DAVID BROOKS WILL NOW PROMPTLY FORGET WHAT HE JUST WROTE, AND WRITE IT AGAIN IN ABOUT SIX MONTHS, AS IF FOR THE FIRST TIME
David Brooks is criticizing Republican extremism today. He does this about twice a year, then immediately picks up where he left off, fretting about how America's real problem is that liberalism ignores human nature and disregards mankind's need for traditional morality.
But let's enjoy this while it lasts:
Republicans on the extreme ferociously attack their fellow party members. Those in the middle backpedal to avoid conflict. Republicans on the extreme are willing to lose elections in order to promote their principles.
... 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....
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.
Nice -- and reasonably accurate. The problem is, Brooks was saying more or less the same thing last July:
...the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.
The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no....
The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency.
And yet in today's column, he acts as if nothing was really wrong with the Republican Party until very recently:
Before the G.O.P. meshugana campaign [for the presidential nomination], independents were leaning toward the G.O.P. But, in the latest Politico/George Washington University Battleground Poll, Obama leads Mitt Romney among independents by 49 percent to 27 percent.
And prior to last July, Brooks fretted about Republican intransigence in December 2010, at an American Enterprise Institute debate with Paul Ryan:
And my problem with the Republican Party right now, including Paul, is that if you offered them 80-20, they say no. If you offered them 90-10, they’d say no. If you offered them 99-1 they’d say no. And that’s because we've substituted governance for brokerism, for rigidity that Ronald Reagan didn't have.
But seven months after that, in the July 2011 column quoted above, he was singing the praises of the Republicans, except for that intransigence thing:
The Republicans have changed American politics since they took control of the House of Representatives. They have put spending restraint and debt reduction at the top of the national agenda. They have sparked a discussion on entitlement reform. They have turned a bill to raise the debt limit into an opportunity to put the U.S. on a stable fiscal course.
Republican leaders have also proved to be effective negotiators. They have been tough and inflexible and forced the Democrats to come to them. The Democrats have agreed to tie budget cuts to the debt ceiling bill. They have agreed not to raise tax rates. They have agreed to a roughly 3-to-1 rate of spending cuts to revenue increases, an astonishing concession....
If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment....
Unlike David Frum, Brooks just can't get himself to believe that the Republican Party is so infused with rot that it's altogether unfit for habitation by sane people in its present form. He notices the party's problems twice a year or so, but he regards them as just a maddening flaw in his beloved. His love never abates, and it's never tough love. He won't follow this up by suggesting that a serious intervention is necessary. He'll just go back to attacking people who shop at Whole Foods.