Now, what on earth would motivate David Brooks–behind the Times firewall–to find common cause with some of the wilder voices in the blogosphere and declare neoliberalism, if that’s what you want to call it, dead? A few thoughts:
1. If moderate liberalism is dead, then the Democratic Party is chock-a-block with extremists.
2. If moderate liberalism is dead, then programs like universal health insurance and energy independence–which have near-unanimous support from the center to the left of the party–can be defined as radical.
3. If moderate liberalism is dead, then the near-universal opposition to the Bush Doctrine of Pre-emptive War within the Democratic Party can also be defined as extreme. (Offhand, I can think of only one Democratic proponent of the Bush Doctrine, Joe Lieberman, and he isn’t quite a Democrat anymore.)
4. If moderate liberalism is dead, then the only moderates are…Republicans?
I’m a moderate. I have my disagreements with the leftier precincts of the Democratic Party. (Maxine Waters, representing the “Get Out Now” caucus on Fox News this morning, was embarrassing–unable to say what she’d do about the Al Qaeda presence in Anbar Province.) And I also have my disagreements with my Clintonista friends who remain stuck in the 90s and believe that eensy-bitsy solutions to issues like health care and global warming are acceptable. But the question of whether my beliefs, and those of other moderates, are still vibrant is really off the point.
Here’s the point: The Reagan-Thatcherite philosophy that “government is part of the problem, not part of the solution…” has been given a serious test these past six years and has been proven a failure. The neoconservative belief in the pre-emptive, unilateral use of force by the United States has also been given a test, and has also failed utterly.
There are those, apparently including Brooks, who will now try to convince the American public that the only alternative to Bushian extremism is left-wing extremism–which will be described as isolationist, protectionist and militantly secularist. As many Swampland commenters have pointed out, that’s a caricature.
In any case, the best, and most likely, alternative to Bushian extremism is a vibrant, creative and intellectually adventurous moderation that uses market principles to achieve progressive ends–and which values diplomacy over saber-rattling overseas.