What happens when a conservative finds a place at the table among the Ruling Class? What happens when a conservative finds himself ensconced within a unique enclave of society, working as a pundit at the New York Times, is invited to parties and cultural events within the Manhattan and northeastern leftist cultural milieu, becomes a regular face on roundtable taking head shows, and is routinely asked for his opinions upon subjects of current and past political importance? One answer to this is that he becomes David Brooks, the high visibility New York Times op-ed columnist and poster child for the phenomena of “establishment” conservatism.
Establishment conservatives do not, as a rule, take the same ideologically dogmatic or extreme positions as the progressive Left, but at the same time refrain from impugning too deeply its core values and beliefs, preferring to argue policy rather than political philosophy. They also have, at all events, a deep need to be accepted, liked, and respected among their peers within the social milieu within which they live and work, and Brooks’ op-ed column of Oct. 22 in the New York Times is evidence of precisely this phenomenon in action.
Brooks’ essay looks at what he calls the “flock comedies” of the last 20 years or so; those sitcoms revolving around, not families and close friends and their relationships with each other and the world around them that was the staple of TV sitcoms over several decades from Leave It to Beaver to The Flintstones to The Cosby Show, but otherwise non-related individuals whose primary relationships are with girlfriends or boyfriends and the “flock” or network of friends, both real and cyber, within the larger sphere of work, play, and socialization.
The characters of these “flock comedies” are groups of unrelated young people (and by extension, perhaps Gen Xers now into their mid-thirties) who “now spend long periods of their lives outside of traditional families, living among diverse friendship tribes”. These are shows ( including Friends Seinfeld, Sex and the City, Glee, The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, Cougartown, Better With You, Raising Hope, and even Desperate Housewives) that are “often about groups of unrelated friends who have the time to lounge around apartments, coffee shops and workplaces exchanging witticisms about each other and the passing scene.”
A good argument could be made that the trend of having unrelated people, unlinked as siblings, parents, children, or extended family, situated in a household environment can actually be traced well back into the seventies, to shows like Mork and Mindy and Three’s Company, which began a trend away from shows revolving around the nuclear and extended family (and the humor involved in how members of the family negotiate problems, crisis, and each other’s foibles) toward precisely the “networked” relationships of which Brooks speaks