David Brooks breaks with the Teahadis

Better late than never.

I’ve been wondering when mainstream journalists were going to start calling out the extremism of the dominant wing of the Republican party. Today David Brooks answers the call:

Over the past few years, [the Republican Party] has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative. The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. … The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. … The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. … The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. … If responsible Republicans don’t take control, independents will conclude that Republican fanaticism caused this default. They will conclude that Republicans are not fit to govern. And they will be right.

Now, it’s possible to have only limited sympathy with Brooks here. He was, and still is, willing to use the Teahadis he holds in so much (well-deserved) contempt as useful idiots, in the service of a concerted scheme to entrench hereditary plutocracy. If he’s only now discovering that fanaticism doesn’t have an “off” switch, it’s fair to call him a slow learner. It wasn’t Glenn Beck that separated the GOP from reality and made fun of the “reality-based community”: it was Karl Rove and George W. Bush.

But give Brooks credit for saying what most of his fellow conservatives are still too timid to say: that until the Republican Party frees itself of domination by its extreme fringe, it will be unfit to govern.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

12 thoughts on “David Brooks breaks with the Teahadis”

  1. Paul Krugman has this comment on his blog about Brooks’ column:

    My colleague David Brooks seems close to realizing what I realized a decade ago.

    But I’m unreliable and shrill, of course — you weren’t supposed to realize that the GOP had gone off the deep end that early in the game.

  2. Sometimes the biggest “Doh” in front of your nose is the hardest to see of all:

    Beware sociopaths shouting “socialism”.

  3. Shorter David Brooks: The Republicans are not fit to govern because they’ve stopped listening to me.

  4. Brooks is far from breaking with the teahadis. He continues to think that restraining spending, rather than unemployment, ought to be at the top of the nation’s agenda, and to worry about marginal tax rates increasing, “in a way that might pervert incentives.” He still has a lot to learn, and he might at least admit that, exactly as Krugman suggests, he is clearly a very slow learner.

  5. I don’t expect Brooks to turn into a liberal.

    And that’s the point about this debt-ceiling fight. It’s possible to be conservative, i.e., to think that government programs should be cut, taxes should be kept as low as possible, the budget should be balanced mostly with spending cuts, etc., and still think it would be insane to force a default. He’s not talking to liberals– he’s talking to his own base, and saying (correctly) that contrary to what many on the right believe, a default would be contrary to conservative goals.

  6. Yomtov: [Brook’s worries] about marginal tax rates increasing, “in a way that might pervert incentives.” He still has a lot to learn…

    Indeed.

    The idea that the heroic rich man loses his incentives because of taxes, and that the rest of us suffer for it, is a monster lie from aristocratic antiquity. Anybody subscribing to that “rubber stamp” explanation is a chump who hasn’t been paying attention to the Internet’s biggest lesson: The world is full of talent, and there exists ten-thousand hungry and eager people to rush in and fill any void left by the sour and anti-social John Galt. The rich and lazy lord who doesn’t want to work because of taxes will be flushed and forgotten like yesterday’s meal…

    This explains why I continue to believe the real dead wood in our culture are our oligarchs.
    What is wanted is a tax that will drive away their nefarious influence and leave space for real capitalists with vibrant new ideas…
    The Koch overlords, blocking innovating, and preventing carbon capture at its source, are prime examples of the twisted nobility that dampens and mocks the American spirit…

  7. But if a Teahadi wins the nomination, who will Brooks be voting for? In 1884, Mark Twain, a life-long Republican, mugwumped and supported Cleveland, and he was scornful of friends who supported Blaine even though they personally loathed him, as indicated in this quote from his letter to his close friend, W. D. Howells:

    ELMIRA, Aug. 21, ’84.
    MY DEAR HOWELLS,–This presidential campaign is too delicious for
    anything. Isn’t human nature the most consummate sham and lie that was
    ever invented? Isn’t man a creature to be ashamed of in pretty much all
    his aspects? Man, “know thyself “–and then thou wilt despise thyself,
    to a dead moral certainty. Take three quite good specimens–Hawley,
    Warner, and Charley Clark. Even I do not loathe Blaine more than they
    do; yet Hawley is howling for Blaine, Warner and Clark are eating their
    daily crow in the paper for him, and all three will vote for him. O
    Stultification, where is thy sting, O slave where is thy hickory!

  8. And he’s realizing it nearly three weeks before the Republicans are all set to trash the credit rating of the United States.

  9. Brooks thinks that “independents will conclude …?”

    If we’re lucky. They seem to me to be a fickle and ignorant bunch. I think they can tell a good thing only if it is obvious, whereas a bad thing that appears good seems to slip by undetected most of the time.

  10. Didn’t Brooks already denounce the “nihilists” who voted against TARP? Brooks has always been a big-government “national greatness” type neoconservative, acceptable to the NYT set. A little while back he praised British politics for drawing from an elite set of school-chums who make policy together rather than taking their cues from the voting public.

  11. I do appreciate the letter from Twain. Delicious. Nonetheless,

    And he’s realizing it nearly three weeks before the Republicans are all set to trash the credit rating of the United States.

    Nah. They are just playing hardball. They said early on they wouldn’t oppose raising the ceiling, they are just being as hard-*ss as possible, and it seems – if the concession to deep cuts can be believed – that the Dems are playing right into their hands. Let us hope not, but I have little confidence the Dems can pull off much of anything these days.

  12. Brooks says:

    If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment.

    But if the Republicans were “normal,” by Brooks’s definition, they never would have reached this “amazing moment” in the first place. The thing that got them here is the thing that makes them keep going.

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