Tuesday, March 03, 2009

David Brooks's Call to Moderate Arms: Join the Conservatives

Obamacon NY Times Columnist David Brooks has written his "Moderate Manifesto". In it, he generally laments that he was tricked into believing that Obama was this superb moderate politician that wouldn't reflexively govern to the far left, given the state of the country:
Those of us who consider ourselves moderates - moderate-conservative, in my case - are forced to confront the reality that Barack Obama is not who we thought he was. His words are responsible; his character is inspiring. But his actions betray a transformational liberalism that should put every centrist on notice. As Clive Crook, an Obama admirer, wrote in The Financial Times, the Obama budget "contains no trace of compromise. It makes no gesture, however small, however costless to its larger agenda, of a bipartisan approach to the great questions it addresses. It is a liberal's dream of a new New Deal.

Moderates now find themselves betwixt and between. On the left, there is a president who appears to be, as Crook says, "a conviction politician, a bold progressive liberal." On the right, there are the Rush Limbaugh brigades. The only thing more scary than Obama's experiment is the thought that it might fail and the political power will swing over to a Republican Party that is currently unfit to wield it.

Besides the pure idiocy of Brooks's original take on Obama and his fear of all things conservative, Brooks has called on the so-called "moderates" to take charge and make their feelings be heard:
Those of us in the moderate tradition - the Hamiltonian tradition that believes in limited but energetic government - thus find ourselves facing a void. We moderates are going to have to assert ourselves. We're going to have to take a centrist tendency that has been politically feckless and intellectually vapid and turn it into an influential force.
Brooks doesn't get into why the squishy middle has been "politically feckless and intellectually vapid." Perhaps because at the core, the moderate has no principles, other to try to end up on the winning side of the argument. In any event, Brooks lists some ideas on how moderates can assert themselves and become the influential force he desires:

The first task will be to block the excesses of unchecked liberalism. In the past weeks, Democrats have legislated provisions to dilute welfare reform, restrict the inflow of skilled immigrants and gut a voucher program designed for poor students. It will be up to moderates to raise the alarms against these ideological outrages.

These are great ideas. However, Brooks isn't really saying anything new. Conservatives have been loudly proclaiming that the Obama administration and the Pelosi-Reid congress needs to be slowed down in power grab. Welcome aboard, David. Where ya been?

But beyond that, moderates will have to sketch out an alternative vision. This is a vision of a nation in which we're all in it together - in which burdens are shared broadly, rather than simply inflicted upon a small minority. This is a vision of a nation that does not try to build prosperity on a foundation of debt. This is a vision that puts competitiveness and growth first, not redistribution first.

Great. And who are the champions of a limited government that doesn't redistribute the nation's wealth from the producers to the leaches? Not the moderates. Conservatives, that's who. I wonder, though, if Brooks's idea of not placing the burden on a small minority, but of spreading it around, applies to the hate "rich" of this country, who disproportionately bear the tax burden. My gut says, he doesn't.

Moderates are going to have to try to tamp down the polarizing warfare that is sure to flow from Obama's uber-partisan budget. They will have to face fiscal realities honestly and not base revenue projections on rosy scenarios of a shallow recession and robust growth next year.

Again. Brooks is asking moderates to repeat conservative objections to the current government. The budget isn't uber-partisan because Republicans and Democrats worked together on it. The Democrats in Congress, along with the President, are pushing their budget through without much help from the GOP. He can't blame the GOP for that.

All in all, Brooks doesn't offer anything more than "Conservatives were right. We need to join them." Of course, he doesn't say it that way. He phrases it so that somehow only the moderates can save the day. When have moderates ever saved the day? When have moderates ever gone to war over their principles? Where is the book, "Great Moderates in History?"