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January 22, 2013 10:37 AM Why Does David Brooks Want to Take the Politics Out of Politics?

By Mark Kleiman

David Brooks’s latest column reminds me of the definition of an “independent” as someone who wants to take the politics out of politics. Except that by “politics” Brooks means, not merely corruption or patronage, but the clash of rival ideas about the public good.

Brooks is horrified by the idea that the Democrats might – OMFG! – try to win the 2014 elections. And do so the dirty, slimy way, by proposing reasonable and popular policies that Republicans will nevertheless oppose. He imagines some Rasputin whispering in the President’s ear: “Twice a month, Democrats should force Republicans to cast an awful vote: either offend mainstream supporters or risk a primary challenge from the right.” Brooks identifies guns, immigration, women’s issues, social mobility, and the budget as issues where Democrats might corner Republicans.

And then Brooks wonders how the Republicans will respond.

Well, they have two choices, don’t they? Act like the lunatics only some of them really are but most of them play on C-SPAN, and risk losing their seats to Democrats in November, or act like sane patriots and risk losing their seats in primaries to other Republicans crazier or more cynical than they are.

And of course the plutocrats who bankroll the party will have to make up their own minds about how to deal with the challenge.

Either way, the country wins: we get some sensible legislation through and recapture the Party of Lincoln from the Confederate/Know-Nothing coalition, or we have a chance, despite the Great Gerrymander, of having a House of Representatives that reflects the will of the voters (which might shock the GOP out of its dogmatic slumber).

So why is this not the Washington David Brooks wants to cover? Does he really find the question of an infrastructure bank so utterly compelling? Or is he just appalled by the idea that the voters should have clear choices?

[Cross-posted at The Reality-based Community]

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the University of California Los Angeles.
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