David Brooks is dismayed that the two leading candidates for the Republican presidential nomination are nihilistic, demagogic assholes. (I’m paraphrasing, obviously.) Not only would the nomination of one or the other be a disaster for the GOP, but

“Very few presidents are so terrible that they genuinely endanger their own nation, but Trump and Cruz would go there and beyond.”

So, Brooks is calling upon all sensible, responsible conservatives to come together to prevent a horribly imminent possibility, and he hasn’t yet given up hope: “There’s a silent majority of hopeful, practical programmatic Republicans. You know who you are.”

What’s Brooks smoking? Recent polls show Donald Trump with an average support of about 34% of Republican voters; Ted Cruz gets another 19%. Let’s see: 34 + 19 = 53.  How do you extract a “silent majority” from the remaining 47%? (38% if you subtract the 9% who still like Ben Carson.) Are all these quiet conservatives just not talking to pollsters?

Brooks would like sensible conservatives to unite behind one candidate to challenge the Trump/Cruz juggernaut. The most likely prospect would be Marco Rubio, the only “establishment” candidate whose poll numbers rise above the single digits. What’s Rubio been up to lately? Not long ago, he claimed that President Obama was deliberately weakening the United States in its struggle with its enemies.   Just a couple of days ago, he explained that his motivation for his recent gun purchase was partly for protection against ISIS:

If ISIS were to visit us, or our communities, at any moment, the last line of defense between ISIS and my family is the ability that I have to protect my family from them, or from a criminal, or anyone else who seeks to do us harm. Millions of Americans feel that way.”

Yes, this is the voice of 2016’s last best hope for sensible, responsible conservatism in the GOP.

Poor Brooks, who really is a fairly sensible, responsible conservative: he just can’t grasp the fact that his party has left him far behind in its embrace of wacky radicalism. He’s right to call for a reformation of his party, but he is kidding himself if he thinks it can happen any time soon.   Today’s GOP is the product of decades of reactionary evolution. Reversing that even partially will require a long, uphill struggle, with uncertain prospects for success.





  1. Jeffrey Herrmann January 20, 2016 at 12:57 am

    In the same article Brooks urges his party to embrace “… 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 Medicaid payroll tax. This would be a conservatism that emphasized social mobility at the bottom, not cutting taxes at the top.”
    What alternative universe is he living in? Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Bush are in a race to the bottom to give the most trillions in tax cuts to the Plutocrats.
    As you, I feel sorry for this basically decent man whose life-long political allegiance to a party that ceased to exist sometime ago is now on very shaky foundations.

    • tonygreco January 20, 2016 at 9:50 am

      Yes, Brooks is voicing ideas espoused by a group of moderate conservative Republican intellectuals sometimes called reformicons. To my mind, the reformicons don’t have a realistic idea of what their party is fundamentally all about.

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