We love reading David Brooks for the occasional laugh. Unlike most other conservative political pundits, who are simply hypocrites and liars and not troubled by the truth, Brooks makes a twice-weekly earnest effort at squaring the circle of his conservative philosophy with what's actually happening in the world. He's the Grantland Rice of the political page, possessing a deft touch for the sentimental phrase, living in a mental state of divorce from harsher realities.
This week's case in point involves his observations about what can only be described as the far rightward drift of the Republican party since the election of Barack Obama to POTUS. Brooks's Thursday NYT column details the fading political fortunes of a Gulf War veteran/San Diego Republican, one Nathan Fletcher. As part of his candidacy for Mayor of San Diego, Fletcher has adopted a few positions that most liberals or lefties would find amusing but irrelevant (he supports bike paths, apparently, which Brooks considers to be of weighty importance). But for that and some moderate stances on immigration and "the environment" he has run afoul of the Tea Partyists, and the hard liners have backed City Councilman Carl DeMaio. As a consequence, Fletcher, who sounds like the classic "good guy with whom you might disagree on political stuff", is leaving the Republican tent.
Now any perceptive, or any sane, observer would note that this represents yet another demonstration of the quantum change in the radicalization of the Republican party from respectable-but-flawed to utterly-nutso. It doesn't take a genius to have seen that process--in which the most dangerous, racist, xenophobic, paranoid elements have chased away any voice of reason--has robbed the party of honorable moderates like Fletcher, Lincoln Chafee, and Michael Bloomberg among others in favor of a rabble of Know Nothings. It doesn't require a political mind like Henry Kissinger's to understand that the ideological progeny of Barry Goldwater and Joseph McCarthy are now firmly in control of the party's destiny, and that at most Barack Obama merely catalyzed an inexorable process that's been rolling since Ronald Reagan's ascendancy.
And what conclusion does the perspicacious David Brooks arrive at? That since it's happening on the right, the same thing must by definition be happening on the left.
No, really. In all his mental arithmetical glory, this is Brooks's last paragraph: "Fletcher...represents a nationally important test case. Can the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, who were trained to be ruthlessly pragmatic, find a home in either party?...As the two parties become more insular, is it possible to mount an independent alternative?"
That's my emphasis, for he spends an entire column dissecting the far right lurch and then finishes wondering about where a moderate's to go when both parties become so rigidly orthodox. Brooks is apparently unaware, or has conveniently ignored, the political career of Tammy Duckworth, Gulf War veteran and still happily at home within the Democratic tent. Ms. Duckworth, who lost both legs during her tour, ran for Congress in the Illinois 6th district in 2006 and lost a close contest to the Republican candidate after a series of predictably scuzzy political maneuvers. As for other vets who drift Democrat but have been ousted by orthodox lefties, I'm waiting to hear a list of examples from Brooks. And I suspect I'll be waiting for quite a long time.
Yet the most amusing aspect of seeing this particular argument, that the Dems are headed toward as equally nutty a place as the Republicans, is that it took place as the Affordable Care Act's constitutionality was debated before the Supreme Court. The Billy Rubin Blog staff is too emotionally spent to contribute to any discussion regarding its legitimacy, political or legal; you can guess what we think.
But like the law or no, no matter how loudly Fox News attempts to tell you otherwise, this law was by no means the gem that hard lefties enforced on the moderates of the Democratic party. Rather, it was very much the other way around: a crappy rightward compromise that a small minority of centrists enforced on the vast majority of Democratic congressfolk who preferred either a single-payer system or the so-called "public option". Despite overwhelming support within the party for either of those approaches, the "individual mandate" being argued before the Court this week was one originally developed by the right-wing Heritage Foundation as a free-market solution to universal health care coverage.
The main reason why this took place is because of a weak and largely ineffectual President. Regardless, I think the Democratic party passing a health care law thought up in the war room of the Heritage Foundation hardly qualifies as evidence of the Dems becoming more insular, David Brooks's nonsense to the contrary notwithstanding.