Once, in my foolish youth, I considered myself a conservative. I certainly do not today. I am sure that I have written before that it was towards the end of the first Bush administration that I began my change, and living in Russia and meeting people from other cultures continued that change. But in this interview with Conservative author David Brooks, he brings up another thing that I had noticed, which has become much more prominent lately. (my emphasis)
[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he’d rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn’t think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I’m afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.
The calcification of Republican/conservative dogma, and the branding of anyone who thinks otherwise as "Socialists" and "Traitors" is beyond bothering. The Republican Party is held captive by it’s own extremists, and in any political party (Democrats as well), the extreme end shuts out all thought and dissent. I feel that the Democratic Party is disjointed enough to be it’s own opposition half the time, but the country is best served when political discourse is open to everyone’s ideas, but we have seen none of that from the current batch of Republicans.
Brooks seems to want to reach out however, and he comments as such:
Obama has the great intellect. I was interviewing Obama a couple years ago, and I’m getting nowhere with the interview, it’s late in the night, he’s on the phone, walking off the Senate floor, he’s cranky. Out of the blue I say, ‘Ever read a guy named Reinhold Niebuhr?’ And he says, ‘Yeah.’ So i say, ‘What did Niebuhr mean to you?’ For the next 20 minutes, he gave me a perfect description of Reinhold Niebuhr’s thought, which is a very subtle thought process based on the idea that you have to use power while it corrupts you. And I was dazzled, I felt the tingle up my knee as Chris Matthews would say.
And the other thing that does separate Obama from just a pure intellectual: he has tremendous powers of social perception. And this is why he’s a politician, not an academic. A couple of years ago, I was writing columns attacking the Republican congress for spending too much money. And I throw in a few sentences attacking the Democrats to make myself feel better. And one morning I get an email from Obama saying, ‘David, if you wanna attack us, fine, but you’re only throwing in those sentences to make yourself feel better.’ And it was a perfect description of what was going through my mind. And everybody who knows Obama all have these stories to tell about his capacity for social perception.
Brooks is no Obama fan, but does give him both respect and criticism where he sees fit. And that’s good. A lot of folks have said that if the election goes to the Democrats, that this could be a full collapse of the current Republican party. I think that’s not likely, but it is more likely that this would be similar to the rebuild of the Democratic party that has happened post-Gingrich. Gingrich was good in that he shoved out the worst and most corrupt of the entrenched Democrats, and forced the party to rebuild itself. That would be good for the Republicans as well. A fair dose of the attitudes that Brooks is showing here, of respect for ideas and your opponent, would do the party well.
But it remains to be seen if the folks still in the party even want this, after all, the Bush years are proof to Republicans that it’s a lot easier to just complain about government than it is to actually govern.