In his NY Times Magazine article, "How to Reinvent the G.O.P.", columnist David Brooks argues that the Republican Party is suffering an identity crisis that has as much to do with its victories as it does its defeats. It won the debate over the evils of big government, but lost the debate over an activist government.
And so Brooks proclaims that to counter the Democratic Party’s mission to use "government in the name of equality and social justice," the Republican Party must promote "limited but energetic government in the name of social mobility and national union." In other words, he is calling for a revival of the Whig Party for the 21st Century.
For those who have forgotten what the Whig Party stood for, Brooks rehearses some of its ideals and programs, beginning with its principled origins in Alexander Hamilton, and tracing its manifestations in the thinking and actions of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. While Brooks gives an unduly incomplete portrait of Lincoln, his presentation of a Whiggian revitalization of today’s GOP invites reflection.
Perhaps the article’s chief debatable point is the claim that a GOP embrace of limited but energetic federal programs can foster the kind of independent character that Hamilton, Lincoln, and TR preached and practiced. That said, Brooks’s reflections upon Bush’s compassionate conservativism as sowing the seeds of a return to Whig politics bears serious discussion. With the Republican Convention now under way, Brooks offers a "New Conservative Platform" for its consideration.
While you’re at it, you should also take a look at Brooks’s NY Times op-ed today entitled
"The Courage Factor." It argues that what unites the speakers at the GOP convention this week is not so much their moderate politics but their embodiment of bravery in the political arena.