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Intellectual Flyover Country

October 20, 2008

Columnist David Brooks is the sort of writer who passes for a conservative at The New York Times. In reality, he is an urbane, pseudo-erudite hack, as evidenced by his latest column.

Brooks contends that the reason conservatives are no longer winning elections is because we have eschewed intellectualism and promoted social class warfare, thereby "driving away people who live in cities, in highly educated regions and on the coasts." In the last two decades, according to Brooks, conservative politicians and "talk-radio jocks" have "divided the nation between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the over sophisticated, overeducated, over secularized denizens of the coasts."

Brooks also asserts that "George W. Bush restrained some of the populist excesses of his party." That argument is absurd. It is precisely because of Bush's excesses, not the GOP's, that he has a 29 percent approval rating: excesses in spending, a nearly trillion-dollar bailout bill, and lax border security. Bush deserves credit for three accomplishments in eight years: modest tax relief, a pair of solid Supreme Court appointments and especially for seven years of terror-free life for the American people. After that, the list of his accomplishments goes downhill quickly.

Yet Brooks lists "anti-immigration fervor" and "isolationism" as the "excesses" from which Bush supposedly saved his party. Question: In what world does David Brooks live that he believes such things? Answer: The solipsistic echo-chamber of New York City.

Brooks criticizes John McCain for choosing Sarah Palin as his running mate, as if that is the source of McCain's current problems. He seems to believe that Palin adds to the GOP's exclusion of the groups he thinks have been driven from the party. "Nobody," Brooks writes, "so relentlessly divides the world between the 'normal Joe Sixpack American' and the coastal elite."

But the most astounding part of Brooks' analysis is his statement that Republicans are guilty of alienating whole professions - lawyers, doctors, tech executives, even bankers - all of whom now donate overwhelmingly to Democrats.

As a lifelong resident of flyover country, I hardly know where to begin to refute Brooks' snobbery. So let's stop dancing around the subject. The reason these groups feel alienated from the Republican Party is that they are embarrassed by those of us who want to defend innocent human life and traditional marriage. They simply cannot believe that these issues are more important to us than a temporary drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

But their embarrassment goes much deeper than that. The gulf is primarily a spiritual one. Those of us who believe in fighting for the defense of life and - dare I say it? - for the preservation of normal, traditional, monogamous human sexual relationships do so out of a belief that someone much greater and wiser than we are, namely the Creator of the Universe, has said this is how we should live. This is not an arbitrary position we have taken in order to deny "reproductive rights" to women or "equal rights" to homosexuals. These are strongly held views given to believers by God, universal truths, if you will. No religious tradition in the world believes in killing babies or in homosexual marriage.

So let's be totally honest. George W. Bush has failed the Republican Party and, more importantly, the American people, in almost every regard. He has spent our money in a manner that would make a drunken sailor ashamed, grown the federal government at a faster rate than any president since FDR, colluded with Ted Kennedy and his ilk on education policy, and given us stimulus checks with the caveat to spend them on plasma TVs and Phones, rather than existing debt (or the terrorists win). And he has spent eight years asleep at the wheel on illegal immigration.

The Republican Party has not rejected intellectualism. The definition of the word has been hijacked by the William Ayers and the Ward Churchills of the world, with their pithy rejoinders that 9/11 victims were "little Eichmanns." One need only read Jonah Goldberg or Mark Steyn to know that conservative intellectualism is alive and well.

What sets conservatives, and by extension the GOP, apart is that we have always encouraged vigorous debate and the civil discourse necessary for the continuation of this American experiment. It is the foundation of our republic and the catalyst to our best ideas. But we succeed in our intellectual pursuits only because they stand firmly on the solid rock of our morality, our spirituality and our admission of and submission to the God that grants our souls the right to breathe. The sinking sand of liberal dogma will never be a suitable substitute.

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Copyright ©2008 Doug Patton

Doug Patton describes himself as a recovering political speechwriter who agrees with himself more often than not. His weekly columns are syndicated by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Readers are encouraged to email him at dpatton@cagle.comand/or to follow him on Twitter at @Doug_Patton.