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Monday, September 24, 2012

David Brooks, "The Conservative Mind": "Republicans Have Very Little to Offer the Less Educated Half of This Country"

In his latest New York Times op-ed entitled "The Conservative Mind" (, David Brooks observes the dichotomy of conservative thought. According to Brooks, there is economic conservatism, which strives to prevent government from interfering with freedom in the market place, and traditional conservatism, whose goal is to preserve society's norms premised upon the harmonious interaction of its various components, including the family, commercial entities, religion and government.

Observing that "[t]raditional conservatism has gone into eclipse," Brooks claims that "shrinking government has become the organizing conservative principle." He goes on to say:

"Since they no longer speak in the language of social order, Republicans have very little to offer the less educated half of this country. Republicans have very little to say to Hispanic voters, who often come from cultures that place high value on communal solidarity.

Republicans repeat formulas — government support equals dependency — that make sense according to free-market ideology, but oversimplify the real world. Republicans like Romney often rely on an economic language that seems corporate and alien to people who do not define themselves in economic terms. No wonder Romney has trouble relating."

Brooks attributes the poor performance of the Romney campaign to this abandonment of traditional conservatism.

However, if Romney has "very little to offer the less educated half of this country," you might expect his support to come from the "more educated half," but this is not the case. As reported by John Zogby in July (

"Voters with at least a college degree are at least 40% of all likely voters. Here is where Obama does very well leading Romney by 8 points – 47% to 39%. This matches his 8 point margin over McCain (53%-45%) in 2008 and other indicators suggest he will do well again. His approval rating among college graduates is slightly higher than his overall rating from all voters and slightly more than the average feel he deserves re-election."

Or in other words, Romney's base of support is America's middle class, which already values traditional conservatism. Can Romney make headway with the less educated and more educated by expounding upon the virtues of traditional conservatism? I doubt it.

Americans are overwhelmingly concerned with one issue: As recently reported by Gallup (, 72% of Americans believe that economic issues comprise the "most important problem facing this country today."

Moreover, whereas Brooks's opinion piece is a fascinating precis of trends in conservative thought, I think it is a mistake to intellectualize an election that is devoid of ideas and intelligence.

Given the importance of economic issues to Americans, where are Romney's ideas - not generalities - for invigorating a stalled economy?

Obama's recovery plan? It also doesn't exist.

America, which is now $16 trillion in debt - Obama declined to acknowledge this number on "The Late Show with David Letterman" ( - and beginning to teeter, deserves and should be demanding more.

Or do you get what you deserve?

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