But I can’t resist.
The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.
Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.
History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught.
Jesus H. Christ. ”History” didn’t happen. You voted for an illusion. You thought you were getting a moderate centrist — you got a conventional big government liberal.
My liberal friends saw that they had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to push through their agenda, and they seized it. Good on them for that. (Bad for the country.)
Independents saw what they were doing, and they have fled back to the Republicans, who conveniently have been reverting back to Reaganesque tropes which are very familiar and, I suspect, rather comforting to these voters, many of whom voted for that twenty-five years ago.
What’s going to happen? Well, the Democrats are going to get shelled this fall. The Republicans are going to come in, and they’re going to have to share ownership of the government again.
Depending on how that plays out, we’ll go towards 2012.
Instant Update: Reactions to the development are fun.
For Andrew Sullivan, who still claims to be “conservative” somehow, this is yet another reason to support President Obama.
It seems to me that if, as David notes, it is history that has allowed the perception of Obama’s “big liberalism” to take hold, then it is the duty of moderate conservatives to resist this narrative, not cave into it. And that means the uncomfortable task for real conservatives of stoutly defending this president as the best option we now have. The epistemic closure on the right is how other conservatives still manage to blind themselves to the pragmatic virtues of this president’s remarkable 15 month record at home and abroad. Our job is to insist that the debate continue and that criticism of Obama be based on empirical reality, not ideological fantasy. If we do, we have a president open-minded enough to listen. But if we give up, the old divides win.
Ha ha. Ha.
Brooks seems finally to have stumbled on a more realistic view of where we’re headed:
BLOCK: It’s interesting when you look at Florida, David, because Charlie Crist was considered a potential vice presidential running mate two years ago with John McCain. Now, he seems to be floundering, doesn’t know if he’ll run as an independent. And you see this loyalty oath from the Republican Party. What do you make of all that?
BROOKS: Yeah, well, for people like me who’d like to see a more moderate Republican Party, this is why you just want to go suck on the gas pipe.
(Soundbite of laughter)
BLOCK: Don’t do it.
DIONNE: Don’t do it, David, yes. Better hold you down.
I’ll bite my tongue on that one.
Whatever. If Brooks really wanted his big government Republican Party, he should have moved heaven and earth to elect John McCain.
He and his ilk didn’t, J-Mac lost, and now the GOP has chosen a different path: an old path, a familiar path — a Southern Californian path.
Update again: Since this is my “let’s kick around David Brooks” day, let’s add one more bit.
Look at this reflection on the Bush years, and on the Bush family.
There is a Reagan wing and a Bush wing of the Republican Party. Brooks likes the Bush wing:
David Brooks: I’m glad you brought up W. We’ve all rehearsed the pros and cons of his administration. But I’d ask you to take a look at W. in light of where the G.O.P. is now. In my view, his compassionate conservatism was a valuable if undeveloped impulse, which really could have broadened and deepened the G.O.P. It is an impulse largely lacking now from the party, in an age where the secular anti-government elements have the upper hand and the social conservatives are dormant.
Bush proposed and/or passed major initiatives on education, immigration, poverty, foreign aid and many other areas, which could probably not pass G.O.P. muster right now.
Right now, the Reagan wing is in the ascendancy.
This makes Brooks want to go suck on the gas pipe.