Will Politicians Ignore David Brooks?

July 6th, 2011 at 12:35 pm | 33 Comments |

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One of the things that has attracted me to David Brooks over the years is his willingness to not get so heated in his writing.  In a time when it seems that what sells is trying to show everyone how outraged you are, advice Brooks quiet conservations about issues has always been a breath of fresh air.  Brooks has been critical of folks across the political spectrum, but it was never done in a withering attack style.  That’s just not David Brooks.

At least it wasn’t until yesterday.

Brooks incredible tounge lashing of the GOP for it’s dance with default should be a sign to Republicans that they are in danger of losing any and all credibility.  When you get the man who has made a living on calls for civility angry, you’ve pretty much lost the independents and moderates that are needed to win.

The modern GOP is in a bit of a bind. My guess is that even within the halls of Congress there are a number of GOP members of Congress who agree with Brooks.  They want to make a deal with Democrats to avert any kind of fiscal disaster.  But I also think the GOP is trapped by its own ideology; faced with a base that doesn’t want any compromise and will punish any lawmaker that goes against their wishes. As Jonathan Bernstein notes, citing a recent New York Times piece, GOP lawmakers are kept in line using fear:

What matters here, however, isn’t what actually happens in these primaries (after all, virtually all incumbents will survive them), but what’s in the heads of Republican Members of Congress. And for that, it’s possible that the ambiguities and unclear interpretations in Steinhauer’s story reflect accurately a focus on primaries and Tea Party short leashes that dominate the thinking of those Republicans.

All of which means that, at this point, it doesn’t really matter how many establishment figures defect or how harshly they complain: as long as Republican politicians are convinced that their main vulnerability is primary challenges from the right, they’re going to get crazier and crazier.

The thing is, it’s really not that crazy to worry about challenges from the right. Several Republican incumbents went down to defeat in primaries last year because they were not “pure” enough. It happened enough in 2010 to strike fear in the the hearts of GOP lawmakers. And as Bernstein notes as long as those politicos think this is their fate if they even make a deal, they will ride that crazy train no matter what a columnist says about them.

I really don’t know what the solution is.  Of course, GOP lawmakers should make deals, but the reality is they won’t because of what could be the repercussions of compromising.  Brooks slap across the face should be a wake-up call, but I doubt it will.  So far, there hasn’t been any consequences for going crazy.  There have been consequences for making deals.  Only when a price is paid for ideological rigidity will the GOP be able to change its course.  The question then will be if it’s too late.

Originally posted at Big Tent Revue.

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33 Comments so far ↓

  • Raskolnik

    I like to consider David Brooks a mainline conservative. Accordingly, I would say that (much like William F. Buckley) conservatives ignore him at their own peril.

  • Xunzi Washington

    “I really don’t know what the solution is.”

    The solution is for congressmen to act like patriots and treat country first and their own electoral prospects second. I get that this doesn’t work in 99% of cases, when the threat to one’s country is abstract or small. But that is not the case here. The tea bags are basically telling them to wreck the economy or they won’t be re-elected. That’s the 1% of cases where you man up (or person up) and do the right thing.

    Simple as that.

  • armstp

    All that matters is how the Independents view the debt ceiling vote. Who they blame if it does not work out. I believe Brooks represents the right-of-center Independents. If he is already attacking the GOP with some pretty serious language, then I think Independents will likely blame the GOP if the debt ceiling is not raised. This should be a warning to the GOP.

  • TAZ

    Brooks, Will, Buckley….. names that will either bring the Republican party back into the mainstream or become figurative tent poles raising up a new third party………..

  • DFL

    Although I have my own problems with the current Republican strategy- you can’t make sweeping government reforms owning only one house of Congress- Brooks, like David Frum, directs all his attacks on the right and never on the left. So why would anyone on the right give either man any credence? Having read both Brooks and Frum for many years, it is apparent that both men have an urban, condescending disdain for conservatives outside their narrow millieu. Both Brooks and Frum are socially left. Why not go full-bore left?

  • rbottoms

    Although I have my own problems with the current Republican strategy- you can’t make sweeping government reforms owning only one house of Congress- Brooks, like David Frum, directs all his attacks on the right and never on the left.

    Because the Left doesn’t usually elect its crazies to Congress.

    Who cares what some idiot professor says about monetary policy. But elect some dumbass hick from Georgia who believes he’s more informed than 100 Nobel economists and scholars on the subject and you end up with this current showdown.

    • LFC

      I’m with RB. I was a Reagan Republican. I agreed strongly with him on some things though disagreed strongly on others. But the GOP has been falling farther and farther down the rabbit hole for the better part of 20 years to the point where they are now just plain bats*** crazy.

  • Houndentenor

    “Will Politicians Ignore David Brooks?”

    They never have before. Why would they start now?

  • DFL

    The Democrats are filled with “crazies” from Pete Stark to Dennis Kucinich to Bernie Sanders to Barney Frank to John Olver to Donna Edwards to Keith Ellison to Jesse Jackson Jr. to Neil Abercrombie to Sheila Jackson-Lee(famous for asking about the flag Neil Armstrong planted on Mars) to Carolyn Maloney to Jerrold Nadler to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to …… etc., etc.. The American Socialist Party declares 70 Democrats to be members of the Socialist caucus. The current Democratic Party is so far removed from the historic American nation that, if somehow George Washington came back to life, he wouldn’t recognize Democrats as Americans.

    • anniemargret

      The vast majority of registered Dems are center/left, not far left. And the more right wing and crazy the GOP becomes, the more mainstream America will recognize we need adults in Congress, not problematic toddlers having cranky fits.

  • balconesfault

    Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a “crazy”?

    Barney Frank is a “crazy”?

    I can see how you dislike Bernie Sanders’ politics, but he’s never threatened to destroy the US economy if they wouldn’t pass universal healthcare or strengthen worker protection laws.

    The American Socialist Party declares 70 Democrats to be members of the Socialist caucus.

    I declare “bullshit”. Even the people who originally ran with this contrived tripe have repudiated it.


    Sadly, DFL just demonstrates the point I’ve made repeatedly. Too many of today’s Conservatives do not care if something is factual, if it makes their opponents look bad. In fact, I have no doubt that DFL will repeat this same canard at some other times in the future … and the odds on him going to the forums or e-mail lists where he’s distributed it up to now and apologize for spreading libel are infintessimal.

    Not Jeffersonians … Maoists.

  • Graychin

    Good analysis. Even Orrin Hatch is vulnerable from the Right this year.

    Of course most R’s won’t listen to Brooks. They don’t listen to anybody. I’m not so sure that it’s an election day calculus either. A lot of these guys are true believers who have come to believe their own BS.

  • Elvis Elvisberg

    Meh. The Heritage Foundation/RomneyCare-based health insurance reform plan got exactly one GOP vote, with Republican opposition premised on the idea that it was Kenyan Socialism. Then they won more seats in Congress.

    Being a Republican involves no policy commitments; it’s just a club for people who share similar resentments. This has been clear for a while. No one cares what David Brooks thinks about anything.

  • dmnolan

    “Will Politicians Ignore David Brooks?” Of course they’ll ignore him, if he says something they don’t want to hear. Unless they think there’s profit in feigning outrage…no…that wouldn’t work, they would alienate one of their few “reasonable” public advocates. So yes, they’ll ignore him.

  • rbottoms

    In what way is Keith Ellison crazy? Except perhaps he believes he can practice his religion free of pitchfork wielding assholes harassing him and his family?

    The GOP has a solid tradition of Making Shit Up ™ to suit their narrative.

    Do you really want to go there about a dipshit female politician who regularly displays her complete ignorance of US History and just about everything else. (Palin, Bachmann)

    Does it appear anyone gives a shit what Dennis Kucinich thinks? If his constituents elect him, that’s that district’s problem. And last time I checked, Bernie Sanders was an Independent.

    The GOP builds entire media and think tank machinery around their yahoos and Faux News as a 24 hour a day rooting section proclaiming every beep issuing from their clown car caucus. There is no comparison whatever between the kooks who run the show in the GOP and the fringe players in the Democratic Party who we keep on the fringes instead of making them Speaker of the House.

  • DFL

    If your Americans for Democratic Action ratings hover in the 90-100 % range, you are a socialist and an enemy of the historic American republic.

    • balconesfault

      If your Americans for Democratic Action ratings hover in the 90-100 % range, you are a socialist and an enemy of the historic American republic.

      Question – does wanting to keep the Healthcare Reform Act as passed … or to make it more comprehensive than it already is … make one a Socialist?

      I’m guessing you’d say yes. And thus, you would believe that more than 50% of Americans are enemies of the historic American republic.

      And you have the audacity to call Keith Ellison a crazy?

      You don’t even have the integrity to admit that you were wrong.

  • anniemargret

    That is a refreshingly honest comment, Mr. Sanders.

    The GOP today is sadly beholden to the bigots and narrow-minds that used to infest just the outer edges, but now dominate the party. When Barack Obama ran for Prez back in ’08, the furies from that Pandora’s box were unleashed. The party is where it is today, so far on the fringe right, so full of self-righteousness, so filled with hate and fear, that it no longer truly represents the average American citizen.

    David Brooks is on the money. Out here in the real world, people are suffering…doing the hard work daily of trying to juggle family and job, and keep their heads above water.

    Meanwhile the GOP shows its true colors. Instead of working with Obama to come up with a sensible, fair compromise, which would require adults of course, not the schoolyard bullies that now dominate the party, they opt instead to dig their heels in the sand even further.

    At the core of this problem, is their total contempt for this President, this black guy from Chicago who beat their guys. They still can’t get over it.

    And the other core of the problem is their other contempt – to compromise. They have vilified Dems and liberals and center/left people so much, that they cannot fathom that we make up a huge portion of this country. They simply won’t compromise…it would look so ‘wussy’….

    So go ahead and dig in your heels, GOP. It’s the death of your party and the country will be better for it.

  • YuriPup


    Details matter. Bernie Sanders, god (if there were one) bless his soul (if we had them) is a Socialist. He is not a member of the Democratic party. He caucuses with them, but is not of them.

    Additionally, as near as I can tell from observation, the right doesn’t believe in a center, center left, liberal, or progressive. Everything to the left of RINO’s is socialist. Real socialist ideas are so foreign to US politics you don’t even know what they look like.

  • Raskolnik

    At the core of this problem, is their total contempt for this President, this black guy from Chicago who beat their guys. They still can’t get over it.

    They also can’t get over the fact that he is more of a genuine Christian than most of them will ever aspire to be.

    • dubmod

      Well said. But they will never accept any Democrat as legitimate – they are insane.

  • dubmod

    “Politicians”? Don’t you mean Republicans?

  • ottovbvs

    Brooks is a Republican shill and nothing more. However he’s not stupid. His concern arises from the fact that he realises just what a disaster a default and the consequent shutdown of the US govt would be for the Republicans who would get most of the blame.

  • dubmod

    DFL is typical. No facts, no arguments, just name calling and hyperbole. I recognize the role that infrastucture plays in America’s success. That’s why I want high speed rail, for example, so I can sit on a train a nd work rather than driving three and a half hours each way to a city 200mls away. Commerce follows infrastucture. Education spending is infrastucture – does’nt every capitalist want an educated workforce? I am quite convinced that today’s Republican Party would have opposed the Interstate Highway System.

  • rbottoms

    I really don’t know what the solution is.

    Don’t vote for Republicans. Ever.

  • Stewardship

    Xunzi hit the nail on the head early on. Everything about this and the last two congresses is about getting re-elected. The public good takes a back seat to the employment of 535 people.

  • drdredel

    “Brooks is a Republican shill and nothing more.”

    come on… I disagree with him as much and as often as anyone, but a “shill”?

    • ottovbvs

      I disagree with him as much and as often as anyone, but a “shill”?

      Dictionary defs below. If Brooks doesn’t fall under one or both of these I don’t know who does. And if you doubt me I suggest you google some of Brooks’ pronouncements before and during the Bush era.

      a person who poses as a customer in order to decoy others into participating, as at a gambling house, auction, confidence game, etc.

      a person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.

      Btw Frum is a shill too in case you’re in any doubt.

  • valkayec

    The GOP has already stated they are not only ignoring Brooks, Frum, Bartlett, John Snowe, David Cay Johnston, and Megan McArdle among many others, but the new Gingrich-inspired, Norquist-commanding GOP consider them traitors to the cause. If someone disagrees with their ideology, then that person is not just wrong but must be ignored and condemned.

    We’re sinking fast in world stats as a result of our inability to face reality. Our infrastructure on a global rating is 43rd; our schools are rated about the same if not worse; our income and opportunity inequality is up there with the worst of the third world countries; our cities are blighted and burdened by debt; and unemployment is rapidly becoming more structural than cyclical.

    I understand that many people have metaphorically curled up tightly in fear and are screaming in rage at their circumstances, blaming government. I also understand that the GOP has skewed the conversation to say government spending is the problem – not theirs of course but that of Obama – and that all the nation has to do is reduce spending to a pittance in order to match historically low revenues we’ll be okay. But that is not the truth.

    When Washington was confronted with Hamilton’s national financial plan, he sought advise from both Hamilton and Jefferson. Jefferson made a grand argument against a National Bank (it wasn’t specifically delineated in the Constitution). Hamilton argued that it was the only way to pay the national debt and increase America’s credit and national standing internationally using the two clauses “promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Hamilton argued that without a sound financial system, which paid off its debts on time, the government of the United States would always be at the mercy of lenders’ high interest rates and potentially unable to fund itself when needed.

    Washington stewed over the decision and finally came down on Hamilton’s side, not because he believed Hamilton’s plan was explicitly Constitutional but because he was a rational being who believed he had the obligation to do what was right and good for the country long term.

    I indict any GOP member who fails to increase the debt limit as nothing more than a self-serving twit, to put it politely. If these GOP’ers want so much to hang onto their lush government jobs that they are afraid to teach and explain the facts of economic life to their constituents, then they deserve to lose the next election. And if their constituents are so stupid as to not recognize reality and learn facts, they deserve nothing less than the scorn Eisenhower, Buckley, and Reagan would have heaped on them.

    Frankly, I’m getting really sick and tired of the cons being played on the American people by politicians who are more interested in keeping their jobs than serving the national good as Hamilton and Washington did.

    America deserves better than these modern day self-indulgent destroyers of our nation and our children’s future.

  • Emma

    Congressional Republicans have made the calculation that it is better to lose the presidency in 2012 through crazy group behavior that offends Independents than to face a primary challenge to his or her individual seat.

    Moreover, if the main fear is always a challenge from the right, then conservative viewpoints must continually realign further and further to the right. Does this dynamic have any limits?

    • Rich T Bikkies

      “Does this dynamic have any limits?”

      Yes, when the big corporations backing Congressional Republicans decide that the dynamic is damaging their own financial interests. Are they starting to decide this yet? I don’t think so.

  • MSheridan

    One reason that Democrats in Congress are not as unified as Republicans is that since the GOP has moved more and more toward being a party of fanatics bent on radical change and further and further from conservatism in the traditional mode, the Democratic Party has had to become not just the party of liberals and moderates but also an uneasy home to those nonideological conservatives who do not agree that the modern “conservative” creed is at all conservative.

    Edmund Burke:

    “I cannot stand forward and give praise or blame to anything which relates to human actions, and human concerns, on a simple view of the object, as it stands stripped of every relation, in all the nakedness and solitude of metaphysical abstraction. Circumstances (which with some gentlemen pass for nothing) give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.”

    How many modern Republican elected officials on the national scene can afford (or wish) to eschew abstraction (ideology) and make decisions based solely on the circumstances we face?

  • Primrose

    DFL is so typical accusing people who disagree with him as being crazy though there is no reason to think any he mentioned are crazy (well I don’t know wasserman-shultz so I can’t argue her).

    I am no fan of Dennis Kucinich but he (most of the time) adheres to rational thought, so to Bernie Sanders, actually Bernie Sanders is extremely rational in arguing his case. Jesse Jackson may not appeal to you but he is not crazy or even that extreme. He is a vociferous advocate for those he speaks for but perfectly sane.

    Intensity is not irrationality. We accuse the far right of being crazy because they skip away from rational thought. Bachman and Palin’s don’t simply speak from a philosophical position they make things up out of thin air, or absolutely deny reality.

    And as I’ve said many times, and will say many times more, pulling this stunt with the debt ceiling shows either an absence of financial understanding or an absence of patriotism. It is not something any of the people you named have done.