After David Brooks suggested during an interview that Sarah Palin represents a fatal cancer in the Republican Party, he took heat from both sides of the political spectrum, some saying he isn't being honest in his columns and others suggesting that he is only "pretending" to be a conservative.
Although he didn't mention the interview brouhaha specifically, Brooks defended his position in a column earlier in the week.
In 1976, in a close election, Gerald Ford won the entire West Coast along with northeastern states like New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. In 1984, Reagan won every state but Minnesota.
But over the past few decades, the Republican Party has driven away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts. This expulsion has had many causes. But the big one is this: Republican political tacticians decided to mobilize their coalition with a form of social class warfare. Democrats kept nominating coastal pointy-heads like Michael Dukakis so Republicans attacked coastal pointy-heads.
Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.
What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole. The liberals had coastal condescension, so the conservatives developed their own anti-elitism, with mirror-image categories and mirror-image resentments, but with the same corrosive effect.
Brooks is absolutely correct when he suggests that populists are driving the better educated, more worldly and prosperous half of American society from the Republican Party. Rather than take the warning to heart, the instinctive reaction of extremists on the right has been to self-destructively double-down on ignorance and attack the messenger.
Instead of asking themselves why Frum, Brooks, Parker, Buckley, Kmiec and many other conservative Americans are speaking out against the course taken by the party, short-sighted partisans react by driving the wedge deeper, only to run off more Americans who might otherwise have supported Republican candidates. It may be a gut-satisfying tack for the extremist, but it's incredibly stupid politics. You can't win an election by alienating more and more voters who are repulsed by proud ignorance and hatred. During the 1960s, racists may have done more to turn Americans against racism than all the preaching in the world as decent Americans in droves grew disgusted by the sight of hooded Klansmen and fire hoses turned on human beings.
While I have many disagreements with the Democrats, I would, frankly, be ashamed to find myself in the same tent with characters who are spouting the odious hatred that has become the everyday fare of today's Republican Party. Obama's angry critics lash out at him for associating with Wright and Ayers. Well, guess what? Many Americans are arriving at the conclusion that they must separate themselves from the odious elements of the Republican Party who are now dominating the Republican discourse. Yes, there are a few Democrats like Ayers and Wright out there, but they are not dominating the discussion among Democrats. Whatever Obama's real character, his appeal has been consistently to our better angels. In contrast to this, McCain-Palin has been treating half of America as an enemy that must be crushed and dominated by small-minded, anti-intellectuals who seem very much at home with hate.