David Brooks Proposes a Kinder, Gentler Republican Party

A flip-flop for a saddened pundit

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David Brooks; Republican; Party
"What's needed is a grass-roots movement that stands for governing conservatism," David Brooks wrote of the GOP this week. Stephen Voss/Redux

Lonely-hearts reactionary David Brooks, writing this week in the New York Times, describes the angst and despair of the old Republican leadership, as it watches the Trump/Cruz nativist revolution:

"Members of the Republican governing class are like cowering freshmen at halftime of a high school football game. Some are part of the Surrender Caucus, sitting sullenly on their stools resigned to the likelihood that their team is going to get crushed. Some are thinking of jumping ship to the Trump campaign… 

"Rarely has a party so passively accepted its own self-destruction."

Farther down in his piece, Brooks trumpets a call to action, wondering why his beloved party can't instantly rally voters to its cause the way just about everyone else seems able to these days:

"If MoveOn can organize, if the Tea Party can organize, if Justin Bieber can build a gigantic social media movement, why are you incapable of any collective action at all?

"What's needed is a grass-roots movement that stands for governing conservatism, built both online and through rallies, and gets behind a single candidate sometime in mid- to late February."

Brooks went on to timidly propose that that the party recognize that modern Republican voters are in a state of "trauma" and "want a government that will help the little guy."

He wondered if maybe the party leaders, in an effort to reverse their stunning fall from influence, might "actually provide concrete policy ideas to help the working class."

For most of the last four decades, the Republican Party worked pretty much exclusively for weenie aristocrats like Brooks, a tiny collection of entitled bosses whose idea of good government was income-tax cuts, deregulated workplaces and slackened obligations to the rabble.

To get what they wanted, they spent a generation whipping what Brooks calls "less-educated voters" into lathers over moronic controversies involving everything from Terri Schiavo's feeding tube to the New Black Panthers to the arrest of Kim Davis.

Those low-information voters never got Roe v. Wade repealed by their Republican leaders, never got zero-tolerance immigration policies (hell, Obama deported way more undocumented immigrants than Bush ever did), never got prayer in school or any of the other things they desperately wanted.

But they did get lower income taxes for David Brooks, a carried interest exemption for Mitt Romney, and a tax-repatriation holiday for Carly Fiorina's Hewlett-Packard and other mega-firms. None of these policies helped the bulk of the population much, but they were great for the 17 people they were actually designed to benefit.

For instance, the "less-educated voter" got less than jack for that 2004 tax repatriation holiday. In fact, the 15 biggest beneficiaries of the holiday laid off tens of thousands of jobs collectively after getting a big fat free pass from Uncle Sam.

The hilarious part about the Brooks column is the wounded, incredulous tone. Where, he asks, is the love? You know, like the old days, when the hick megachurcher and the Upper East Side Yalie were joined at the hip for the cause of a sharply-reduced top income tax rate!

"There's a silent majority of hopeful, practical, programmatic Republicans. You know who you are," Brooks bleats. "Please don't go quietly and pathetically into the night."

Back in the old days, when the Republican Party could count on the support of "less-educated voters" without having to actually give them anything, what we got all the time from people like Brooks were fatuous bromides about how anyone who was struggling lacked a work ethic and an appreciation of family structure. Government aid of any kind to help people out of economic hard times he always ripped as counterproductive and morally corrupting.

But now that he's being crapped on by a new movement of independent-minded, rebellious nativists who have no use for a moralizing, polysyllabic New Yorker like himself – now that he can hear the sharpening of the guillotines – suddenly Brooks is all in favor of government policies to help the "working class," a group of people he's presumably never met.

"Years ago," he writes, "reform conservatives were proposing a Sam's Club Republicanism, which would actually provide concrete policy ideas to help the working class, like wage subsidies, a higher earned-Income tax credit, increased child tax credits, subsidies for people who wanted to move in search of work."

He goes on: "This would be a conservatism that emphasized social mobility at the bottom, not cutting taxes at the top."

This is the author of aristocrat fan fiction classics like Bobos in Paradise suddenly advocating government policies to stimulate "social mobility at the bottom." Could this election season get any weirder?

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