Brooks, The GOP, And Respect

David Brooks proffers the most succinct rebuttal to the nihilist partisanship – and civic cowardice – of Lowry and Kristol. He’s right on the substance, but also, critically, on the politics. Money quote:

The final conservative point of opposition is a political one. Republicans should not try to win back lower-middle-class voters with immigration reform; they should do it with a working-class agenda.

This argument would be slightly plausible if Republicans had even a hint of such an agenda, but they don’t. Even then it would fail. Before Asians, Hispanics and all the other groups can be won with economic plans, they need to feel respected and understood by the G.O.P. They need to feel that Republicans respect their ethnic and cultural identity. If Republicans reject immigration reform, that will be a giant sign of disrespect, and nothing else Republicans say will even be heard.

This is what so many on the right just don’t understand. Their very arguments against universal healthcare and gay marriage and immigration reform are all made as if the working poor, gays, and illegal Latino immigrants were not in the room. You think we don’t A Surabaya Zoo health worker checks thehear that in the tone and content of what they are saying? It’s the way in which people who desperately need healthcare are dismissed as abstractions, or in which gays are never offered any actual policy but avoidance and disdain, or in which hard-working immigrants – living in a kind of radical insecurity no white native-born Republican has ever fully experienced or imagined – are simply told to hang around for a few more years, or “self-deport”. That bespeaks a disconnect that obscures any capacity to govern this country as it actually is – rather than as they would like it to be.

Like David, I think this is a crucial moment. Actual conservatism should not be averse to an imperfect compromise to resolve a festering and difficult socio-economic problem. Actual conservatives should see the essentially conservative case for reform that Brooks outlines. But, alas, we are not dealing with actual conservatives, prepared to negotiate or reform the bill for the better. We are dealing with what Richard Hofstadter called “pseudoconservatives” – alienated, paranoid, visceral loathers of any concession to the party that just won popular vote majorities for House, Senate and the presidency.

You cannot reason people out of something they did not reason into. But I admire Brooks for trying.