Let's start by remembering where conservatism was before Bush came on the scene. In the late 1990's, after the failure of the government shutdown, conservatism was adrift and bereft of ideas.Which was it David? Were conservatives bereft of ideas or did voters prefer Democrats' "ideas." Well, as Capital Freedom observes, " Free handouts get more votes than free markets." Democrats didn't (and don't) trade in ideas, they trade in bribery. The Bush-led GOP has simply followed suit.
Voters preferred Democratic ideas on issue after issue by 20-point margins.
The real problem in the late 1990s wasn't that conservatives lacked ideas, but that those ideas didn't happen to garner enough votes to defeat Bill Clinton and deliver overwhelming Republican control of Congress. But instead of regrouping around the functionally sound and widely accepted ideas of the "Contract with America," the GOP largely abandoned its conservative principles and sold its soul for a few more votes, thus joining Democrats in the bribery game.
Brooks, who is either deluded or stupid, nevertheless quotes Bush's defense of big government:
"Government should help people improve their lives, not run their lives," Bush said. This is not the Government-Is-the-Problem philosophy of the mid-'90s, but the philosophy of a governing majority party in a country where people look to government to play a positive but not overbearing role in their lives.In other words, the GOP should bribe voters, but somehow restrain its bribery so that it's not quite as egregious as the kind of bribery practiced by Democrats. That simply won't work. The bribed (i.e., voters) won't let government off the hook unless and until they understand how bribery works against their own interests. The only way to get government out of our lives (or to push it toward the exit) is to oppose it in the first place, and to explain why voters should join in that opposition.
But Brooks applauds Bush's sophistry, even though it is indistinguishable (in essence) from the Left's excuses for big government: Government just needs to "fix things" because markets don't always get it right. People just can't be trusted to take care of themselves. Brooks fails to see (or wishes not to say) that Bush has simply adopted the Democrats' old game plan: Tax, spend, regulate, elect, tax, spend, regulate, elect, ad infinitum.
Well, Brooks's column proves one thing, with finality: He's a so-called conservative who is devoid of valid ideas, valid logic, and intellectual honesty. Brooks would kill true conservatism in the name of saving it. What's worse, he'd believe that he had saved it.