David Brooks doesn’t want either of the top two candidates in the Republican field to be the nominee. That’s not new, but this part of his argument is very questionable:
This isn’t about winning the presidency in 2016 anymore. This is about something much bigger. Every 50 or 60 years, parties undergo a transformation. The G.O.P. is undergoing one right now. What happens this year will set the party’s trajectory for decades [bold mine-DL].
It’s possible that the course of the GOP could be set for decades by the outcome of this contest, but I’m not sure why we should expect this. Suppose that Trump wins the nomination after all and goes on to lose the general election. How is the party going to be remade in his image after that? Why are Trump’s many opponents inside the party going to permit that to happen? As much as Trump supporters like to talk about being part of a “movement,” how much of an organized Trumpist movement is there going to be if Trump loses in November? We can be sure that movement and party elites will take a Trump or Cruz loss as proof that Republicans shouldn’t try anything like that again, and they’ll repeat that message ad nauseam for the next three years until the start of the next nomination contest. Maybe Republican voters will dismiss that message, or maybe they won’t, but we can’t possibly know that now.
Brooks is most interested in pushing his usual agenda of “energetic” (read meddlesome and intrusive) government:
[The GOP] has to find a third alternative: limited but energetic use of government to expand mobility and widen openness and opportunity. That is what Kasich, Rubio, Paul Ryan and others are stumbling toward.
Amid all the vulgarity and pettiness, that is what is being fought over this month: going back to the past, veering into an ugly future, or finding a third way. This is something worth fighting for, worth burning the boats behind you for.
As more than a few people have observed this year, however, Rubio and Kasich aren’t really offering a “third way.” They are offering barely warmed-over Bushism, which has been tried and found horribly wanting. They’re the ones that are offering to go back into the past while claiming the opposite. The Republican status quo hasn’t really been an “anti-government ideology” for decades, if it ever was that, but one of activist government at home and abroad just like the one Brooks favors. That is what so many Republican voters are rejecting this year after seeing its dismal results over the last twenty years, and that is what the party needs to replace if it is to have any chance of regaining the trust of its voters and governing effectively. Foisting a representative of this discredited agenda on the party isn’t going to fix anything, but then it isn’t intended as a fix. It is a desperate bid by the supporters of that revived Bush-era agenda to hang on to the reins of the party after it is clear that most Republicans are sick of them. The question before Republicans in 2016 is whether they want to reward the people that have failed them for the last 15 years or if they want to penalize them. Brooks thinks they should be rewarded, which in the end is what the anti-Trump/anti-Cruz cause is trying to do.