess stupidity”. Put that in your pipe David and smoke it.

  6. Barbara Ann says:

    I had to laugh at the image of the laptop (a Mac, of course) plastered in stickers, it is a give away that the owner is a Bourgeois Bohemian. Apple got to be the 8th largest economy on the planet in large part by leveraging the values bobos hold dear in their corporate image. After being told my own Mac was “vintage” at a mere 4 years and that Apple would not repair it, I decided to escape their gilded cage. Taught myself to use Linux some years ago and have never looked back. I’ve no use for stickers.

    David Brooks’ article is important and timely, thought its conclusion is perhaps better encapsulated by Emerson in five of the most wise words ever uttered; “character is higher than intellect”.

    Given Brooks is concerned with the rise of the meritocracy, I am surprised he does not credit Michael Dunlop Young’s book of that name, in which the term was first coined. Ironically, Young’s word “meritocracy” has entirely lost its original connotations as the satirical pejorative he intended it to be. Young was prophetic and 20 years ago wrote “It is good sense to appoint individual people to jobs on their merit. It is the opposite when those who are judged to have merit of a particular kind harden into a new social class without room in it for others”.

    Brooks says “..blue oligarchs move to absorb any group that threatens their interests, co-opting their symbols, recruiting key leaders, hollowing out their messages”. This is true and while some bobos have gone along with it – notably Zuckerberg & Dorsey who have sold out completely to State controlled censorship, others show regret. One such is David Sacks, co-founder of PayPal which Sacks confesses is in the process of implementing a “no-buy list” for the burgeoning canceled class.

    And so here we are. “The bobos have coalesced into an insular, intermarrying brahmin elite that dominates culture, media, education, and tech”. Yes they have and in an inversion of Emerson’s wisdom this new priestly caste consider themselves superior because of their ability to bring forth the magic from our new deity “Science”. The Catholic church, the Inquisition and excommunication have been replaced respectively by the the epistemic regime Books describes, the Fact Cheka and cancel culture. So much for “progress”.

    Fussell was evidently a good judge of character Colonel.

    • JerseyJeffersonian says:

      Sorry, no sale on Bari Weiss. She is total “controlled opposition” (more likely very consciously so, and not unwittingly, nor unwillingly) for the same bunch of hyper-zionists such as the ADL and the Southern “Poverty” Law Center (with hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore accounts, great for money laundering, n’est pas?).

      The give away in her sententious spiel about freedom of speech is when she wonders who wouldn’t want to shut down the Proud Boys, or the OathKeepers. Say what what Li’l Miss Hands Off Free Speech? Isn’t that just special? She is trying to strike a pose as The Good Cop, all the while sticking in the shiv. Thoughts and speech not entirely under the control of the zionists (like her) apparently are too dangerous; those Gentiles might get uppity.

      So, she’s staging a limited hangout at best, at worst, well, the word mendacious comes to mind.

      • Barbara Ann says:


        No attempt to sell Bari Weiss and I can’t argue with your position on her. The article was actually by David Sacks not Bari Weiss, it just happens to be on her blog and is probably published elsewhere.

        Completely agree with you re Sacks’ freedom of speech views. I hope by now my comments here evidence the fact that I am somewhat to the right of Voltaire when it come to that issue.

        I stand by my statement that David at least appears to show some level of remorse for how PayPal has been co-opted by the perpetrators of cancel culture. Is is a genuine sentiment? Who can tell.

        • JerseyJeffersonian says:

          Barbara Ann,

          I have no doubts about your sentiments, but as for those other mooks… I don’t trust them.

          I rather think that they are a bit apprehensive that the frogs they have been slowly bringing to a boil in their pot (i.e., us) are getting very suspicious that they have been had. To my perception, Sacks and Weiss are doing two things here: 1) trying to allay the frogs’ anxieties; 2) trying to tell the ADL (senior partner to Paypal, as seen by how they are calling the shots) to back off, or at least not to be so readily seen as the fascists that they are, salivating at the prospect of ratcheting up their tyranny past just calling people names, to denying them access to the financial system, while all the while passing along their identities to the Biden regime for whatever use those incipient totalitarians will find “useful”.

          So, the truth is not in them, as the Bible has it. Come to think of it, mendacious may not be a strong enough word to characterize their slimy little game. Downstream of their posturing, past all of the attempts to suppress the truth from the Tech Lords, lies a world of hurt. The more they do this, the closer the pin in the grenade is to being pulled.

  7. TV says:

    Brooks is the dipstick who had (maybe still has) the crush on Obama.

  8. Deap says:

    “Bobo” was a term once used to describe the Bohemian Bourgoise, that emerged out of the 1960’s hippie generation – socially woke and financially comfortable, with no shred of self-awareness.

    The do what I say, not what I do crowd. Witness Obama’s B-Day Party. Witness Jane Fonda’s constant screeds. Witness David Brooks, in toto.

  9. Polish Janitor says:

    Colonel, when he accused you of anti-semitism, what did you say? and btw, I know it’s probably irrelevant, but did you know that his American (New York)-born son served in the IDF instead of the U.S.? This IMO shows where his deep ‘attachments’ lie.

    I have been reading Brooks columns at the Times (and before that at the Weekly Standard) somewhat regularly and used to watch his “Brooks and Shields” until a few years ago just to see his frustration at Trump and get excited at his unique display of Trump Derangement Syndrome endemic among him and his cohorts which needless to say, always found amusing. Allow me to describe this sorryass briefly: Brooks belongs to the exclusive club of Canada’s terrible 2nd -tier neoconservative exports who found a niche intellectual ‘domain’ to occupy as liberal conservatives in the 80s and 90s post-Cold War interregnum. They are pretty much a relic of the past few decades that no longer has relevance and ‘stuff’ to offer intellectually anymore. His ilk, like Chuck Krauthammer, and the sleazeball David Frum are very interesting cases of the Canadiam Jewish wannabe necons who pretty much infiltrated the American conservative movement by cunningly attempting to sell their terrible ideas that has nothing to do with robust and sensible American conservatism. Brooks et.al were and still are foreign policy oriented journalists who got massively discredited after the War on Terror debacle, so they had to re-calibrate to writing about domestic policy more and less on foreign policy. As usual, his mode of analysis focuses on ‘uncovering’ the identity aspect of phenomena or the forces/factors that enable individual to act in certain ways, and fore example in the cases of the ‘Trumptillas’ in an ‘authoritarian’ way.

    • Pat Lang says:

      I had seen him on the Don Imus show that AM discussing his orthodox wife who required him to maintain two kitchens, He said he was divorcing her. I thought it was funny. He did not.

      • Polish Janitor says:

        It IS funny and absurd Colonel! and it makes sense because he had no answer for it so he did what a loser always resorts to, i.e. labeling and slandering.

  10. akaPatience says:

    I’ve left countless critical comments about Brooks on the Real Clear Politics website, which is a venue that gives him more attention than he deserves, probably because his routinely clueless POV is so provocative, like clickbait.

    Well, I’m glad he admitted some past misjudgements in the article but he’s still clueless! I had to laugh, actually laugh, at this paragraph:

    The bobos believe in human dignity and classical liberalism—free speech, open inquiry, tolerance of different viewpoints, personal autonomy, and pluralism—but our class has not delivered for the people outside it. On our watch, government and other public institutions have deteriorated. Part of the problem is that, steeped in an outsider, pseudo-rebel ethos, we never accepted the fact that we were a leadership class, never took on the institutional responsibilities that go with that acceptance, never got to know or work with people not in our class, and so never earned the legitimacy and trust that is required if any group is going to effectively lead.

    Let that exquisite display of blithe hypocrisy and hubris sink in. The guy still exists in a homogeneous bubble and his contact with those outside of it is admittedly through the writings of fellow bubble dwellers. SMFH…

    Is he kidding? Tolerance of different viewpoints and personal autonomy??? How he can write this – when he seems to believe a significant segment of Trump voters are QAnon True Believers who need the help of others to tie their shoes, and then later on in the article characterizes right-wing populists as intellectually “bankrupt” – is beyond ironic. Plus, he evidently agrees with the BLM/White Privilege proponents who eschew merit, as well as critical thinking, punctuality, objective truths, etc., etc., as oppression by White Supremacists. God, he’s still as insufferable as ever.

    But wow, what a well-deserved compliment the Colonel received from Paul Fussell!

  11. Fred says:

    In reading Brooks’ piece I have to say:
    “The dispossessed set out early in the mornings… unbowed and undeterred—t hey rallied together. They didn’t have much going for them in their great battle against the privileged elite, but they did have one thing—their yachts.”
    (dispossessed – except for their yachts!)

    “They festooned their boats with flags—American flags…
    (You know what that means)

    “The women stood on the foredecks in their red, white, and blue bikinis…. to salute the patriots …
    (I bet no women in red, white, and blue bikinis ever stood up to salute the proletarian from Toronto, even after he earned that degree from the well know bastian of proletarianism, the University of Chicago, and became a regular multi-millionaire working stiff at the NYT/WSJ/Atlantic. The horror! The horror!)

    “The class structure of Western society has gotten scrambled over the past few decades.”
    (Do not ask why it took so long for a regular joe educated at U Chicago with decades of work at NYT/WSJ/Atlantic to notice; he’s just forshadowing his answer)

    “last year, a Trump regatta was held in Ferrysburg, Michigan.”
    (Ground zero of middle-America’s “information economy and the tech boom” that showered them with cash. Unlike those Michiganders shafted by NAFTA)

    “the chapter about X people was insufferably self-regarding, but Fussell was onto something.”
    (Unlike Brooks)

    ” Florida used a “Gay Index,” based on the supposition that neighborhoods with a lot of gay men are the sort of tolerant, diverse places to which members of the creative class flock.”
    (They just love them some Anita Bryant in the “Gay Index” zones. That and traditional marriage.)
    “I wrote in 2000. “Anybody with the right degree, job, and cultural competencies can join.” That turned out to be one of the most naive sentences I have ever written.”
    (It has kept you employed for decades, but then, well, see below)

    “The bobos—or X people, or the creative class, or whatever you want to call them—have coalesced into an insular, intermarrying Brahmin elite that dominates culture, media, education, and tech. ”
    (I look forward to a Trump flotilla participant being invited onto one of Brooks’ weekly tv roundtables or write regularly for NYT/WSJ/Altantic)

    “we’ve come to hoard spots in the competitive meritocracy that produced us. ”
    (That is “insufferably self-regarding”, but I’m repeating myself. Resign for Equity!)

    “The children of well-off, well-educated meritocrats are thus perfectly situated to predominate at the elite colleges ….”
    (Perhaps we should close private k-12 schools and force the children of “well-educated meritocrats” to attend public schools. Which are run by…….)

    ” Young creative types were indeed clustering in a few zip codes, which produced enormous innovation and wealth ….” But this concentration …. Florida now argued, meant that a few … cities have economically blossomed while everywhere else has languished. The 50 largest metro areas …. generate 40 percent of global wealth.”
    (It has concentrated wealth, but then trade and fiscal policy couldn’t have any bearing on that, eh?)

    “Third, we’ve come to dominate left-wing parties around the world that were formerly vehicles for the working class.”….
    (You mean you were never a Republican?)

    “A student who possesses ease….”
    (But will they know the cafeteria workers’ preferred pronouns when engaging them “with a distant friendliness that at once respects social hierarchy and pretends it doesn’t exist.”)
    “Once upon a time, high culture—the opera, the ballet—had more social status than popular culture.”
    (Once upon a time Christian faith and moral values had more social status than popular culture. Fixed it for you David)

    “the media—the epitome of creative-class production….”
    (So that is where all that wealth generation you talked about came from. Well it did make you a multi-millionaire)

    “In a study for The Atlantic, Amanda Ripley found that the most politically intolerant Americans “tend to be … more urban, and more partisan themselves.” The most politically intolerant county in the country, Ripley found, is liberal Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which includes Boston.”
    (I’m shocked, shocked, to find Democratic Party strongholds to be politically intolerant. It’s a good thing colleges are bastions of free speech and free inquiry)

    “Donald Trump didn’t win in 2016 because he had a fantastic health-care plan. He won because he made the white working class feel heard.”
    (Having just spent paragraphs disparaging Trump supporters, an epiphany!)

    “the reaction to the bobos has turned politics into a struggle for status and respect”
    (No, it is still about power)

    “Atop the Democratic-leaning class ladder sits the blue oligarchy: tech and media executives, university presidents, foundation heads, banking CEOs, highly successful doctors and lawyers. ”
    (So much for free speech and free inquiry on college campuses)

    “The modern meritocracy is a resentment-generating machine. ….. The ability to perform academic tasks during adolescence is nice to have, but organizing your society around it is absurd.”….. Some 60 years after its birth, the meritocracy seems more and more morally vacuous.”
    (Sounds like it is not a meritocracy at all.)

    “This situation produces a world in which the populist right can afford to be intellectually bankrupt. ” ……………’If there is an economic solution to the class chasms that have opened up in America, the Biden legislative package is surely it.”
    (Dearest David, you’ve never been for the working class and are well known as a life-long RINO, this being the lastest example.)

    ” We just fit ourselves into a system that rewarded a certain type of achievement…”

    Translation: Got mine. I didn’t have any moral foundation to make a different choice, so don’t blame me! What an insufferable snob.

    As a counter to this piece I reccomend Dr. Christine Helm’s work that was previously on SST. I think it will provide a better foundation to understand our cultural conflict, and the rise of Trump, than this Atlantic piece by Brooks. To quote from it:

    “Collective memory is the toolshed, tomorrow’s ideological arsenal, from which political concepts and symbols are selected,reinterpreted, and manipulated both by established governments and opposition groups. It may wait for decades patiently dormant, only to be reactivated suddenly as an explosive, contagious force.”

    That’s why the left is destroying statues, monuments, public holdays, denigrating church attendence, patriotism, and the American flag. Something David left out of his piece altogether; though his writing was, I must admit, ‘mostly peaceful’.

    • JerseyJeffersonian says:


      You have done a wonderful job in skewering Brooks, the faux naïf that he is, and always has been. Thanks.

  12. Carey says:

    I’m surprised that some take Brooks at face value, and I’m quite sure he is not “clueless”.
    He’s got a good “ah, shucks”/sincere inquiry/everyman act going, but he’s anything but that. What’s Brooks selling, and on whose behalf? is the question, and I think there are commenters here who would have satisfactory answers.

  13. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Brooks is too late to wake up and smell the hummus (Aladdin, 1990), if he really did or does. As an antidote to the schmaltz he purveys in his original book and subsequent apologia, might I suggest “The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (1995)” by Christopher Lasch? Another must-read is “Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War ” (2008) where Joe Bageant states : “ Yet the liberal elite — and verily they are an elite group — don’t think of themselves as elitist. Overwhelmingly white and college educated, they live among clones of themselves… “. Charles Murray made identical arguments in his 2012 book “Coming Apart”, particularly with his comparisons of “Fishtown” and “Belmont”. Earlier in 2021 Catherine Liu’s monograph “Virtue Hoarders, The Case against the Professional Managerial Class” (https://muse.jhu.edu/book/82543 ) eviscerated Brooks and his ilk. And yet, Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic publishes this screed. Why, and why now?
    It is hard not to become paranoid these days…
    Ishmael Zechariah

    • Carey says:

      Good book recommendations, IMO- especially Lasch’s final, prophetic book.

    • Orval says:

      “Deer Hunting with Jesus” was a great book! A scathing critique of the Democratic Party failure to reach the White working pass.

  14. Eliot says:

    “the school primarily teaches is no longer upper-crust polish or social etiquette, but “ease”—the knowledge of how to act in open environments where the rules are disguised.”

    This is that upper class ability to speak to everyone with a genuine sense of connection, no matter their background, and to make that other person feel like the center of the universe.

    Brooks just doesn’t understand what he’s looking at.

    As for his argument, In the modern age, and this is a new development, money creates power, and this has catapulted the middle class, the merchant class, into power.

    We have a society run by Vaishya now.

    The Bobos are simply the monied, and largely self satisfied, upper middle class individuals who run society. They’re very insecure though and they assert their morally superiority over normal people, by punching down. Above them you have the incredibly rich oligarchs, the people like Bezos. The difference between Bezos and the Bobos is really just money. They come from the same class and they share the same values.

  15. Barbara Ann says:

    Having some trouble posting comments today, 4th attempt at this one.

    NPR News: 08-11-2021 7PM EDT

    “The Senate approved, along strict party lines, a budget resolution for Biden’s vision to reshape the role of the federal government in American life”

    And here was me thinking a Constitutional amendment was needed to do that.

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