Brooks is either experiencing the erratic downside of an especially nasty bipolar break or he's methodically softening the ground for as-close-an-Obama-endorsement-as-NYT-editorial-policy-will-allow column:
[The GOP] won’t be a worthy governing party until it treads the course Lincoln trod: starting with individual ambition but ascending to a larger vision and creating a national environment that arouses ambition and nurtures success.
Brooks' "Lincoln-trod course" is essentially lifted straight from an Obama stump speech.
One can see President Obama as an "American System" Whig (Obama even uses Henry Clay's original term for public-private cooperation, a concept to which Lincoln fiercely subscribed) or see Mitt Romney as a states-rights, hard-money, tough-shit Jacksonian. Or one can be less historical, I really don't care. But however one chooses to see these men, only one in reality is made of the "Burkean conservative" stuff for which Brooks yearns.
And it sure as hell isn't Romney, who's mired, along with his party, as Brooks observes, in a "rampant hyperindividualism" which can only sweat and smother in an uncompassionate, dystopic nightmare of voided "community."
Welcome back, David. This time I hope you stay put.