Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Brooks & Brothers

Good column today from David Brooks, though a mixed bag in that usual Brooks way. As he does so often, Brooks creates a false equivalence between current Dem and GOP ills and loses some perspective in the process. So what if Obama has lost 7 of the last 13 contests. If he manages to win both SD and MT today, as many think he will, he will have won 8 of the last 15. Either way, he and Clinton are running pretty even, as they have been all year in a race where that media grail "momentum" simply does not exist. The last three months of the campaign have been like the end of a pennant race where the pre-season favorite Yankees play their last 7 games against the hated Red Sox, but start out 7 1/2 games back. So what if the Yanks take 4 of 7 (or 3!)? Follow the math: a race once over is STILL over.

True, Obama has had ongoing difficulty with working class whites, specifically Appalachian ones, but a major reason for that has been Hillary's brawling, never admit defeat campaign, a campaign that will end roughly TODAY. Of course Obama has reason to feel good about that. He's been fighting a war on two fronts, and now he's down to one. Did VE Day suck because we were still fighting the Japanese? Um, no. Obama will have ample opportunity to define his personal narrative over the coming months and at the Democratic Convention, much as Bill Clinton did in 1992 with A Man From Hope. He's got a great story, and he's already demonstrated with his books and speeches that he knows how to sell/tell it.

On the other hand, Brooks does appear to be the one Republican with a national podium who actually understands the perilous situation of both his party and the "conservative" movement that runs it. Here's his best paragraph:

More fundamentally, McCain’s problem is that his party is unfit to govern. As research from the Republican pollster David Winston has shown, any policy becomes less popular when people learn that Republicans are supporting it. If the G.O.P. sponsored the sunrise, voters would prefer gloom. Many Republicans are under the illusion that they are in trouble because they’ve betrayed their core principles. The sad truth is that if they’d been more conservative, they’d be even further behind.

As obvious as this point is, Brooks is the only person on the right I've heard make it. For most of the Kool-Aid drinkers, the movement is never wrong, it just uses flawed vessels to convey its divine truths. So the GOP needs to move farther right: slash spending, cut taxes for the rich, threaten Iran, demonize immigrants, appoint harder right judges, etc. Most of the right is lost in a haze, arguing that George Bush's problems were in being too "liberal," a point made coherent only by its assumed non-falsifiability. Whether or not the wingnuts like it, Bush is a "Reagan" conservative, and it is that "fusionist" synthesis of moral traditionalism and libertarian economics, joined to a Leninist sense of righteousness which has failed so utterly over the last decade.

Brooks knows this, and McCain did too--in 2000. Now, however, McCain is stuck in the Reagan/Bush trap, and he has no idea how to get out. On the major issues for this campaign--Iraq, the economy, the unfettered executive, the courts (specifically, the potential overturning of Roe)--Saint John is indistinguishable from Devil George. Searching for daylight on earmarks and global warming will be a Sisyphean task. There's just no traction to be gotten there, and it is a delusion to think otherwise. Brooks may hope that McCain's problem tracks with Obama's. It does not. One party has a healthy apple that needs a good polish; the other has a reddish surface barely concealing a core full of worms and rot.


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