David Brooks is a leading representative of what we have, in the past, viewed as moderate Republicanism. The victory of the current incumbent, with the support (according to exit polls) of 88 percent of self-identified Republicans, raised the question of what moderate Republicanism might be.
Brooks, who seems increasingly willing to break ranks with the GOP, has nonetheless said as recently as this year that “[one] of [his] callings is to represent a certain moderate Republican Whig political philosophy.” It would take another short piece to explore what work the word “Whig” is doing in there. But it does seem that Brooks’ political soul is some kind of old-school Republican soul, struggling since last year to deal with what his party has become under Donald Trump. And the struggle isn’t going all that easily or well.
So, with apologies for being a few days late and encouragement to click through and read the whole Brooks column, here’s what I meant to put up sooner.
Under the headline “The G.O.P. is rotting,” Brooks published a cri de coeur over what’s become of the Republican Party under President Trump. Republicans made a devil’s bargain with Trump, Brooks argues, thinking they could sell a small part of their souls for the benefits they might reap from having a Republican in the White House while the party controlled Congress. They said and did and went along with dishonorable things, things they knew were wrong, in the hopes that they could gain other things that they believe are right.
Here’s a taste of the column:
Now it’s clear that middle ground doesn’t exist. That’s because Donald Trump never stops asking. First, he asked the party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time, he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.
There is no end to what Trump will ask of his party. He is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently, there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him. Trump may soon ask them to accept his firing of Robert Mueller, and yes, after some sighing, they will accept that, too.
That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.
The Republican Party is doing harm to every cause it purports to serve. If Republicans accept Roy Moore as a United States senator, they may, for a couple years, have one more vote for a justice or a tax cut, but they will have made their party loathsome for an entire generation. The pro-life cause will be forever associated with moral hypocrisy on an epic scale. The word “evangelical” is already being discredited for an entire generation. Young people and people of color look at the Trump-Moore G.O.P. and they are repulsed, maybe forever.