An Evening With David Brooks:
Human-Centered Politics In Action

Zach Colby

This post was written by Zach Colby.

Zach, a native Kansan, graduated from Washington and Lee University in 2015. At W&L he studied economics and music and captained the soccer team. After graduating he worked at a startup in San Francisco. For most of 2017 Zach traveled the world pursuing philanthropic efforts tied to soccer. He has since settled in SAM's Denver Hub as Field Director.

March 12, 2018 // Article

On February 22, we hosted an event with New York Times op-ed columnist, author, renowned speaker, and political thinker, David Brooks. He delivered a new talk, remarking on taking a more human approach to politics—a topic the audience could tell was a subject close to his heart.

David Brooks Delivering a Powerful Talk


He began by talking about “great shifts” and comparing the generations of today to the generations of the first half of the twentieth century. Their everyday life and resolve in light of two major wars were drawn from big institutions. It was common to work for a large company your whole life, unions were strong, people were part of these big “teams.”

Today we have almost the opposite type of culture. He used the phrase “excess of individualization.” The age of information has allowed people to explore unconventional career paths outside of the big institutions for where they more closely “fit in.”

Neither of these ways of life are better or worse, they just come with different sets of pros and cons. A major side effect of this described individualization is a culture leading to alienation, loneliness and isolation. Even though striving to “be yourself” is a positive message and certainly an admirable goal, Brooks argued that it leads to fragility and a crisis of meaning, known as ‘telos.’

This emotional crisis and sense of not belonging lead us to a return to tribalism. This tribal attitude manifests itself in the polarization we see in many walks of life today. We know who we are against, but many of us have lost sight of what we represent. That’s why we see an increasing distrust, especially among millennials, towards large institutions.

The successful national movements of our present day (#BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, etc.) have been sourced from the bottom up and attached, largely, to raw emotion. They’re something people can get behind, relate to, and connect with others on a broad scale. They’re also born out of social media, which for better or worse, is a huge part of our lives. As Brooks noted, social media removes barriers to entry and allows us to connect with people we would never have otherwise.

This decentralization is a hallmark of the age of information. The individualization of society has driven people apart, however, the rise of technology has given them the agency to connect with others more easily and autonomously.

We are at an inflection point in history. Do we continue further down the road of tribalism? Or, do we come together? Promoting a culture, and in turn, a political environment of togetherness, connection, and an ability to work toward larger goals with people you might not agree with is the first step to productivity.

This was the overarching message in Brooks’ speech, talking about how we got to where we are and how we can work to move past it. He closed by describing his personal attachment to the search for a new political solution. It’s no secret he is a lifelong conservative, but he told the crowd of nearly 300 people, that he no longer identifies with the Republican party and feels “politically homeless.”

He didn’t mince words though, describing the formation of a third party as a “moonshot.” We at SAM recognize that odds are long, but that’s all the more reason it’s something worth fighting for. I’ve talked to hundreds of people who echo Brooks’ sentiment of political homelessness. We have two parties that no longer serve the American constituency.

A full room at Pier 59 in Chelsea


We cannot continue down the road to tribalism. As Brooks said, “parties have become tribes, not philosophies.” The culture of “us vs. them” is inherently unproductive and we as a country are better than that. Civil discourse has been lost. The voice of reason has been lost. Many of us have lost sight of what being an American means, and we are all suffering for it. We MUST promote a culture of cooperation and civility to create common sense solutions for our country. That begins with you and me.

A great night for SAM


I walked away from the event with a greater sense and appreciation of our system’s brokenness and a readiness to do something about it. And, I believe I was one of hundreds walking out of that building who felt that way. No one deserves to feel politically homeless, or isolated, or alone. So join SAM on the road to fixing our country’s brokenness. We are building a new party for a new majority, and we can’t do this alone.

Some shots from the evening below:


Thank you to everyone who joined us at the talk. Your support means everything to us.

— Zach

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