The House Republican caucus is close to ungovernable these days. How did this situation come about?Yes, that's what's happening. That's what's been happening to the Republican Party for a long time. A lot of us spotted the trend a long time ago. What was David Brooks writing all that time?
This was not just the work of the Freedom Caucus or Ted Cruz or one month’s activity. The Republican Party’s capacity for effective self-governance degraded slowly, over the course of a long chain of rhetorical excesses, mental corruptions and philosophical betrayals. Basically, the party abandoned traditional conservatism for right-wing radicalism. Republicans came to see themselves as insurgents and revolutionaries, and every revolution tends toward anarchy and ends up devouring its own.
...Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced.... Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple....
In 2009, he was writing about the powerlessness of Rush Limbaugh and other radio talkers -- the people he's now crediting with the development of modern conservatism's inflammatory rhetoric -- because Limbaugh & Co. couldn't prevent John McCain from winning the 2008 Republican primaries:
So what is the theme of our history lesson? It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche -- even in the Republican Party....Just before the 2010 midterms, as Tea Party anger was about to lead to big Republican gains in Congress, Brooks wrote that we needn't fear the insurgents, because cooler heads would certainly prevail:
But, of course, we shouldn’t be surprised by this story. Over the past few years the talk jocks have demonstrated their real-world weakness time and again.
... no matter how often their hollowness is exposed, the jocks still reweave the myth of their own power. They still ride the airwaves claiming to speak for millions. They still confuse listeners with voters. And they are aided in this endeavor by their enablers. They are enabled by cynical Democrats, who love to claim that Rush Limbaugh controls the G.O.P.
But this leadership-versus-the-crazies storyline is overblown. The new Republicans may distrust government, but this will be a Republican class with enormous legislative experience. Tea Party hype notwithstanding, most leading G.O.P. candidates either served in state legislatures or previously in Washington. The No Compromise stalwarts like Senator Jim DeMint have a big megaphone but few actual followers within the Senate.And just after the 2014 midterms? More of the same:
Over all, if it is won, a Republican House majority will be like a second marriage. Less ecstasy, more realism.
Every party in opposition goes a little crazy. For Republicans in the early Obama era, insanity took the form of the Sarah Palin spasm. Veteran politicos took the former Alaska governor seriously as a national figure. Republican primary voters nominated the likes of Todd Akin, Christine O’Donnell and Sharron Angle. Glenn Beck seemed important enough to hold a big rally at the Lincoln Memorial.Brooks has occasionally seen storm clouds on the horizon in recent years -- but to him every cloud has had a silver lining. Reasonable leaders were always ready to assert themselves. Everything was always likely to be fine.
Fortunately, serious parties eventually pull back from the fever swamps. That’s what’s happening to the Republican Party. It has re-established itself as the nation’s dominant governing party.
... at least judging by the postelection comments coming from all corners, [the new Republican establishment] does believe in politics, in legislating, in compromise.
During the Palin spasm, Republicans seemed to detest the craft of governing. Hothouse flowers like Senator Ted Cruz preferred telegenic confrontation to compromise and legislation.
But current party leaders are talking about incremental progress, finding areas where they can get bipartisan support....
It's not happening, and even Brooks knows it now. A pity he was in denial all this time. And too ba he'll revert to denial again as soon as the current upheaval cools down a bit, even though there's almost certainly worse to come.