August 30, 2004

Letter in response to David Brook’s "How to Reinvent the GOP" (New York Times’ Magazine of August 29, 2004)

by Peter Bearse



Disney’s Pocahontas sings "How high does the sycamore grow; if you cut it down, then you’ll never know…" She’s right. Brooks’ vision of a "new progressive conservatism" is wrong. He tries to cut a party platform down to his size, the limited scope of his own political vision. He ignores the potential for the rise of a conservative populism, the promise of which is set forth in a new book, forthcoming within two weeks, entitled We, the People: A Conservative Populism.

He misunderstands "size." He equates "big" with "federal." In an private economy where small businesses can act big and big businesses can be run like a set of small, why is there such a blind spot regarding the public sector? "Decentralizers" are disposed of at the outset, never to return. He never mentions Reagan. Is this because the late, great President fails to fit within his frame? Reagan was both an opportunity enabler ("This is the age of the entrepreneur") and a decentralizer ("Move power and money out of Washington").

Brooks biases his case at the outset by selecting only those parts of the Republican tradition that buttress his (preconceived?) case while ignoring others, especially the decentralized nature of the American Republic. Extending the decentralized, self-governing nature of our American system is the key to the future. A national government that serves as a resource to diverse, largely self-governing, local political communities is the core of an old, alternative Republican vision. Renewed and adapted, it could raise up American democracy to become a beacon to the rest of the world once again. It would also serve to fight terrorism by empowering people and honoring their diversity. We would win by example.

It’s not that Brooks doesn’t present some good ideas on issues. He does. It’s just that he’s so wrong on the fundamentals that affect our politics. Consider:

For Brooks is also wrong in writing like those lately drafting national party platforms. They ignore the need for people to participate in the political process. They produce documents that prescribe what the political, money and media-dependent "pro’s" think voters should buy into. He observes "anxiety, uncertainty and disagreement" among the party’s rank and file, but he chooses to see this in a negative light rather than a sign of vitality within the party. He adopts an elitist stance, of trying to bring internal debates to premature closure rather than serving as a resource to inform the debates. Thus, he has abdicated the role of a journalist in order to play the power game. Let the games begin. We, the People, will take back our politics from those like Mr. Brooks of the political/media class who presume to take it over.

PETER BEARSE, Ph.D.: author, GOP Team Leader and Townhall Meetup Host -- a Republican and a conservative accessible via or 177 Lexington Avenue, Cambridge, MA, 617-864-3014.