Thursday, October 15, 2015

Know Thyself

Ezra Klein comments on David Brooks' critique of his party on

There is an oddity to Brooks's nostalgia, though. The Republican Party has not been a vehicle for Burkean conservatism for a long time. The Iraq War, which Brooks supported, was not exactly governed by a fear of disrupting existing institutions, even if President Bush had a personality that Brooks preferred. And the hard question isn't whether a moderate Republican like Brooks can lash out against the drift toward Trump and Carson, but whether he will remember this analysis when the revolutionary words are coming from more establishment mouths.

Another way of putting this is that Brooks's point is that you can't say, as Mitt Romney did, that "with Obamacare fully installed, government will come to control half the economy, and we will have effectively ceased to be a free enterprise society," and then turn around and tell your supporters that you've lost the election and it's time to accept that Obamacare is the law of the land. Either America is in an existential struggle to preserve its character, and radical means are merited, or … it's not. If you campaign based on an existential threat you can't govern as if it's just politics as usual.

But while Brooks sees today that Romney's comments paved the path toward Trump, at the time Brooks and others like him saw Romney as their best hope of taking back the White House. That's the core dynamic here: Establishment Republican candidates feel they have to use revolutionary rhetoric to win over the Tea Party, and since they face no sanction from the desperate moderates in their party when they pander to the right, it's an easy choice. Until that changes — until players like Brooks are angrier at the center of their party for indulging these tendencies than they are at the fringe for taking advantage of the result — the Republican Party is going to continue to get pulled far to the right.

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