A cri de coeur over what the Republican Party has become

David Brooks
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David Brooks

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.

Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 12/15/2017 - 01:59 pm.

    I have to say

    …it ain’t just young people who are being repulsed.

  2. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 12/16/2017 - 08:09 am.

    Brooks is so Precious

    The GOP has been playing footsie with racists for decades now. It goes back to Nixon’s Southern Strategy. It continued with Ronald Reagan’s 1980 general election kick off near Philadelphia, Mississippi, home to one of the most horrific crimes of the Civil Rights era. In Philly Reagan said he believed in States’ Rights, and the message was unmistakable. On assuming office, RR didn’t disappoint, opposing a holiday for Rev. Martin Luther King, attempting to weaken the Voting Rights Act as well as attempting to get tax exempt status for private school that discriminated based on skin color.

    Add too that Lee Atwater’s Will Horton ads in 1988 (he got the idea from the Gore primary campaign).

    When Tea Party rallies had people holding up racially demeaning pictures of Pres. Obama, GOP “leaders” speaking never mentioned them, and never asked the rank and file Tea Partiers to knock it off, giving tactic approval.

    With Trump the GOP has reaped what it has sown for over a generation.

    And now Brooks is shocked! shocked! to find gambling going on in this establishment. What a righteous phony.

  3. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 12/17/2017 - 09:19 pm.

    He’s REALLLY Trying

    but try as he might, Mr. Brooks can’t separate himself from the party whose attitudes and actions he completely agreed with,…

    until they led (as it seemed inevitable they would, to many non-Republicans),…

    to their natural end: Donald Trump.

    As is the case with everything David Brooks writes,…

    what he’s really writing about is HIMSELF (without the mental/emotional sensitivity to realize that’s what he’s doing).

    Mr. Brooks, sadly, seems to lack the ability to imagine what it would be like to be anyone but himself,…

    nor does he possess the ability to realize that his own motivations may be based on internal factors of which he’s seemingly incapable of making himself aware.

    He can’t understand where the discomforts of his life are coming from, so he projects them outward onto other people and groups and describes those OTHERS as wrestling with the issues he can’t acknowledge or wrestle with within himself.

    That being the case, he, once Trump is gone, will support the Republican Party without reservation,…

    right up until it crowns a NEW Trump,…

    at which point he’ll be Shocked! Shocked I tell you! that such a thing could happen (again),…

    and sorry, Frank, I couldn’t resist borrowing from “Casablanca” after your fine example.

    He has a lot of company within the ranks of the Republican Party,…

    and a good deal in the Democratic Party, too, though the issues they wrestle with are quite different.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 12/19/2017 - 03:32 pm.

      Try 2

      Now I am not happy with many of Trump’s behaviors and comments, and yet given a choice between him and Hillary… I would likely vote for him again. Even though it seems I spend half of my blog time calling him out for his lack of character and lies.

      The reality is that the GOP has a pretty big tent. From a fiscal moderate, libertarian like me to extreme folk like Roy Moore. So given our 2 party system, Brooks and myself will stick with the team that is closest to our belief system. And we will expend effort trying turn the ship…

      Now I assume you are a Liberal, does this mean that you support Antifa’s illegal actions? Do you agree with the folks on the far Left who would happily turn the USA into a Socialistic Democracy?

      Now I am guessing that moderate liberals have many of the same challenges… As the Bernie supporters keep trying to pull the Democratic party to the far left. They try to explain that extremist positions quickly lose a popular mandate… But the tails on the Left and Right seem to be pretty successfully wagging the dog…”

  4. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 12/18/2017 - 08:48 am.

    Hand-wringing at this late date does not remove the stain on his hands.

    So many years of “one one hand…but on the other hand” reasonableness where he always, somehow, inevitably found favor with the right hand have left him a misshapen creature, a complicit enabler who is hysterically trying to create a new career in moralism via elitist forums like the Aspen Institute.

    Chicken Soup for the Truly Evil.

    There is more than one meaning to “character”

    The road to character, indeed

  5. Submitted by chuck holtman on 12/18/2017 - 10:10 am.

    Agree with all the commentors above.

    The Republican party hasn’t “become” anything under Trump. Over the past 50 years its strategy for assembling its base has led it predictably and directly to the Ubuesque authoritarianism of Trump. Those of us who have not been bestowed a lifetime sinecure at the Newspaper of Record for our acumen as social and political observers have been well aware of this for our lifetimes, while Mr Brooks’ talent for not observing it (or for assiduously deflecting it) has allowed him to tuck into a good meal with a nice glass of brandy every night of his professional life. I’m sure that after this little bit of catharsis he’ll be right back at his craft.

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