Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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David Brooks Reinvents the GOP

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.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Brooks (progressive conservative!) is also out to corrupt the soul of the Republican party by contending that there’s nothing to social or cultural conservatism. His new ON PARADISE DRIVE
presents Americans as amoral pragmatic workaholics who live in the thrall of vague mirages about the future. He’s out to discredit the "fundamentalism" of both our evangelical Christians and those who really belive that the truth is self-evident... Arnold would have no trouble getting on board with what Brooks’ New York Times Magazine platform proposals include and what they leave out.

Anyone else struck by how politically tone-deaf so many of Brooks’ proposals are?

Seems to me that a party which embraced Brooks proposals would soon join the Whigs in extinction.

Being "conservative compared to your co-workers" doesn’t automatically make you a "conservative" - Brooks needs to get out of New York, especially out of the Times offices, and visit "fly-over country."

The Clinton administration tried to increase significantly the size of government with its health care plan and was thrown back. Newt Gingrich tried to reduce significantly the size of government, and he, too, was thrown back. -- David Brooks

Mysteriously, Brooks not only ignores Newt’s massive swan song, Welfare Reform Act of 1996, but every other "Contract With America" reform implemented in the aftermath of the 1994 election. He ignores, also, the real significance of how that election ended a forty year grip the Democratic Party held on the nation’s purse strings in the House.

Instead, Brooks opts to view a linear path for each party: "Each party is down in its trench, lobbing the same old arguments, relying on the same old coalitions." And thus concluding that we’re a "polarized" and evenly divided nation.

Brooks is simply full of beltway bull.

This election will mirror the 1964 landslide, that showcased the triumph of the Roosevelt -- anti-commie -- New Dealers, in the man of Lyndon Johnson, vs. the upstart Goldwater embryo of the coming Reagan Revolution. Only, in 2004, the Reagan Revolution, now, has transformed the GOP just as FDR had transformed the former Party of Jefferson in 1964. Even the traumatic bolts of lightning seem similar; JFK’s death and 9/11.

The only thing that remains unseen is the question, will the GOP turn itself inside out as the Democrats did from 1968 to 1972? Or will they "stay the course" for the next generation? Brooks, obviously, disagrees with me on that question.

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