David Brooks: It's a Pity We Didn't Drive a Stake Through Barry Goldwater's Dead Heart When We Had the Chance


The Last Honest Man in American politics is also, apparently, the Last Moderate:

In these columns I try to give voice to a philosophy you might call progressive conservatism. […]

This general philosophy puts me to the left of where the Republican Party is now, and to the right of the Democratic Party. It puts me in that silly spot on the political map, the center, or a step to the right of it.

The center has been losing political power pretty much my entire career. […]

Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed. […]

These shifts in the electorate have had predictable effects on the two parties. During periods when the government war is at full swing, the libertarian/Goldwater-esque tendency in the Republican Party becomes dominant and all other tendencies become dormant. That has happened now. […]

This is a disappointing time. The Democrats have become the government party and the Republicans are the small government party. The stale, old debate is back with a fury. The war, as always, takes control.

In case you didn't get the message that the Brooksian position represents intellectual curiosity while the "libertarian/Goldwater-esque tendency" is a dog-whistle of "predictable" groupthink, the columnist calls the Government War a "theological debate," " a "social script," "playing out just as you'd expect it to," with "everybody [falling] into their preassigned roles," "strengthening those with pure positions and leaving those of us in the middle in the cross-fire."

Like President Obama and his festival of "false choices" and "tired debates," Brooks' exasperation at the "stale, old debate" is masquerading as above-it-all pragmatism and honesty, when in fact it's an expression of frustration that the opposing side of the argument hasn't had the good manners to declare defeat. David Brooks didn't think the debate over the size of government was stale and old in 2004; he thought that was a particularly bully time to celebrate "the death of small-government conservatism," and pronounce that his then-ascendant "progressive conservatism" was the blueprint for the GOP "to become the majority party for the next few decades." No wonder he's depressed: Not only was he terribly wrong on both policy and politics, but Republican (and Tea Party) upswings have come as a direct result of at long last rejecting Brooks' advice.