David Brooks has a very important column today in which he proposes a new, moderate wing of the Republican Party, standing in opposition to the Rush-Fox-Tea Party extremists. He posits two key tenets for this coalition:
It would be based on the idea that America is being hit simultaneously by two crises, which you might call the Mancur Olson crisis and the Charles Murray crisis.
Olson argued that nations decline because their aging institutions get bloated and sclerotic and retard national dynamism. Murray argues that America is coming apart, dividing into two nations — one with high education levels, stable families and good opportunities and the other with low education levels, unstable families and bad opportunities.
This is an interesting combination. It argues more for a new party than for a new wing of the Republican Party. Many Democrats would feel uncomfortable with the government reform solutions required to solve the Mancur Olsen crisis–it would require breaking the work-rule and seniority power of public employees unions on the local, state and federal levels. Republicans, obviously, would have a lot of trouble with the government support programs required by the Murray crisis.
But there are three other components that would be necessary for a coherent new political vision:
The Military Domestic Values System: I’ve done extensive interviewing with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re almost universally disgusted with politics as it now operates in this country. Most of them would support a candidate or organization that adhered to two of their core values: You leave no wounded behind (the military equivalent of the inequality crisis) and No One is Entitled to Anything–there is a reciprocal responsibility: you earn whatever benefits you get. These seem, at first glance, contradictory. But they represent a new synthesis of opportunity and responsibility. And they are undergirded by a third core military value: you get the job done, whatever it takes, no bitching and moaning.
Foreign Policy Realism: This also comes out of my interviews with returning veterans. You only send American troops off to war if there is an immediate, direct threat to the national interests of the United States. You do not send troops to war because of abstract principles or geostrategic gaming, and very, very rarely for humanitarian relief–and only then if you have comprehensively planned out what the military calls Phase IV operations–stabilizing the situation on the ground and having an exit plan.
Live and Let Live–Responsibly: There seems now to be a consensus on equality for all–according to race, gender and sexual orientation. There is an emerging consensus in favor of a more rational drug policy, especially the legalization of marijuana. But accompanying these rights there must be responsibilities. The Murray Crisis only gets solved when everyone graduates high school and no one has children out of wedlock (whether it be religious or common law–every father must take moral and financial responsibility for his children).
I would find a political party that supported these principles very attractive…I’m guessing David Brooks would, too. But it’s frustrating: I doubt this vision would be embraced by either of the two existing parties–and, historically, the chances of success for a third party are next to nil.