Brooks point is hilariously historically naive, and it must be intentional. If only Sotomayor had had the good fortune to attend Princeton in the decades that Princeton DID NOT ADMIT ANY WOMEN AT ALL, she would have certainly found it welcoming of all races and genders. The bad faith is palpable; in the fifties and sixties, Princeton was not sure that admitting wealthy east-coast Jews, who were the new category let in the door in the 20s and 30s, was such a good idea.
While both Andrew and David Brooks' quotes are preposterous, intelligent people can find a way to abhor evil and also aggressively critique the response to evil if that response happens to be deeply flawed. Lots of conservatives are much more disturbed by victimology than they are by actual discrimination, because they are self-centered and culturally ignorant. Then again, lots of straight white males are uncomfortable with liberal identity politics because it seems to implicitly disinvite them from the party. I'm more concerned about the latter group's reaction than I am about the former.
When you say that "Institutions, traditions and the past belong to those with power" I have to disagree. The past does not belong to those with power any more than the air is the property of the birds that fly in it. The past, together with its institutions and traditions is the common property of all men and women. At various points in time those traditions have privileged the powerful over the weak, but those same traditions and institutions have also stood for social justice, for the rights of humankind, and for the freedom of the weak and powerless to stand up to authority when that authority is seen to be overbearing.
And finally this:
This is true with respect to long-standing traditions, but with respect to powerful institutions versus the powerless, you're presenting something of a false dichotomy between conservatives and liberals. Liberals often side with teachers unions, for example, over inner-city parents who seek vouchers for school choice. Liberals often also privilege Wall Street firms and big business over entrepreneurs. They also privilege alumni of elite schools over smart folks from less well-connected backgrounds.
Consider this: there's a banker in Texas who didn't lose a dime during the financial crisis, because he saw the nonsense for what it was and kept his powder dry. His bank has profited while others have sought government welfare. He's a self-made billionaire. But he happens to be a Michigan State dropout. His name is Andy Beal. Don't you think this is the sort of guy the President ought to be tapping for economic advice, instead of the Ivy League grads who lost billions on Wall Street? Beal may have money, but he doesn't have any pull, since our current liberal President adheres to the status quo of privileging established Wall Street institutions such as Goldman Sachs despite their failures.
These are all obviously pulled from comments on yesterday's post on conservatism, Sullivan and Brooks. It's also worth adding one other critique--the conservative position on war. I got into a conversation with a historian via e-mail over this, and then thought some on it. I think there is a credible argument to be made that there was nothing conservative about the Iraq War. I don't mean conservative in opposition to liberal, as much as I mean conservative in opposition to radical. I see similar thinking in Lincoln's opposition to the Mexican-American war, a fight pushed by people who called themselves conservatives, much like Bill Kristol calls himself a conservative. This is obviously a major area where the power/privilege critique comes up short.