I had underestimated David Brooks' philosophical disaffection until I reached his stunningly alienated, elegiac conclusion in this morning's column, in which he essentially ranks the contemporary GOP as commensurate with fascist persecution:
First they went after the Rockefeller Republicans, but I was not a Rockefeller Republican. Then they went after the compassionate conservatives, but I was not a compassionate conservative. Then they went after the mainstream conservatives, and there was no one left to speak for me.
Not merely pols but commentators, too, of every ideological stripe are fond of dog whistles, but make no mistake (as if one could here). That was no whistle or wink; that was a loudspeaker blaring to the authentically conservative compound: Run for your lives, our once-noble movement has ignominiously degraded into utter philosophical depravity. Again, Brooks:
In the 1960s and ’70s, the fight was between conservatives and moderates. Conservatives trounced the moderates and have driven them from the party. These days the fight is between the protesters and the professionals.... The big difference is that the protesters don’t believe in governance.
And the protesters are winning, if they have not in fact won -- a consequence chiefly of the professionals' pusillanimity.
Brooks asks, finally, what virtually every unintoxicated student of American political history has been asking for years (i.e., more than five):
[W]here have these party leaders been over the past five years, when all the forces that distort the G.O.P. were metastasizing? Where were they during the rise of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck? Where were they when Arizona passed its beyond-the-fringe immigration law? Where were they in the summer of 2011 when the House Republicans rejected even the possibility of budget compromise?
I can answer that, Mr. Brooks. They were lounging in their cloakrooms' soft-leather, wingback chairs, breezing their eyes across conservative columns that dwelled, for example, on socioeconomic functions of "happiness," rather than conservative columns that relentlessly smashed the emergency glass and frantically rang the alarm bell: Has this party gone fucking nuts -- or what? Granted there have been a few conservatives, such as Andrew Sullivan, doing just that; but on the whole authentic conservatives have tended to sigh and tsk-tsk instead of unambiguously condemn.
And now, it may be too late. The Republican Party may be irredeemable as a conservative party. It, and the radical philosophy it has embraced in a smothering death-hold, no longer, as law professor Carl Bogus poignantly writes in his latest work, Buckley, embraces a conservative "philosophy of caution and prudence," or is aware of "the dangers of unintended consequences," or fosters "community -- a hallmark of Burkeanism," or rejects "military adventurism," or ponders the merits of "pragma[tism]." Rather, "Conservatism [is] now based on immutable truths of human nature and Christian values," which of course isn't conservatism at all -- not, anyway, the authentic conservatism of Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk or Robert Taft.
For heaven's sake I as a democratic socialist am more authentically conservative than just about any self-identified conservative is these days -- assuming, that is, one properly interprets "conservative" as "Burkean," as did, for instance (and as Bogus notes), Sen. Eugene McCarthy; in whose philosophical camp one must also include Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama.
At any rate, it's good to see David Brooks finally ringing the bell with unmistakable clarity, even if the horses have already stampeded out of the barn.