Brooks on the Implosion of the GOP
Conservative columnist David Brooks reads the writing on the wall and offers a solution in The New York Times.
Rarely has a party so passively accepted its own self-destruction. Sure, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are now riding high in some meaningless head-to-head polls against Hillary Clinton, but the odds are the nomination of either would lead to a party-decimating general election.
The Tea Party, Ted Cruz’s natural vehicle, has 17 percent popular support, according to Gallup. The idea that most women, independents or mainstream order-craving suburbanites would back a guy who declares his admiration for Vladimir Putin is a mirage. The idea that the G.O.P. can march into the 21st century intentionally alienating every person of color is borderline insane.
Worse is the prospect that one of them might somehow win. Very few presidents are so terrible that they genuinely endanger their own nation, but Trump and Cruz would go there and beyond. Trump is a solipsistic branding genius whose “policies” have no contact with Planet Earth and who would be incapable of organizing a coalition, domestic or foreign. Cruz would be as universally off-putting as he has been in all his workplaces. He’s always been good at tearing things down but incompetent when it comes to putting things together.
Years ago, reform conservatives were proposing a Sam’s Club Republicanism, which would actually provide concrete policy ideas to help the working class, like wage subsidies, a higher earned-Income tax credit, increased child tax credits, subsidies for people who wanted to move in search of work and exemption of the first $20,000 in earnings from the Medicare payroll tax. This would be a conservatism that emphasized social mobility at the bottom, not cutting taxes at the top.
Maybe it’s time a center-right movement actually offered that agenda.
And maybe it’s time some Republicans took a stand on what is emerging as the central dispute of our time — not between left and right but between open and closed. As the political scientist Matthew MacWilliams has found, the key trait that identifies Trump followers is authoritarianism. His central image is a wall. With their emphasis on anger and shutting people out, Trump and Cruz are more like European conservatives than American ones.
Governing conservatism has to offer people a secure financial base and a steady hand up so they can welcome global capitalism with hope and a sense of opportunity. That’s the true American tradition, emphasizing future dynamism not tribal walls. There’s a silent majority of hopeful, practical, programmatic Republicans. You know who you are.