Tuesday, October 13, 2015

David Brooks on the Republican House

The stodgy conservative is not happy with Republican radicals:
The House Republican caucus is close to ungovernable these days. How did this situation come about?

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.

By traditional definitions, conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible. Conservatives of this disposition can be dull, but they know how to nurture and run institutions. They also see the nation as one organic whole. Citizens may fall into different classes and political factions, but they are still joined by chains of affection that command ultimate loyalty and love.

All of this has been overturned in dangerous parts of the Republican Party. 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. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. 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.
I agree that Republican efforts to govern have been undermined by their own radical rhetoric. Republican leaders have gotten in the habit of denouncing every Democratic move as Hitlerian treason, and of constantly sounding the alarms of crisis. If they really believe that Obama is on the verge of destroying western civilization, why would they cooperate with him? If he is nearly as bad as Hitler, why would they negotiate a budget with him? More moderate Republicans like John Boehner have tried to have it both ways, waving the red flag of revolt in front of Tea Party audiences and then trying to do old-fashioned deals in Washington. If they now can't keep their own caucus together, it is their own fault for embracing extreme views of this largely imaginary American crisis.

1 comment:

Shadow said...

Boehner had a difficult, almost impossible job, which explains a lot of his behavior as Speaker, I think. Boehner's problem was he could never articulate a message or a vision about what he or his party stands for. This is a problem in general with republicans on the national stage. With one or two exceptions -- Rubio and maybe Christie -- not a single one can articulate a vision, or much of anything else for that matter. I question their language, reasoning, and logic skills. I wonder how many of them could write a 500- to1000-word essay that contained a thesis and a step-by-step attempt to justify it. I can listen to Carson all day and never be sure what he means because he fumbles the language so. Listening to Trump is like listening to a drunk explain to a police officer why he had no choice but to drive -- incoherent babbling. Then there is Huckabee, Santorum, and a host of republican representatives and senators, all of whom sound like an angry neighbor. Bush probably has a vision but damned if he knows how to express it.