When New York Times columnist David Brooks pondered why the Republican Party was in such bad shape recently, he came to the conclusion that a majority of Americans simply no longer support traditional conservatism.
Where one might have found any conservatism for the last decade is beyond me. But make no mistake — voters did not reject traditional conservatism on Nov. 4; they rejected George W. Bush. And the Republican Party is a wreck today because it faithfully rode shotgun with a president fueled by neoconservative ideology, who drove his party into ditch after ditch — while men like Brooks shouted directions from the backseat.
By calling talk host Sean Hannity and think tanks like the Heritage Foundation representatives of traditional conservatism, it is clear that Brooks has spent too much time in Washington, D.C. and New York City, and he's become completely divorced from reality. Exactly where in the last eight years did Hannity or Heritage ever depart from, criticize, or reject the big-government, socialistic, world's-policeman radicalism that defined the Bush administration?
Writes befuddled conservative Paul Gottfried, "How could any adult believe that the advocates of global democratic revolution massed in Beltline think tanks [and] the loudmouth GOP-shill Hannity ... are 'traditionalists'?"
Gottfried is right. The only difference between Brooks and Hannity is that while the opinions of Brooks and his friends helped influence and subsequently wreck the Bush administration, the opinions of Hannity and his friends on talk radio were simply regurgitations of Bush policy, which they dutifully sold to the Republican base and which also subsequently wrecked the party.
So where does Brooks believe the Republican Party should go from here? Brooks writes, "The reformers tend to believe that American voters will not support a party whose main idea is slashing government. They tend to take global warming seriously... Conservatives have to appeal more to Hispanics, independents, and younger voters. They cannot continue to insult the sensibilities of the educated class and the entire East and West Coasts." Not surprisingly, Brooks includes himself amongst the group he calls "the reformers."
Is Brooks saying that tending to big government and global warming, serving up amnesty, ignoring the South and the Midwest, and adoring Manhattan and the Beltway should now guide the Republican Party? How, in God's name, is any of this conservative? And more mind-boggling, how does this vision differ from Bush's example or John McCain's platform?
For eight years Brooks and his neoconservative friends have been wrong about everything — our prospects in Iraq, illegal immigration, disastrous trade policies, the need to bail out Wall Street. When a football coach like Clemson's Tommy Bowden makes too many miscalculations, he gets fired. When Brooks and his friends, the so-called "reformers" at The Weekly Standard, The New York Times, and National Review make too many miscalculations, they get promotions — and expect others to take their advice.
If Brooks and his friends have consistently despised true conservatism in practice, then it might be worth judging the track record of the true conservatives they have despised in person. In 1996, Pat Buchanan ran for president believing that America's habit of trying to be the world's policeman and unfair trade deals like NAFTA would make us less safe, less powerful, and bankrupt. Buchanan was also one of the first to sound the alarm on illegal immigration. Denounced as an "isolationist" and a "racist" by men like Brooks and his friends, virtually everything Buchanan predicted came true.
Like Buchanan, this year Congressman Ron Paul ran for president warning that America's interventionist foreign policy, illegal immigration, and unfair trade deals would reduce national security and increase the deficit. Paul was also one of the first to sound the alarm that a weak dollar and reckless spending would collapse markets. Paul was called an "isolationist" and a "kook" in columns written by men like Brooks and his friends. Brooks' fellow "reformer," neoconservative David Frum, said Paul was a "disturbing personality." And yet like Buchanan, and quite unlike Brooks and Frum, virtually everything Paul predicted continues to come to fruition.
If Brooks now believes that in order to attract independent, young, and urban voters, the GOP should become even more liberal than Bush or McCain, he should remember that the only Republican this year who really excited independent, young and urban voters — from across the political spectrum — was also the most conservative man running for president. Voters never rejected conservatism. The Republican Party did.
And now we are supposed to reject conservatism even more, based on the same advice given by the same advisors, who have left the GOP in the gutter? I think not.
The dinosaur in question is not conservatism — but the Bush Republican. Genuine conservatives can take comfort in the fact that tools like Sean Hannity and go-along-to-get-along groups like the Heritage Foundation will continue to say whatever the Republican Party tells them to. The real danger is whether miserably-wrong men like David Brooks and his friends will continue to have any say in the future of the GOP.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.