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, 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.