Saturday, January 30, 2016

The coveted David Brooks endorsement

David Brooks' New York Times column yesterday --

There are two natural approaches to help those who are falling behind. The first we’ll call the Bernie Sanders approach. Focus on economics. Provide people with money and jobs and their lifestyles will become more stable. Marriage rates will rise. Depression rates will drop. The second should be the conservative approach. Focus on social norms, community bonds and a nurturing civic fabric. People need relationships and basic security before they can respond to economic incentives. But Republicans have walked away from their traditional Burkean turf. The two leading Republican presidential candidates offer little more than nativism and demagogy. David Cameron has offered an agenda for a nation that is coming apart. There desperately needs to be an American version.

Leave aside that Brooks has been hailing the significance of David Cameron speeches for over ten years. There is a Burkean conservative, running in the Republican presidential primary, who is drawing precisely on Tory ideas; as he said in his own words a while ago:

Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic and beyond are charting a new vision of social justice. It recognizes that the problems caused or aggravated by the growth in government cannot be corrected by a crude reduction in its size. Policy must also deliberately foster the growth of what Edmund Burke called “the little platoons” of civil society: families, neighborhood associations, private enterprises, charities and churches. These are the real source of economic growth and social vitality.

His name: Rick Santorum.

The above words were written by Santorum and Iain Duncan Smith 10 years ago. Indeed, when David Brooks mourned the exit of Santorum from the Senate soon after that piece was written, a loss he blamed on Philadelphia and Pittsburgh bobos, he wondered what would happen to Santorum's agenda.  Brooks rediscovered Santorum when was running 4 years ago, but then dropped it again.

So what happened? Well, when "social justice conservatives" got around to actually proposing some specific policies, it turned out to be just the old "on yer bike" prescription in more tasteful packaging. Paul Ryan has the same shtick today. Trump and Cruz are not substitutes for that agenda, but the logical consequence of its non-delivery and its lack of credibility with lower income households. Incidentally, when Santorum was most gung-ho about social justice conservatism, his book "It takes a family" was explicitly pitched in opposition to another current presidential candidate who was talking about how families need a level of support between themselves and the government.

Her name: Hillary Clinton. Burkean conservatives might like her policies.

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