Home/Daniel Larison/Keeping Perspective

Keeping Perspective

Rod quotes Gail Collins in a conversation with David Brooks:

The way you stop that is definitely not by declaring yourself an independent and leaving your party to the hard-core right [bold mine-DL] that brought it to its current disastrous state. It’s by working from within. A conservative independent is just a Republican who’s had his heart broken, David. I think they need you.

I’ve done more than my share of Brooks-bashing in my time, and for the most part it doesn’t interest me to do more of it, but all of this talk of Brooks’ “alienation” from the Republican Party and his poor, broken heart has to be qualified by the recognition that for the first five or six years of the Bush administration Brooks was not only a team player, but he was also a leading cheerleader of most of the disastrous moves that reduced the GOP to its current state. Brooks’ disillusionment with the party began around the same time that everything the administration had done, particularly as it related to Iraq, began going horribly wrong.

The culture of incompetence, ignorance, cronyism and bluster that had always prevailed in the administration may have finally become too much for Brooks to stomach, but on the substance of policy it is rather crucial to remember that it was not anything like a “hard-core right” Republican agenda that destroyed the party. Such labeling makes no sense, unless you insist on labeling the mainstream GOP “hard-core right” and prefer calling its right-wing critics moderates. The GOP was destroyed by its support for a war waged in the name of nonproliferation, democracy promotion, nation-building, and the enforcement of United Nations resolutions, none of which can really be called “hard-core right” priorities. This war was most loudly cheered on by those “progressive globalists,” as Brooks might call them, inside the Republican Party who see America as the superpower needed to ensure global governance. The most zealous and die-hard supporters of that war were those in the Republican Party whose policy views typically fall in the center or the left of the GOP, and this included Brooks. The “hard-core right” of the party did not by and large distinguish itself in any of this, either, but they are the ones left to take a disproportionate share of the blame as moderates such as Brooks take cover behind the label independent. The independent label can sometimes be accurate and necessary, but it is just as often a refuge for partisans who want to distance themselves from the consequences of the policies they favored back when they referred to themselves by a partisan label.

As DougJ noticed in Brooks’ latest column, the Iraq war figured nowhere in his story of Republican collapse and self-destruction, which is what we might expect from Brooks. Like most Republican war supporters, he refuses to acknowledge the war’s role in destroying the party and instead can’t stop talking about excessive spending. If Brooks’ heart has been broken by Republican failure, it is a self-inflicted wound.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

leave a comment