I almost tripped over myself this morning as I listened (via the NPR app) to David Brooks talk about the communitarian tradition in the Republican party, during yesterday’s All Things Considered (see transcript). First of all, I didn’t even know that such a tradition exists in the GOP (that’s how smart I am). And second of all (second of all?) when we started this site last year, we hoped that we could attract contributors from both the so-called left and right. Being a conservative liberal myself, I hoped that here in this space we could bring together people who cared about their neighborhoods, and who wanted to do some good where they live, regardless of the color of their beliefs. It’s encouraging to know that maybe that dream might have some basis in fact.
NORRIS: Well, let me turn to our sunny conservative that’s here in the studio. David, are we at a point where we see precious few examples of politicians who move ahead and make gains because they happen to be moderates?
Mr. BROOKS: Yeah, I wish I had that megawatt smile. It’s more like 50 watts. But, you know…
Mr. DIONNE: It’s better than that, David.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. BROOKS: Thank you. I have a friend who’s a Republican, a moderate member of Congress and he wanted to propose what he was going to call a moderate agenda and he wanted people to sign on so there could be Republican moderates. He found out that for his colleagues in the House, you can’t use the word moderate. So he called it a suburban agenda because the word moderate is no good.
And so, it’s just a bad word. And it’s a bad word for a whole bunch of reasons having to do with redistricting where the money is in the party, where the energy. But to me, fundamentally, it’s a problem of intellect. The centrists in this country, both in the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, just have not put together the sort of coherent body of ideas, the left to the right.
There are two great moderate traditions in the party, a communitarian tradition which believes in community and social groups and then a sort of a Hamiltonian group of limited government to enhance social mobility. Those ideas haven’t been put together coherently. And as a result, the people on either end are just dominating.
Also on Our Blocks: Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives