David Brooks is one of those opinion writers who is hit or miss for me. There have been recent columns when he really nails it, yet on so many others he crashed and burned miserably, caught in the contradictory tornado of the pseudo-conservative policy ideas that have polluted the republican party for much of its recent past.
Brooks’ latest effort dissects the myth of “conservative” talking heads controlling the republican party, showing just how shallow that “control” truly is based on the last election cycle. Though his column was pretty much a home-run with regards to timing and appropriateness given the story on the TPM frontpage, I still think he missed the essential dilemma for today’s republicans – a total leadership vacuum across all levels of the national and local party apparatus combined with declining voter involvement, giving the Limbots the ability to wave the biggest stick in the first place and position their crazy as the default message for the party.
When the republican caucus and far-right shock jocks offer endless objections rather than even mediocre solutions, the underlying strategy begins to look a lot like obstruction.
If both parties are perceived as unwilling to understand and work with their political opposites in a time of national crisis on a number of important fronts, I foresee an incumbent bloodbath of unprecedented proportions in the coming years. Very few voters on either side of the political divide think their representatives have their best interests at heart if the polls can be trusted. Should the primary election numbers hold steady from last year, 2010 could be a very good year for Americans and very lousy one for professional politicians. We The People appear to have had just about enough from both the democratic and republican parties, though for widely varied and diverse reasons that still fail to bring us together at the grassroots.
Absent a huge increase in voter participation over the coming years, though, I really don’t see the American paradigm changing any time soon.
President Obama is the first in a generation with the opportunity to be a truly transformative leader and help knit together our long-standing divisions. His second book and the campaign he ran made clear his understanding of America’s foundational weakness. I had high hopes going into his inauguration that we were witnessing the beginning of the end of partisan politics and the corrosive influence it has had on our common narrative. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am pessimistic now, but given the right’s inability to shout down their crazies or to offer real policy solutions and the left’s inability to simply ignore the far right or or offer real policy innovation, I can’t see any route forward that doesn’t go straight through a massive turnover in Congress.
If each party’s grassroots can clean house over the next few election cycles, we just might be able to build a Congress that truly reflects the much-maligned silent majority who has never bothered to vote except for one special Tuesday in November every four years.