Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Incredibly, both David Brooks and Richard Cohen come to the conclusion that the Republican Party has lost its mind.

I am paraphrasing, of course. If you want to see the gist of what they both said, here is a summary from Washington Monthly.

First, Cohen:

Someone ought to study the Republican Party. I am not referring to yet another political scientist but to a mental health professional, preferably a specialist in the power of fixations, obsessions and the like. The GOP needs an intervention. It has become a cult. […]

The hallmark of a cult is to replace reason with feverish belief…. This intellectual rigidity has produced a GOP presidential field that’s a virtual political Jonestown. The Grand Old Party, so named when it really did evoke America, has so narrowed its base that it has become a political cult. It is a redoubt of certainty over reason and in itself significantly responsible for the government deficit that matters most: leadership.

Then Brooks:

If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred million dollars of revenue increases.

A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.

The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.
This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.

But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.

The members of this movement do not accept the logic of compromise, no matter how sweet the terms. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch in order to cut government by a foot, they will say no. If you ask them to raise taxes by an inch to cut government by a yard, they will still say no.

The members of this movement do not accept the legitimacy of scholars and intellectual authorities. A thousand impartial experts may tell them that a default on the debt would have calamitous effects, far worse than raising tax revenues a bit. But the members of this movement refuse to believe it.

The members of this movement have no sense of moral decency. A nation makes a sacred pledge to pay the money back when it borrows money. But the members of this movement talk blandly of default and are willing to stain their nation’s honor.

The members of this movement have no economic theory worthy of the name. Economists have identified many factors that contribute to economic growth, ranging from the productivity of the work force to the share of private savings that is available for private investment. Tax levels matter, but they are far from the only or even the most important factor.

I usually don’t read either of these columnists. Brooks sometimes makes some great points and comes across as a thinking, rational conservative. And then he spoils the moment by saying something completely insane. Cohen, well, I have no understanding about why he is thought of as a “center-left” journalist. I can’t think of much that he has written that I agreed with. I think he represents about the worst of the “beltway thinking.” But to have these two people put out columns on the same week that essentially say the same thing, that the Republican Party has lost it’s mind (yes, paraphrasing, but “Jonestown” and “cult” are pretty damning), that’s saying something.

Maybe the tide is finally turning. Maybe our press is finally going to find the backbone to stand up to the Republican Party and report on what is really going on in American politics these days.


Until then, I remain with a deep sense of despondency over the state of American politics. It’s like riding in a car going 90 mph with a madman at the wheel who really doesn’t care if he crashes the car or not, because he doesn’t believe in traveling by cars and if he does crash, well, that sort of “proves” his point, doesn’t it?

Update: Harsh words for Brooks from Driftglass, via Balloon Juice.

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