The Republican establishment despises conservatives.
There’s no other way to read the sneering rip against conservatives by the New York Times’ resident faux-conservative David Brooks, who launched into a tirade against Rush Limbaugh, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Newt Gingrich on Tuesday. Writing in the Times, Brooks attempted to sum up why the Republican caucus has become, in his words, “ungovernable.” He wrote:
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.
Right-wing radicalism? Modern conservatives see the damage the left has wrought: an ever expanding government, an ever left-shifting social structure, the destruction of the foundations of Western civilizations. More importantly, they see what conservatives like Brooks have done in the face of such groundshifting change: virtually nothing. Here is Brooks’ deeply arrogant description of his own brand of conservatism:
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.
There’s only one problem: this is absolute horseshit. Traditional conservatism stands for principles, not just tactics. Conservatism prefers intellectual humility not because conservatives should politely demur in the face of civilization-destroying leftism, but because lack of intellectual humility leads to tyranny. Conservatism believes in incremental change only when the status quo is decent. It does not prefer incrementalism in rolling back the evils of radical leftism. The idiotic notion that establishment Republicans have done a wonderful job “nurturing and running institutions” has been disproved by years of useless establishment Republican governance. And as to the notion that the nation is “one organic whole…joined by chains of affection,” Brooks is living in a nation that no longer exists. He ought to listen to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton talk once in a while.
Brooks seems convinced that everything will be okay, if we just speak nicely. Conservatives wonder what he’s smoking.
But to Brooks – a man who recently said that Obamacare had achieved “credibility” — the real danger to the republic lies with “dangerous parts of the Republican Party.” Here’s Brooks rhetorically urinating on many of the most prominent proponents of conservatism in the last two decades:
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.
One wonders whether Brooks has ever listened to five minutes of Rush Limbaugh, or whether Limbaugh is too gauche for his chichi sensibilities. Blaming Rush Limbaugh for conservative radicalism while ignoring Rush’s role in returning Congress to Republican control in 1994 seems odd; blasting Newt Gingrich, the architect of that victory, seems equally odd, when you’re talking about successful Republican movements.
But Brooks continues:
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. This produced a radical mind-set.
Herein lies the problem with Brooks and his buddies: they never see crisis. Perhaps conservatives fall into the trap of worrying about crisis too often. But conservatives should be on war footing given the radicalism and tyranny of Barack Obama and his ever-ascendant left. Brooks seems convinced that everything will be okay, if we just speak nicely. Conservatives wonder what he’s smoking. Brooks and his friends find comparisons to Nazi Germany uncouth, and believe it could never happen here, ever, under any circumstances. Most Germans thought the same thing.
Brooks then says that his contempt for conservatives springs from their contempt for politics:
Politics is the process of making decisions amid diverse opinions. It involves conversation, calm deliberation, self-discipline, the capacity to listen to other points of view and balance valid but competing ideas and interests. But this new Republican faction regards the messy business of politics as soiled and impure. Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal.
Brooks was dismissive and arrogant before; now he becomes vile. Conservatives don’t have contempt for politics. They have contempt for the left, and don’t see how useful idiots like Brooks believe that conservatives can compromise with a president who has determined that if he doesn’t get what he wants, he’ll just do it himself. The question for conservatives isn’t compromise: it’s trust. We don’t trust the left, and we don’t trust Brooks and those who ally with him to protect us from them. Compromise is a strategy, not a principle.
And why should conservatives trust “conservatives” like Brooks when he calls them racist for disagreeing with him? He says it’s nasty to view “countrymen with different views” as “alien” – even if their values are alien to the United States traditionally – but then “others” all conservatives as bigots.
Finally, Brooks says that conservatives are just plain incompetent:
This anti-political political ethos produced elected leaders of jaw-dropping incompetence. Running a government is a craft, like carpentry. But the new Republican officials did not believe in government and so did not respect its traditions, its disciplines and its craftsmanship. They do not accept the hierarchical structures of authority inherent in political activity…Really, have we ever seen bumbling on this scale, people at once so cynical and so naïve, so willfully ignorant in using levers of power to produce some tangible if incremental good? These insurgents can’t even acknowledge democracy’s legitimacy — if you can’t persuade a majority of your colleagues, maybe you should accept their position. You might be wrong!
Or, perhaps conservatives realize that Brooks’ traditional way of governing leads to epic failure. Running a government may have been a craft back when the Democrats weren’t taking a sledgehammer to the machinery. But how exactly does Brooks expect craftsmen to work when Harry Reid is shoving iron rods into the gears of government?
And most of all, does Brooks truly believe that conservatives have an obligation to give way all of America’s central tenets in the name of the majority? That’s the most anti-conservative position imaginable; the founders would have laughed at him openly for such foolishness. Edmund Burke, the founder of modern conservatism, would have scoffed at that populist notion.
People who don’t accept democracy will be bad at conversation. They won’t respect tradition, institutions or precedent. These figures are masters at destruction but incompetent at construction. These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed. But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around.
It is worth noting that screaming about your humility and the arrogance of your opponents in the pages of The New York Times does not constitute being good at conversation.
More importantly, conservatives accept democracy. But more importantly, we accept the principles that undergird democracy: principles of individual liberty and limited government that are rejected wholesale by the left. There can be no compromise on those principles. Compromise of those principles is betrayal. That’s why we’re at an impasse in the Republican Party: not because conservatives stand up for conservatism, but because non-conservatives insist that compromise and political nicety, rather than principle, lie at conservatism’s heart.