to stop sniffing glue.
It turns out I decided to take a Lenten break from vivisecting the odious Mr. Brooks just in time for him to drop a column in which he finally snaps and calls out his Republican Party as "everything but a child of God", as the saying goes.
The Possum Republicans
In the 1960s and ’70s, the fight was between conservatives and moderates. Conservatives trounced the moderates and have driven them from the party. These days the fight is between the protesters and the professionals. The grass-roots protesters in the Tea Party and elsewhere have certain policy ideas, but they are not that different from the Republicans in the “establishment.”
The big difference is that the protesters don’t believe in governance. They have zero tolerance for the compromises needed to get legislation passed. They don’t believe in trimming and coalition building. For them, politics is more about earning respect and making a statement than it is about enacting legislation. It’s grievance politics, identity politics.
But where have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing? Where were they during the rise of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck? Where were they when Arizona passed its beyond-the-fringe immigration law? Where were they in the summer of 2011 when the House Republicans rejected even the possibility of budget compromise? They were lying low, hoping the unpleasantness would pass.
Without real opposition, the wingers go from strength to strength. Under their influence, we’ve had a primary campaign that isn’t really an argument about issues. It’s a series of heresy trials in which each of the candidates accuse the others of tribal impurity.
Sure, it's shot through with Brooks' trademark mendacities and omissions and, sure, two weeks from now Mr. Brooks will recant, redact, reverse or otherwise equivocate his way out from the corner into which he has painted himself, but it was quite a thing to see, especially considering that only a few, short years ago the same David Brooks was penning Third Party fan fiction about an imaginary "McCain-Lieberman Party" which would solve to every one of America's vexing problems, because both sides were oh so equally mean and unreasonable (old-school
The McCain-Lieberman Party begins with a rejection of the Sunni-Shiite style of politics itself. It rejects those whose emotional attachment to their party is so all-consuming it becomes a form of tribalism, and who believe the only way to get American voters to respond is through aggression and stridency.
The flamers in the established parties tell themselves that their enemies are so vicious they have to be vicious too. They rationalize their behavior by insisting that circumstances have forced them to shelve their integrity for the good of the country. They imagine that once they have achieved victory through pulverizing rhetoric they will return to the moderate and nuanced sensibilities they think they still possess.
But the experience of DeLay and the net-root DeLays in the Democratic Party amply demonstrates that means determine ends. Hyper-partisans may have started with subtle beliefs, but their beliefs led them to partisanship and their partisanship led to malice and malice made them extremist, and pretty soon they were no longer the same people.
The McCain-Lieberman Party counters with constant reminders that country comes before party, that in politics a little passion energizes but unmarshaled passion corrupts, and that more people want to vote for civility than for venom.
On policy grounds, too, the McCain-Lieberman Party is distinct. On foreign policy, it agrees with Tony Blair (who could not win a Democratic primary in the U.S. today): The civilized world faces an arc of Islamic extremism that was not caused by American overreaction, and that will only get stronger if America withdraws.
On fiscal policy, the McCain-Lieberman Party sees a Republican Party that will not raise taxes and a Democratic Party that will not cut benefits, and understands that to avoid bankruptcy the country must do both.
On globalization, the McCain-Lieberman Party believes that free trade reduces poverty but that government must invest in human capital so people can compete. It believes in comprehensive immigration reform.
The McCain-Lieberman Party sees Democrats in the grip of teachers’ unions and Republicans who let corporations write environmental rules. It sees two parties that depend on the culture war for internal cohesion and that make abortion a litmus test.
It sees two traditions immobilized to trench warfare.
(A goodly number of Mr. Brooks' commenters all want to know the same thing: Where the Hell have you been these last 5, 10, 20, 40 years? The short answer is that during those years Mr. Brooks was making his fortune toadying for the forces which he now decries and writing endless 800-word glops of Centrist drivel and bad Third Party Porn. The longer answer is that Mr. Brooks' has used his Toadie Years to amass enough clout that no one in the rest of the media would dare to ask him that question.
Meanwhile, commentors at the Washington Monthly are thanking God that someone has finally found the courage to tell the truth about David Brooks!)