Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Liberation of David Brooks

And speaking of a declaration of independence, David Brooks declared his own independence from modern American Conservatism in his column today. Entitled "A Moderate Manifesto", Brooks writes:

You wouldn’t know it some days, but there are moderates in this country — moderate conservatives, moderate liberals, just plain moderates. We sympathize with a lot of the things that President Obama is trying to do. We like his investments in education and energy innovation. We support health care reform that expands coverage while reducing costs.

What!?! The David Brooks who became a neo-conservative in the mid-80s (as did I), wrote for the National Review, The Washington Times, The Wall Street Journal, and most significantly, for the house organ of neo-conservatism, the Weekly Standard? In other words, all the significant journals of late 20th century conservatism. He finally moved to the New York Times at some point in the last few years and thus gained some financial independence from those Conservatives who would undoubtedly like to whack him good.

He showed his independence particularly in the last year with his criticisms of Sarah Palin, who was the final straw for several major Conservatives, including Brooks and Kathleen Parker. So now he has made his defection from conservativism final and formal.

Moderates now find themselves betwixt and between. On the left, there is a president who appears to be, as Crook says, “a conviction politician, a bold progressive liberal.” On the right, there are the Rush Limbaugh brigades. The only thing more scary than Obama’s experiment is the thought that it might fail and the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it.

Those of us in the moderate tradition — the Hamiltonian tradition that believes in limited but energetic government — thus find ourselves facing a void. We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. We’re going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force.

So this is what the term 'Conservative' has come to, a synonym for the "Rush Limbaugh brigades." My, how things are changing.

Brooks was always one of the more likeable and reasonable conservatives, and I've always thought if someone were to break ranks, it might be him. I guess this last election cycle was the straw the broke the camel's back.
Welcome to the great pragmatic center, David! I look forward to your columns for many years to come, as you continue your thoughtful political pilgrimage.

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