White-Guy Pundits at Twilight: Two formerly leading conservative columnists ponder the prospects for their former political home, and the cloudy “trajectories” of their careers . . .
Quotes of the Week, from:
Conservative Columnists David Brooks & Bret Stephens
“The Party’s Over for Us. Where Do We Go Now?” (Excerpts)
New York Times — 01/12/2023
David Brooks: Our trajectories with the G.O.P. are fairly similar, and so are our lives. I’m older than you, but our lives have a number of parallels. We both grew up in secular Jewish families, went to the University of Chicago, worked at The Wall Street Journal, served in Brussels for The Journal, and wound up at The Times. . . .
In the 2000 Republican primaries I enthusiastically supported John McCain. I believed in his approach to governance and I admired him enormously. But by 2008, when he got the nomination, the party had shifted and McCain had shifted along with it. I walked into the polling booth that November genuinely not knowing if I would vote for McCain or Barack Obama.
Then an optical illusion flashed across my brain. McCain and Obama’s names appeared to be written on the ballot in 12-point type. But Sarah Palin’s name looked like it was written in red in 24-point type. I don’t think I’ve ever said this publicly before, but I voted for Obama. . . .
When people ask me whether they should end a relationship they’re in, I answer them with a question: Are the embers dead? Presumably when the relationship started there was a flame of love. Is some of that warmth still there, waiting to be revived, or is it just stone-cold ash? In my relationship with the G.O.P., the embers are dead. I look at the recent madness in the House with astonishment but detachment. Isaiah Berlin once declared he belonged to “the extreme right-wing edge of the left-wing movement,” and if that location is good enough for old Ike Berlin, it’s good enough for me.
Bret Stephens: I wouldn’t have had trouble calling myself a Republican till 2012, when I started to write pretty critically about the direction the party was taking on social issues, immigration and foreign policy. In 2016 I voted for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in my life, did it again in 2020, and I think of myself as a conservative-minded independent. If I haven’t finalized my divorce from the G.O.P., we’re definitely separated and living apart. . . .
David: I think the core driver of politics across the Western democracies is this: In society after society, highly educated professionals have formed a Brahmin class. The top of the ladder go to competitive colleges, marry each other, send their kids to elite schools and live in the same neighborhoods. This class dominates the media, the academy, Hollywood, tech and the corporate sector.
Many people on the middle and bottom have risen up to say, we don’t want to be ruled by those guys. To hell with their economic, cultural and political power. We’ll vote for anybody who can smash their machine. The Republican Party is the party of this protest movement.
Bret: Another way of thinking about the class/partisan divide you are describing is between people whose business is the production and distribution of words — academics, journalists, civil servants, lawyers, intellectuals — and people whose business is the production and distribution of things — manufacturers, drivers, contractors, distributors, and so on. The first group makes the rules for the administrative state. The latter lives under the weight of those rules, and will continue to be the base of the G.O.P. . . .”
David: The [Republican] party will either revive or crack up, the way the Whig Party did. But it’s going to take decades. If I’m still around to see it, I’ll be eating mush and listening to Led Zeppelin Muzak with the other fogeys at the Rockefeller Republican Home for the Aged.
Bret: You may well be right about how long it takes. . . .