David Brooks recently asserted that the Republican Party is metaphorically drunk: “It’s 2 a.m. The bar is closing. Republicans have had a series of strong and nasty Trump cocktails. Suddenly Ted Cruz is beginning to look kind of attractive. At least he’s sort of predictable, and he doesn’t talk about his sexual organs in presidential debates! Well, Republicans, have your standards really fallen so low so fast?” As we found out on Tuesday, apparently yes! But as I argue at TNR the bigger problem is that the moderate, reasonable, thinking person’s alternatives to Cruz and Trump Brooks proposes are just very slightly lower-proof versions of Cruz and Trump:
The alternatives to Trump and Cruz that Brooks touts, in other words, fully reflect the Republican orthodoxy that turned Trump and Cruz into frontrunners. Like Cruz, they’re all committed to radical and unpopular fiscal plans that, in a time of increasing inequality and economic insecurity, would gut cherished programs for the poor and the middle class to pay for a huge redistribution of wealth to the top 10 percent. Like Trump, they’re also completely unserious about policy, making ridiculous claims about the economic magic of tax cuts that have left the finances of states like Louisiana and Kansas in utter ruins. They are barely even pretending to offer an alternative to the 20 million people they want to deprive of health insurance. (Trump’s health care “plan” is essentially cut-and-pasted from the non-plans of his allegedly more serious rivals.) And for good measure, they’re all climate-change deniers.
It will be entertaining to see what happens with pundits like Brooks after Trump or Cruz gets the nomination. In most cases, they will ultimately decide that supporting Trump or Cruz is necessary to stop the menace of Clinton or Sanders, and since both fairly represent where the party actually is right now it won’t even be difficult. Why, Camille Paglia has provided them a handy template when they learn to love the Donald.