Tuesday, January 29, 2013

David Brooks' advice to Republicans

David Brooks, a house conservative scribbling for the NYT, writes of the need for a "second GOP" -- or rather, a GOP within a GOP.
Americans are still skeptical of Washington. If you shove a big government program down their throats they will recoil. But many of their immediate problems flow from globalization, the turmoil of technological change and social decay, and they’re looking for a bit of help. Moreover, given all the antigovernment rhetoric, they will never trust these Republicans to reform cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare. You can’t be for entitlement reform and today’s G.O.P., because politically the two will never go together.

Can current Republicans change their underlying mentality to adapt to these realities? Intellectual history says no. People almost never change their underlying narratives or unconscious frameworks. Moreover, in the South and rural West, where most Republicans are from, the Encroachment Story has deep historic and psychological roots. Anti-Washington, anti-urban sentiment has characterized those cultures for decades.

It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast. It’s smarter to build a new division that is different the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton.
Brooks suggests a conservative analog to the strategy I favored a couple of years ago. When many liberals became infuriated by Obama's zeal for compromise, I argued that true Dems should create a wing dedicated to preserving the FDR legacy.

Many people (not all of them Republican ratfuckers) argued against my suggested "reformist wing of the Democratic party" tactic. No siree, the rot goes too deep; what we need is an entirely new party; nothing else will do. If you want to have that conversation, kids, have it without me. I'm a couple of decades too old to spend much time chatting about how nice life would be if the cat wore a bell and Porky got his aviator's license.

The "let's go third party" idea tempts both hard-core liberals and red-meat conservatives.

As you will recall, Romney's loss prompted many on the right to suggest splitting from the Republican party. These bizarros thought that the Mittster failed because he was too middle-of-the-road, too RINO; therefore, they argued, the answer is to leave the GOP altogether and form a new party, one which would be even wingnuttier, even more Jeezified and Glenn Beckian.

Splitting the conservative vote would, of course, make life easier for the Dems.

Nevertheless, I would suggest that the threat to split actually gives the far-rightists -- the ones assailed by Brooks -- great and destructive power within conservativeland.

My argument is akin to one I outlined earlier in reference to the Catholic Church: The arch-traditionalists, although a minority force within the Church, wield disproportionate influence because they constantly threaten to go off and form their own "more Catholic" churches. The sedevacantists (as those who have already made the split are called) may be few in number, but the idea of sedevacantism -- the possibility of a widening fissure -- frightens the Catholic hierarchy.

Better appease the conservatives or they'll pick up their marbles and leave.

The extremist-exodus scenario is the reason why David Brooks' suggestion will go nowhere. The nuts who screech about birtherism and Sharia law -- the wackos who swallow every paranoid fantasy spewed by Larry Klayman and Fox News -- will retain their power, will increase their power, within the Republican party. They remain mighty because they threaten to stomp off. Of course, if they actually do stomp off, they will instantly become as weak as kittens.

I know what you're thinking: Are you talking about the Tea Partiers, Cannon? Don't you know that the Tea Party is dead?

No, I don't know that. An actual organization calling itself "The Tea Party" may be weak or moribund, but those things come and go. The mentality is what matters. Don't tell me that the Tea Party mentality is dead and don't tell me that Grover Norquist has lost his power -- not when so many serving GOP congressmen fear being primaried if they veer even slightly from the far-right catechism.

Added note. Brooks writes "the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton." I was under the impression that Americans say "different from" while Brits say "different to." Have you ever encountered the "different than" formulation before?


Anonymous said...

"Different from" = correct (American) English usage

"Different than" = incorrect (A) English, on its way to becoming also a correct usage by the normal way that happens-- people ignore/never learn the correct usage and this becomes a norm itself.


Anonymous said...

It used to be "different than" back when I was a half-century younger. Then it changed.