As Parties Grow Weary, Time for an Insurgency
After a while, you get sick of the DeLays of the right and the Deans of the left. After a while, you tire of the current Republicans, who lack a coherent governing philosophy, and the current Democrats, who are completely bereft of ideas. After a while you begin to wonder: Did I really get engaged in politics so I could spend months arguing about the confirmation of Harriet Miers, the John Major of American jurisprudence?
Matters Outside Our Present Focus:
1) How there comes to be an equivalence between Republican Tom DeLay, the sleeziest, slimiest Congressman in a leadership position since the invention of the light bulb, at minimum, and Democrat Howard Dean, who merely holds positions Brooks doesn't care for.
2) How it is Republicans suddenly lack a coherent governing philosophy despite spending all their free weekends discussing Edmund Burke and Ludwig von Mises.
3) What Times editor passed on "completely bereft".
And when you begin thinking this way, you find yourself emotionally disengaging from the exhausted clans that dominate the present. You find yourself going back to basics and considering the fundamental questions: What visions originally excited me about politics and government? If it were completely up to me, where would I plant my flag?
Here's where I would plant mine.
Let me save you any further reading and myself a lot more typing (since I can't cut and paste Brooks anymore and have to actually focus on every damn word): if it were completely up to him, David Brooks would plant his flag exactly where it is now, except completely bereft of any association with the six feet of toxic Republican floodwater we're all bobbing around in like flotsam as a result of those ideals, opinions, policies, and bumper-sticker catchphrases being given free rein for the last 4-1/2 years. Yes, you see, David Brooks is a supporter of the America of Opportunity, of Hamilton, Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt. It is not his fault that none of those three turned up to rescue the Republican party from itself. It's not his fault that, for the second time in twenty years, incontinent tax cutting has led to incontinent debt. It's not his fault that Iraq is a disaster.
Wait. Why isn't it his fault that Iraq is a disaster?
Say it again: trendy middle-aged "reformed liberal" National-Greatness-libertarian-slash-neocons like Brooks were never forced to grow up. Through the simple good fortune (theirs, not the country's) of a favorable political biorhythm chart--Nixon's Southern Strategy plus increasing media corporatism plus the collapse of the Soviet Union plus twenty years of relatively good economic news--they've never been asked the tough questions, let alone forced to answer them. And now it's too late to learn, or too late to admit they were wrong. Because in the final analysis, all they ever had was an unshakable belief that their opinions were inerrant and everybody else's opinions were misguided or worse.
It doesn't matter that unlike many of his fellow Republicans Brooks seems personally disinclined to attach a car battery to the genitals of randomly-selected Iraqis, nor that he might shed a public tear or two over the plight of an underclass he knows nothing about:
I hated the old welfare system, which pushed people away from work. I love welfare reform, which encourages work. I hate government that directs ever more money to the affluent elderly, but I would love a government that gave poor children savings accounts at birth, which would encourage them to think about the future and understand that their destiny is in their own hands.
(The budget's tight right now, Dave. Maybe we could afford to issue every poor child his own bootstraps.)
No, It doesn't matter, and it never should have. By the time Brooks had a public forum, however cute and trendy and completely bereft of intellectual substance, the game was already up. Anyone with a smidgen of intellectual honesty, or at least enough to overcome the burning desire for a big book deal advance, had to realize it. The notion of the oppressed White American male was a sham. The idea that Reagan had accomplished some fundamental, opportunity-based shift in American politics was a cover story for the Rubes. To pretend, at this late date, that Tom DeLay or George W. Bush represent an aberration in the Republican party and not a culmination of its thirty-year war on everything that wasn't White, Christian, and pro-big business in this country is to continue shoveling manure while you're up to your nose in it. There's no pretending that your good intentions PR counts for anything anymore. Beyond the fact that the Times keeps paying you for it, I mean.
The sorry results of that thirty-year war are not the result of minor miscalculation or unforeseen circumstances. They are not even, in that favorite phrase of so-called conservatism gone by, the result of the "law of unintended consequences". This is your Republican paradise, Mr. Brooks. Here's your National Greatness. When you're covered in shit it's time to stop pretending the smell is coming from somewhere else.