Conservative pundit David Brooks – How Democrats Won the War of Ideas

As an independent and former Republican (and Democrat), David Brooks is one of my favorite conservative pundits and authors. He is a regular participant on PBS Newhour’s Friday recap show with the more liberal Mark Shields. Like other key conservative pundits, MIchael Gerson, George Will, Ross Douthat, Eric Erickson and Max Boot, he is hoping that America votes out the incumbent president.

In his usual articulate and even-handed fashion, Brooks penned the following editorial last week called “How Democrats Won the War of Ideas.” The link is below, but I will highlight a few paragraphs for your review and comment.

“Over the last 100 years, Americans have engaged in a long debate about the role of markets and the welfare state. Republicans favored a limited government, fearing that a large nanny state would sap American dynamism and erode personal freedom. Democrats favored a larger state, arguing that giving people a basic economic security would enable them to take more risks and lead dignified lives.

That debate ebbed and flowed over the years, but 2020 has turned out to be a pivotal year in the struggle, and it looks now as if we can declare a winner. The Democrats won the big argument of the 20th century. It’s not that everybody has become a Democrat, but even Republicans are now embracing basic Democratic assumptions. Americans across the board fear economic and physical insecurity more than an overweening state. The era of big government is here.”

Brooks cites a few survey facts from last week’s New York Times/ Siena poll.

2/3 of Americans support allowing people to buy health insurance through the federal government

2/3 support Joe Biden’s $2 trillion plan to increase renewable energy and build efficient infrastructure

72% of likely voters and 56% of Republican voters favor another COVID-19 relief package

59% of Americans think government should do more to solve problems

2/3 think government should do more to fight climate change

60% support increasing the minimum wage and providing tax credits to low income workers

82% of voters and 70% of Republicans would like to expand requirements for paid family medical leave

Brooks also cites a study by the Mercatus Center which notes that Republicans are also moving left, just not at the pace of Democrats. This is contrary to what is believed by the media.

I have long said that more than 1/2 of the Republican voters are voting against their economic interests and do not know it. This survey indicates many do favor policies that would help them, but are sold a bill of goods packaged to woo their votes, but mask the purposeful deterioration of rights and opportunities.

A great example is the Affordable Care Act. When people are surveyed about the features of the act, the features receive high marks from all, including Republicans. The only feature that did not was eliminated – the mandate to buy coverage. Ironically, this elimination is the basis for 25 Republican Attorney Generals who have case to declare the ACA unconstitutional in front of the Supreme Court after the election, which should not occur as the case is not solid, but one never knows with these things. Sadly, the White House chose not to defend the law, which affects expanded Medicaid, exchange and employer-provided benefits.

Please read Brooks article below. It is very well done, as per usual.


19 thoughts on “Conservative pundit David Brooks – How Democrats Won the War of Ideas

  1. Keith – I had skipped this one, but will go back to read it now. I -almost- always watch the friday PBS news. It makes a good case for once-a-week news viewing, and the Brooks/Shield analysis is a great ending to the ‘work’ week 😉 Thanks – Susan

    • Thanks Susan. His opinion is worth hearing, even when we may not agree with every point. I agree the Friday show is a highlight. My wife laments when the regular duo is not on. Keith

  2. Hello Keith. I have often wondered how the Republican party pushing tax cuts for the wealthy and lower workers protections managed to get so many poor people to vote for them? Especially when the Democrats were trying to give them better working conditions and higher pay. Now the Democrats are trying to give people healthcare, and a lot of the poor who need it most are supporting the Republicans. Hugs

      • Hello Keith. A great question comes from your answer. What is their mission today? People such as your self understood their mission 30 years ago. How drastically has the mission of the Republican party changed to where it is today. Where are the lofty goals and ideas for a perfect union for all, lifting all to a higher place? Which happened under Democratic administrations historically.

        I admit I was against the Republican party since I was pre-voting age. That was because the Republican party went to war against the very nature of what I was born to be. I was born with a romantic and sexual attraction to my own gender. The Republican party all my life went to war against my well being. So what are they offering the population now, a much different population from when I realized at 7 years old my own feelings for my same gender made me “bad” according to the things I heard from people I knew. Now the message of the Republican party is disliked by around nearly 80% of the people against most of their stands on the issues? This is a rule by the minority over the majority, something the US always decried in the Sunni vs. Shia countries. The Republicans in this court grab are trying to cement their ideology long after they are out of power according to Moscow Mitch.

        “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election,” the majority leader said on the Senate floor. “They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.”

        This has all been about installing a cooperate rule over the US with judges that limit government authority and take the country back to before the new deal, back to 1929. So I really would like to know if I have mistaken the Republican mission. Thanks. Hugs

      • Scottie, the mission remains make sure they take care of the wealthy and business owners and limit their liability. It used to be grow their businesses, but with the retrenchment policies, immigration hard line, tariffs, backing away from global trade agreements, etc. we cannot shrink to greatness.

        Everything else aids and abets that cause. Appease the evangelicals and NRA is just window dressing, yet that is where they spend much of their marketing.


  3. There is a saying that … “Ignorance is bliss.” Okay, well I guess that could be true UNTIL … one gets sick and has no insurance, loses his job, gets hurt on the job, loses his home, etc. It seems that far too many truly do not understand what has happened to their protections over the past four years, and worse yet, they are gullible enough to believe the line of b.s. they are being fed. Brooks’ piece was well worth the read … thanks!

    • Jill, there are many things happening to the rights of people in our country that we do not even know is occurring. The shadow immigration squads that are kicking folks out of the asylum program is mortifying. The recent John Oliver Last Week Tonight focuses on this. Keith

      PS – I see Trump is ahead in Ohio. That troubles me. I shared my “The biggest lie” piece with The Cincinnati Enquirer, but it is too long and I am from out of state.

      • I will check out the John Oliver clip later today … thanks!

        Yes, much to my chagrin Ohio is still leaning toward idiocy. There is, though, still hope … fingers crossed. I haven’t yet, but have every intention of sharing your piece with the Enquirer, though I’ve sent them probably 20 in the last few years, and they have published only one. I will try, though.

      • I fully understand … I’m also struggling with the final pre-election post for mine & Jeff’s project this Friday … it’s so important that I want to get it just right.

      • Thanks. Best wishes on your selection. Your Gerson piece is good, but so are several others. I was toying with the Brooks’ piece, but my paper ran the editorial last week. Keith

  4. This is interesting. I read Brooks as a disciple of the Leo Strauss School of it’s always Athens vs Sparta. Here we have David sowing seeds for whatever astro-turf grassroots spring forth with cries of “Big Gov-mint,” even prior to a possible Biden presidency. I don’t know if Joe will will go Big, but I’d wager his administration will be far more active. And praise be that, given the BIG pain this K shaped recovery is going to bring to a vast majority of the America people

    • I have read a couple of Brooks’ books and actually went to hear him speak. He is far more than what I portrayed here. He has long said we need to have a fact-based and honest discussion on the right mix of capitalism and socialism for our country. What many do not realize is America’s economy is a blend of fettered capitalism with socialist underpinnings. We have insider trading rules, interlocking board restrictions, monopoly restrictions, etc. that fetter the capitalism and Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Unemployment, Workers comp to provide some levels of protection.

      Sadly, we get politicians, like the president, who paint these issues as binary choices. They are not. We have both, but we need to rebalance them to meet the needs of the people. Brooks has been a good voice on this topic, in my view.

      As for Biden, he will be a return to better and more procedural governance. I hope SCOTUS does not rule against the ACA, but he will need to make improvements either way if elected. There are so many Trump supporters who do not know their health care is at risk.

      • I’ve read him and have enjoy his stuff. Yet I still find Mr. Brooks often struggles to parse the political real of the day within an esoteric Straussian hangover still leftover from his University Of Chicago days. The politico legacy of Leo Strauss and how he informs conservative politics, up to this very day, is a heck of a story. Thanks Keith

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