Should-Read: David Brooks is wrong, I think, in his claim that the current crop of Republican politicians have no vision of American society. I think they do have a vision.

David Brooks: The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism: ""There is a structural flaw in modern capitalism... [a] gigantic trend [that] widens inequality, exacerbates social segmentation, fuels distrust and led to Donald Trump...

...Conservative intellectuals were slow to understanding the seriousness of this structural problem, but over the past few years they have begun to grapple with the consequences. Basically, many conservative intellectuals have come to terms with income redistribution... at the local level... us[ing] market-friendly mechanisms, like child tax credits, mobility vouchers and wage subsidies. But the intent is the same: to give those who are struggling more security and opportunity. Conservative redistribution extends to health care... plans, from places like the American Enterprise Institute, us[ing] tax credits or pre-funded health savings accounts or some other method to give middle- and working-class people coverage, while reducing regulations and improving incentives....

Republican politicians could have picked up one of these plans when they set out to repeal Obamacare. They could have created a better system that did not punish the poor. But there are two crucial differences between the conservative policy johnnies and Republican politicians:

First, conservative policy intellectuals tend to have accepted the fact that American society is coming apart and that measures need to be taken to assist the working class. Republican politicians show no awareness of this fact.

Second, conservative writers and intellectuals have a vision for how they want American society to be in the 21st century. Republican politicians have a vision of how they want American government to be in the 21st century... that government should tax people less... that open-ended entitlements should be cut. The Senate health care plan would throw 15 million people off Medicaid... the program that covers nearly 40 percent of America’s children.) Is there a vision of society underlying those choices? Not really.... The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.

Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t argue for their plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to the Aspen Ideas Festival to make the case for the G.O.P. approach. It’s not that he had bad arguments; he had no arguments.... Because Republicans have no national vision, they seem largely uninterested in the actual effects their legislation would have on the country at large. This Senate bill would be completely unworkable because anybody with half a brain would get insurance only when they got sick. Worse, this bill takes all of the devastating trends afflicting the middle and working classes—all the instability, all the struggle and pain—and it makes them worse....

This is not a conservative vision of American society. It’s a vision rendered cruel by its obliviousness. I have been trying to think about the underlying mentality that now governs the Republican political class. The best I can do is the atomistic mentality described by Alexis de Tocqueville long ago:

They owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man; they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their own hands. Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.

What is their vision? It seems to me to be one in which the rich take what they can, and distract their base by giving them people to hate. It is, I think, the vision that populist Joe Bailey (himself racist as ----) wished he could have argued against, and that at the end of his career he passed down to the young Sam Rayburn who at the end of his career passed it down to Lyndon Johnson who told it to us in New Orleans in 1964

When Mr. Rayburn came up as a young boy of the House, he went over to see the old Senator.... He was talking about economic problems. He was talking about how we had been at the mercy of certain economic interests, and how they had exploited us. They had worked our women for 5 cents an hour, they had worked our men for a dollar a day, they had exploited our soil, they had let our resources go to waste, they had taken everything out of the ground they could, and they had shipped it to other sections. He was talking about the economy and what a great future we could have in the South, if we could just meet our economic problems, if we could just take a look at the resources of the South and develop them. And he said:

Sammy, I wish I felt a little better. I would like to go back to old . I would like to go back down there and make them one more Democratic speech. I just feel like I have one in me. The poor old State, they haven't heard a Democratic speech in 30 years. All they ever hear at election time is "n-----, n-----, n-----!

The problem with David Brooks is that it has long been thus—it is the curse of Richard Nixon and Barry Goldwater.