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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

House GOP Fiasco: Long Time Coming

I’m often critical of New York Times columnist David Brooks for finding countless ways to reinforce Republican talking points despite beginning almost every column looking at politics from a lofty, independent perspective.
But in yesterday’s column, Brooks threw off the party yoke, and flayed the House Republicans who killed the financial bailout bill as “nihilists” on a “single-minded mission to destroy the Republican Party,” and who may “go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of the 21st century.”
Over at Political Animal, Steve Benen welcomed the Brooks column as a “pleasant surprise,” that occurred “better late than never.”
I usually agree with Steve, and I probably have a more positive overall opinion of David Brooks than he does, but my reaction to the column was: “Why did it take you so long to figure this out, David?”
The path that led to Monday’s vote can be directly traced back to those days just after the 2006 Republican midterm debacle, when conservatives talked themselves into the bizarre conviction that George W. Bush and the GOP had lost their way because of insufficient ideological rigor, and excessive concern for “respectable” mainstream opinion. Ever since, they’ve been determined to place ideology first, and have exerted stronger control over Republican orthodoxy than you’d ever imagine to see in an embattled party.
And that same path was strewn with rose petals by the presidential campaign of John McCain, whose incessant pitch to conservatives was that he and they were fellow “mavericks” against the unpopular GOP establishment, ready to win in Iraq, take on Iran and Russia, slash federal spending, “reform” entitlements, revive the supply-side gospel, and finally win the big cultural fights that Bush and Rove would only use as election-time base-bait.
McCain’s “maverick from the Right” campaign in his own party was clinched once and for all when he looked far down the GOP bench and came up with a running-mate who was without any doubt a “maverick from the Right,” mocked as much by neocon double-domes and mandarin pinstripes in the GOP as by any “liberal elites.”
So when conservatives were presented with an opportunity to simultaneously repudiate George W. Bush and express a neanderthal economic ideology, while annoying elites across the political spectrum, of course they jumped on it with both feet. The only surprising thing about it is that the conservative “maverick” John McCain didn’t follow them.
Folks like David Brooks should pay more attention to, and learn to respect as genuine, what conservative activists in and out of Congress say every day. They really do think that criminalizing abortion and demonizing gay people is a lot more important than bailing out financial institutions. And they really do think that economic catastrophe is a small price to pay for resisting “socialism” They aren’t just feckless foot soldiers for the “responsible” GOP establishment that Brooks adores. They are the Republican Party now, and they aren’t going away. Get used to it.

One comment on “House GOP Fiasco: Long Time Coming

  1. doxastic on

    This new poorly-behaved hard-right wing seems to be an unexpected product of the early 90’s culture war. As the GOP rebranded itself pseudo-populists with conservative cultural agendas and economic or foreign-policy platforms that seemed little more than remedial sloganeering, they created the conditions for a new kind of politician. And while these new rough-hewn gun-and-bible conservatives may have turned the middle of the country deep red, they also didn’t seem to get the joke: the culture war was a means, but not an end. It couldn’t and was never supposed to be won, it just won elections. But now, faced with the serious business of policymaking, these walking-talking wedge issues have turned the politics of inexhaustible resentment against their own leadership. Who’s the joke on now?


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