For a long time now -- far too long -- our American political narrative has run down two, separate, parallel tracks, both of which happen to be present on the New York Times op-ed page today.
Along one track runs fanatical Conservative Denialism: on every subject from Planned Parenthood to Iran, the Right has taken leave of this world altogether and now exists entirely in a pocket-universe made up of their own propaganda, delusion and dogma. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News run the engine room, keeping the furnace hot as Hell and the wingnut Base cranked up to 11. David Brooks lounges in First Class with the rest of the Centrists, who spend their time re-reading dog-eared copies of "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful" and calmly reassuring each other that there is no engine room, no furnace, and no train. That they are, in fact, gliding high above the grubby world of partisan politics in a stately zeppelin piloted by Henry Clay.
But whether they are stoking the furnaces of this infernal engine with bales of money, or playing "Both Siderist" baccarat in the drawing room, the riders all share one, common characteristic: complete, absolute and ongoing amnesty for anything they ever say or do. A ticket to ride on this train means you can lie all you want, reverse yourself as often as you please, deny your lies and reversals to your heart's content and nothing whatsoever will ever happen to you. Which is why, today, Mr. David Brooks of the New York Times -- who made a career out of relentlessly pimping George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck and slandering the war's opponents, and then made an entirely different career based on denying that he'd ever made a career out of relentlessly pimped George W. Bush's Iraqi Clusterfuck and slandered the war's opponents -- can shart 800-words of raw Likud Party agitprop into the ope-ed page of the New York Times (from the American Conservative) --
Acknowledging that earlier goals were unrealistic or unobtainable is the sort of necessary adjustment that one should be able to make in diplomacy and war, but doing that clashes with the all-or-nothing mentality that hawks usually possess. Thus a major diplomatic success for the U.S. and its allies that comes at remarkably low cost for us is classed as a “strategic defeat” by some of the same people that urged the U.S. to launch a ruinous, costly war that also happened to be the biggest strategic blunder of the last forty years. Brooks’ argument is full of tendentious and faulty analysis, which is just what we would expect from someone that enthusiastically endorsed the Iraq war.
-- and still be asked to pull up his semi-regular chair on Meet the Press, alongside Marco Rubio and Hugh Hewitt:
On @meetthepress Sunday w/@chucktodd @marcorubio @nytdavidbrooks Feeling like Brett Vroman in '74-'75 Bruins again— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) August 7, 2015
Meanwhile, down a parallel track, often powered by little more than coffee, Google and tin-cup fundraisers, the Liberal pump-trolley keeps cranking along, shouting the same message over and over again at the massive Conservative locomotive of ruin and catastrophe that roars alongside us.. Sometimes we get very lucky and the President of the United States stops by to give us a hand. And until yesterday, a powerhouse named Jon Stewart could always be counted on to haul us up the steepest hills and plow us through the deepest drifts of bullshit. And this morning, seated right across from Mr. Brooks on the op-ed page of the New York Times, Dr. Krugman once again got out and pushed.
...It has long been obvious that the conventions of political reporting and political commentary make it almost impossible to say the obvious — namely, that one of our two major parties has gone off the deep end. Or as the political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein put it in their book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” the G.O.P. has become an “insurgent outlier … unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science.” It’s a party that has no room for rational positions on many major issues.Or to put it another way, modern Republican politicians can’t be serious — not if they want to win primaries and have any future within the party. Crank economics, crank science, crank foreign policy are all necessary parts of a candidate’s resume.Until now, however, leading Republicans have generally tried to preserve a facade of respectability, helping the news media to maintain the pretense that it was dealing with a normal political party. What distinguishes Mr. Trump is not so much his positions as it is his lack of interest in maintaining appearances. And it turns out that the party’s base, which demands extremist positions, also prefers those positions delivered straight. Why is anyone surprised?Remember how Mr. Trump was supposed to implode after his attack on John McCain? Mr. McCain epitomizes the strategy of sounding moderate while taking extreme positions, and is much loved by the press corps, which puts him on TV all the time. But Republican voters, it turns out, couldn’t care less about him.Can Mr. Trump actually win the nomination? I have no idea. But even if he is eventually pushed aside, pay no attention to all the analyses you will read declaring a return to normal politics. That’s not going to happen; normal politics left the G.O.P. a long time ago. At most, we’ll see a return to normal hypocrisy, the kind that cloaks radical policies and contempt for evidence in conventional-sounding rhetoric. And that won’t be an improvement.
The world will not change until these two narratives of American politics are forced into collision with each other -- until the liars on the Right and in the Center are compelled to face their challengers head-on.
And since the prime directive of our political media is to prevent this very thing from happening, don't count on any forward progress anytime soon.