David Brooks is a Republican. That's why I hope this piece will have an impact. In it, Brooks offers a powerful critique of the Rand-Ryan-Romney vision, a radical one in which, at bottom, everyone is either a heroic entrepeneur or a loser.
After a dig at the Democrats (Brooks is a Republican, remember), he praises the energy of his party, but then offers a serious, thoughtful, and highly effective critique of the philosophy they are selling so energetically.
But there is a flaw in the vision the Republicans offered in Tampa. It is contained in its rampant hyperindividualism. Speaker after speaker celebrated the solitary and heroic individual. There was almost no talk of community and compassionate conservatism. There was certainly no conservatism as Edmund Burke understood it, in which individuals are embedded in webs of customs, traditions, habits and governing institutions.Here we see Brooks, even though he may disagree with many of the Democrats' policy solutions, clearly offering an indirect endorsement of the Obama/Warren philosophy that a person who builds a business builds it with the help of the resources we've brought to bear as a community. Brooks recognizes that philosophy as more realistic and productive than the hyperindividualism of his party's right-wing.
(snip)I see what the G.O.P. is offering the engineering major from Purdue or the business major from Arizona State. The party is offering skilled people the freedom to run their race. I don’t see what the party is offering the waitress with two kids, or the warehouse worker whose wages have stagnated for a decade, or the factory worker whose skills are now obsolete.
The fact is our destinies are shaped by social forces much more than the current G.O.P. is willing to admit. The skills that enable people to flourish are not innate but constructed by circumstances. (snip) They celebrate the race to success but don’t know how to give everyone access to that race.
When we Democrats talk about wanting Republicans to be a reasonable opposition party, a party that we can work with even as we disagree, Brooks is the kind of Republican we're talking about. But we are a long way from having that kind of Republican party.
Some time after this election, if it goes the way I hope and believe that it will, Republicans will have to decide what kind of party they are going to be going forward, and whether they want to remain a minority movement dominated by its extreme right-wing. Although there is much on which he and I disagree, I hope David Brooks has a prominent voice in that debate.