Friday, March 17, 2023


In his column today, David Brooks acknowledges that the two front-runners in the race for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination are sour, angry prophets of American doom. However, he thinks Republican voters could conceivably reject both Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Why? Because successful Republican governors are so nice.
There are two different narratives running through the Republican Party right now. The first is the Trumpian populist narrative we’re all familiar with: American carnage ... the elites have betrayed us ... the left is destroying us ... I am your retribution.

On the other hand, Republican governors from places like Georgia, Virginia and New Hampshire often have a different story to tell. They are running growing, prospering states....

These different narratives yield different political messages. The bellicose populists put culture war issues front and center. The conservative governors certainly play the values card, especially when schools try to usurp the role of parents, but they are strongest when emphasizing pocketbook issues and quality of life issues.

Gov. Brian Kemp, for example, is making Georgia a hub for green manufacturing, attracting immense investments in electric vehicle technologies. In his inaugural address he vowed to make Georgia “the electric mobility capital of America.”
Well, that's nice -- most politicians (Trump excepted) try to sound positive and upbeat in inaugural addresses. But do we remember Brian Kemp's advertising from his first gubernatorial campaign in 2018? The brandishing of guns he said no one would take from him? The claim that he was ready to round up "criminal illegals" in his pickup truck?

Kemp's first ad of the 2024 campaign was a defiant defense of an "election reform" bill that enraged voting rights advocates all over the country and got the Major Leage Baseball all-star game pulled from Georgia:

Kemp ran on that election bill as well as on a six-week abortion ban and a law permitting Georgians to carry concealed weapons without a permit, and he attacked his Democratic opponent as a police defunder:

So please don't tell me Kemp is in an entirely different category from those nasty culture warriors DeSantis and Trump.

Brooks continues:
The two narratives also produce radically different emotional vibes. The Donald Trump/Tucker Carlson orbit is rife with indignation and fury. Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, Virginia’s Glenn Youngkin and the previous Arizona governor, Doug Ducey, are warm, upbeat people who actually enjoy their fellow human beings.
Yes, but it's not clear whether any of these guys could win a Republican primary today. Youngkin won the gubernatorial nomination in 2021 because Virginia Republicans decided not to have a traditional primary, which quite possibly would have been won by a Trumpist lunatic. Sununu and Ducey were both recruited to run for the U.S. Senate in 2022, but both had alienated Trump and decided to run, presumably because it wasn't clear that they could win their primaries.

Also, Brooks writes about Youngkin as if culture war, particularly on the schools, was an incidental detail in his gubernatorial campaign rather than the centerpiece:

So who could win the nomination if Trump and DeSantis both falter, according to Brooks?
Maybe eyes turn to Tim Scott, an effective, optimistic senator from South Carolina.
You mean this non-culture warrior?
“Pretend you were our nation’s greatest enemy,” [Scott] told supporters. “Say you wanted a blueprint to ruin America. What would you put in it? First, you’d take aim at our patriotism. You’d amplify attention-seekers who say America is an evil country. Make it easy to get rich and famous by feeding the empty calories of anger to people who are starving for hope.”

“In other words, if you wanted to ruin America, you’d keep doing exactly what Joe Biden has let the far Left do to our country for the last two years,” he added.
Angry doomsayers own the party, whether or not David Brooks wants to believe it.

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