A top conservative thinker is suggesting that Republicans need to split into two wings if they want to remain actors on the national stage.
David Brooks of the New York Times made his proposal Tuesday, calling on the GOP to divide itself geographically — a South and rural West coalition and one that can compete in what are fast becoming Democratic strongholds.
Brooks told readers that he is lobbying for the change because key party leaders are warning the GOP to be more reasonable yet aren't following their own advice.
"It’s probably futile to try to change current Republicans," Brooks wrote.
“It’s smarter to build a new wing of the Republican Party, one that can compete in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, in the upper Midwest, and along the West Coast.
“It’s smarter to build a new division that is different the way the Westin is different than the Sheraton," he wrote.
The new wing would be based on the assumption that America can be hit by dual crises — bloated government institutions and a nation of haves and have-nots — and would deal with both problems at once.
"It would be filled with people who recoiled at President Obama’s second Inaugural Address because of its excessive faith in centralized power, but who don’t share the absolute anti-government story," Brooks proposed.
"Would a coastal and Midwestern G.O.P. sit easily with the Southern and Western one? No, but majority parties are usually coalitions of the incompatible. This is really the only chance Republicans have. The question is: Who’s going to build a second G.O.P.?"
Brooks said some of the Republicans’ problems have manifested themselves in recent days. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, for instance, "spanked his party for its stale clichés but then repeated the same Republican themes that have earned his party its 33 percent approval ratings: Government bad. Entrepreneurs good," he wrote.
"On the surface, Republicans are already doing a good job of beginning to change their party," wrote Brooks, citing Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz as positive examples. "But, so far, there have been more calls for change than actual evidence of change."
Brooks isn't unsympathetic to the challenge of what he described as "the reinvention process."
"Deep down people have . . . embedded sets of assumptions, narratives and terms that organize thinking," he wrote. "Since Barry Goldwater, the central Republican narrative has been what you might call the Encroachment Story: the core problem of American life is that voracious government has been steadily encroaching upon individuals and local communities. The core American conflict, in this view, is between Big Government and Personal Freedom."
The Republican Party's loss of the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections shows the flaws of this thinking: opposing government makes it hard to govern positively and opposing government makes it hard to analyze social and economic problems that don't stem from government, Brooks wrote.
"Americans are still skeptical of Washington. If you shove a big government program down their throats they will recoil. But many of their immediate problems flow from globalization, the turmoil of technological change and social decay, and they’re looking for a bit of help," Brooks told readers.
"Moreover, given all the anti-government rhetoric, they will never trust these Republicans to reform cherished programs like Social Security and Medicare. You can’t be for entitlement reform and today’s G.O.P., because politically the two will never go together."
Brooks expressed doubt that Republicans can adapt to these realities, again for two reasons: Humans seldom change their narratives and the Encroachment Story is too firmly planted in South and rural West.
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