Sleepwalking Toward Disaster

It should go without saying that I like David Brooks' column yesterday about the Republican malaise, but that doesn't change the fact that it's really good. Here's the money quote, which you may have already seen:

The party is blessed with a series of charismatic candidates who are not orthodox Republicans. But the pressures of the campaign are such that these candidates have had to repress anything that might make them interesting. Instead of offering something new, each of them has been going around pretending to be the second coming of George Allen — a bland, orthodox candidate who will not challenge any of the party’s customs or prejudices.

But I also think this line is important:

Conservatives have allowed a simplistic view of Ronald Reagan to define the sacred parameters of thought. Reagan himself was flexible, unorthodox and creative. But conservatives have created a mythical, rigid Reagan, and any deviation from that is considered unholy.

Ramesh Ponnuru makes a similar point in his advice to Fred Thompson, which is worth reading in full (and not just because he quotes me):

... a lot of conservatives have been telling themselves that Republicans lost the election because they were insufficiently committed to conservative orthodoxy: that if they had just eschewed pork and prescription-drug benefits, the voters would have been kinder to them. It is a comforting theory with almost no basis in fact ... Running on a strictly conservative platform has not won Republicans the presidency since at least 1988. Since that campaign was heavy on flag-waving, it might be more accurate to say “since 1980.” Even in 1980, moreover, Reagan made some innovations to conservatism: adding supply-side tax cuts to the mix, and backing away from opposition to entitlement programs. More to the point, Reagan succeeded not because his platform conformed to a philosophy, but because it applied that philosophy, creatively, to the problems of the day.

If the conservative movement's domestic policy vision ran from Ponnuru on the right to Brooks on the left, well ... Andrew might not be happy with the result (though I think his differences with both men are often more a matter of emphases and rhetoric than policy substance), but I'm pretty sure the GOP wouldn't be staring disaster quite so squarely in the face.