David Brooks wrote an astounding column last Friday, The American Idea and Today’s GOP. He’s either incredibly ignorant or deeply deceptive. His argument is that Donald Trump and others are destroying the conservative tradition in America because it has always been forward looking. He noted that in this way it is different from conservatism in other places where it is all about holding on to the history of the place. But if that’s what American conservatives are, then what have the American liberals been doing? Have the last 250 years been a battle about how we are going to rush to the future?
There’s no way of saying, because Brooks never mentioned Democrats in that context — or liberals at all. Apparently, America is the conservative movement. That’s how he can write something like this, “From Lincoln to Reagan to Bush, the market has been embraced for being dynamic and progressive.” Yes, there’s a real continuum there from the man who headed an abolitionist party to the man who gave his first speech as the Republican nominee for president about “states’ rights” at the site of where three civil rights workers were lynched. And really, is that what the Republican Party is? Lincoln — a 120 years — Reagan — 20 yeas — Bush?!
But the big question is who exactly were the people who thought they could just take the land of native peoples because they had the power too? The ones who later committed genocide against them? And who were the ones who practiced and defended slavery? I’m not talking parties here, because obviously, over time, things get mixed up. But what movement was John Calhoun part of? Was he a liberal? A conservative? Or just someone we have to throw aside as an outlier? That last option seems to be Brooks’ choice, because he certainly doesn’t engage with it.
If we assume that modern conservatives are not the descendants of Calhoun, who are? Who are the people who fight against every change? Who are the people who think that things are just fine the way they are? Who are the people who think that it is God’s will that the poor are poor and the weak are weak? Because these are the things that Calhoun stood for — the things that he believed. Today, it would be hard to find someone who would make the same arguments for slavery. But the same arguments are being made to preserve less outrageous injustices. And unless I’m just really dense, the answer is very obviously found in the majority of the Republican Party.
I get so tired of hearing people like Brooks complaining that the conservative movement has gone off track. There are two strains of American thought that currently find themselves wedded in the Republican Party. One is the Alexander Hamilton strain of business and profits before people. Brooks mentioned him, because that’s the part that isn’t embarrassing — the part that history hasn’t completely repudiated. But the other strain is very much John Calhoun. And Brooks knows that. What’s more, he knows that without the fearful bigots, there’s no way the Republican Party would ever win an election anywhere. And if he doesn’t know that, he has no right to be printed in WorldNetDaily, much less The New York Times.