Brooks to GOP: Turn Left
Yesterday David Brooks (password required) floated the certain-to-be-controversial idea that the Republican Party should not look back to Reagan and Goldwater for inspiration on the political road ahead. Rather than trying to drown government in a bathtub, Brooks implies, Republicans should focus on helping people feel more secure - including increasing economic security.
Much as it pains me to say it, Brooks is onto something. Here at the non-partisan Drum Major Institute for Public Policy, we welcome a more progressive turn from any political party, organization, or individual.
In support of this idea, Brooks cites a new poll from the Pew Center for People and the Press.
The poll doesn't just reveal that Americans trust the Democrats more on a wide range of issues, it shows increasing support for progressive policy. About seven in ten Americans agree that "government should care for those who can't care for themselves" a 12-point increase since the "Republican revolution" of 1994. Two-thirds of Americans are in favor of the government providing health insurance to all citizens -- even if it means raising taxes -- and this includes a majority of those who generally prefer smaller government. Seven in ten Republicans support raising the minimum wage. Three quarters of Americans think business is too powerful.
As Brooks is quick to tell us, Americans are still suspicious of government regulation, possibly because the Bush administration has handled it so ineptly, but the general progressive trend is unmistakable.
In other words, it makes good political sense for the G.O.P. to move to the left.
Of course, I disagree with Brooks on the particulars. In the 1970's through the Reagan era, "normal non-ideological people" were not right to see big government as the enemy. It's not just, as Brooks argues, that times have changed and a more complex world calls for different solutions. Instead, what we're seeing now is the failure of the starve the beast, privatize, deregulate, cut taxes for the rich, screw the poor, and let the market decide absolutely everything mentality that Reagan and Goldwater championed. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Enron, Vioxx, escalating inequality, global warming and 45 million uninsured Americans -- all situations which were arguably exacerbated by the Reagan/Goldwater philosophy -- people are beginning to realize that this model simply doesn't work for the vast majority of Americans.
A final note: Brooks thinks it's nifty that the Pew poll shows positive approval ratings for major American corporations. What he forgets to mention is that businesses spent $149.6 billion last year on advertising to persuade Americans to think positively about them and their products.
Progressive policies had nothing remotely comparable. The American people just like them because they're good ideas.