January 29, 2013


A Second G.O.P. (DAVID BROOKS, 1/29/13, NY Times)

Americans are still skeptical of Washington. If you shove a big government program down their throats they will recoil. But many of their immediate problems flow from globalization, the turmoil of technological change and social decay, and they're looking for a bit of help. Moreover, given all the antigovernment rhetoric, they will never trust these Republicans to reform cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare. You can't be for entitlement reform and today's G.O.P., because politically the two will never go together.

Can current Republicans change their underlying mentality to adapt to these realities? Intellectual history says no. People almost never change their underlying narratives or unconscious frameworks. Moreover, in the South and rural West, where most Republicans are from, the Encroachment Story has deep historic and psychological roots. Anti-Washington, anti-urban sentiment has characterized those cultures for decades.

It's probably futile to try to change current Republicans. It's smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest and along the West Coast.

Except that nearly all the big reforms are occurring in the Deep South and Midwest.  Nevermind that Bill Clinton, Newt and W were all Southerners, nearly every Third Way governor is (or is Midwestern) too: Jeb, Jindal, Mitch Daniels, Sam Brownback, Scott Walker, etc.   The simple reality is that you can't move entitlement policies away from their Second Way sclerosis unless you have a Republican legislature, so the Northeast, West Coast, etc. are non-starters.  And they will be until successful reform on the national level makes Republicans palatable again in those regions.  What Mr. Brooks is calling for is a second Democratic Party, when the one we have is already the main obstacle to entitlement  reform.

Posted by at January 29, 2013 3:39 PM

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