Friday, September 20, 2019


Is this terrible? Of course it's terrible.

It's not terrible the way it would be if, say, Maureen Dowd were writing it. She'd have really leaned into her personal distaste for Elizabeth Warren. Brooks pretends his own distaste is just an imaginary exit-poll result:
Many pundits predicted that Warren was too much the progressive regulator in chief to win a general election. Indeed, her personal favorability remained low. But the election was about Trump....
Warren wins and Democrats pull off a congressional sweep. Then a strange thing happens:
After that election, the Republicans suffered a long, steady decline. Trump was instantly reviled by everyone — he had no loyal defenders. Only 8 percent of young people called themselves conservatives. Republican voters, mostly older, were dying out, and they weren’t making new ones. For the ensuing two decades the party didn’t resonate beyond its white rural base.
Does anyone really think that will happen? Not Trump's post-presidential unpopularity, but the decline of the GOP. I agree that Trump ought to be reviled even by the people who love him now, if the George W. Bush, Paul Ryan, and Newt Gingrich are appropriate models to go by. Yet I suspect that Trump is a special figure on the right, more important than even Saint Reagan. If he's defeated, he'll be the right's top martyr, and his defeat will be the ultimate stab in the back.

But it's the GOP's decline that makes no sense to me. Do you really think the party will just go away quietly? Do you think a billionaire class that's enjoyed decades of getting 100% of what it wants on taxes and regulations won't find some way to revive the party that's unabashedly on its side? Do you think the plutocrats won't find a way to reconstitute the GOP the way they did after Bush's defeat, when the Tea Party rebranded Republicans while carrying forward the same old resentments on guns, abortion, "big government," and race? Also, do you think Republicans won't find a way to resume winning elections through anti-democratic means?

Brooks imagines the Warren administration destroying itself. He savors his portrayal of Warren's aides as evil meritocratic villains:
The American educated class celebrated the Warren victory with dance-in-the-street euphoria. In staffing her administration, she rejected the experienced Clinton-Obama holdovers and brought in a new cadre from the progressive left.

The euphoria ended when Warren tried to pass her legislative agenda. One by one, her proposals failed in the Senate: Medicare for all, free college, decriminalizing undocumented border crossing, even the wealth tax. Democratic senators from red states, she learned, were still from red states; embracing her agenda would have been suicidal. Warren and her aides didn’t help. Fired by their sense of moral superiority, they were good at condemnation, not coalition-building.
A recession hits in 2021, and now, in Brooks's scenario, we're talking about "the failure of two consecutive presidencies." (My guess is that rank-and-file Republicans will never regard the Trump presidency as anything other than a complete success.)

Brooks writes that "the nation had three political tendencies — conservative populism, progressive populism and moderate liberalism." Ultimately, moderate liberalism wins, because it's really Amurricun.
Moderate liberals had a basic faith in American institutions and thought they just needed reform. They had basic faith in capitalism and the Constitution and revered the classical liberal philosophy embedded in America’s founding. They inherited Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’s millennial nationalism, a sense that America has a special destiny as the last best hope of earth.

Progressives had much less faith in American institutions — in capitalism, the Constitution, the founding. They called for more structural change to things like the Supreme Court, the Electoral College and the basic structures of the market. Trump’s victory in 2016 had served for them as proof that racism is the dominant note in American history, that the founding was 1619, not 1776. They were willing to step on procedural liberalism in order to get radical change.
Evil progressives stole the Democratic Party from moderate liberals, but in the final reel, the heroic moderates win it back (cue stirring John Williams music). The secret weapon: thrifty, hardworking immigrants.
With the Republicans powerless and irrelevant, the war within the Democratic Party grew vicious. Progressives detested moderate liberals even more than they did conservatives. The struggle came to a head with another set of Democratic primaries in 2024.

The moderate liberals triumphed easily. It turns out that the immigrant groups, by then a large and organized force in American politics, had not lost faith in the American dream, they had not lost faith in capitalism. They simply wanted more help so they could compete within it.

By 2030, progressive populism burned out as right-wing populism had. The Democrats became the nation’s majority party. This party ran on a one-word platform: unity. After decades of culture, class and demographic warfare, moderate liberals defined America as a universal nation, a pluralistic nation, embracing all and seeking opportunity for all.

In a wildly diverse nation, voters handed power to leaders who were coalition-builders not fighters. The whole tenor of American politics changed.
None of this will happen. Brooks believes it will because he's never seen the flaws in his own party. If Democrats -- from whatever wing of the party -- win in 2020, they'll have to fight harder to stay in power than they did to gain power. The corporatist GOP will do every nasty thing imaginable to regain control. But Brooks doesn't see the nastiness, the way a fish doesn't see water -- he's been immersed in it for years.

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