‘No coherent belief system’ and ‘no leaders’

‘NO COHERENT BELIEF SYSTEM’ AND ‘NO LEADERS’…. David Brooks’ election analysis has been hit or miss, but his take on the state of the Republican Party on “Face the Nation” yesterday sounded pretty compelling.

“World of pain,” Brooks said. “A generation of pain. 1964, it was so much better than now. In ’64, they had a coherent belief system. They lost, they didn’t persuade the American people about it, but they understood where they wanted to take the country.

“Now it’s just a circular firing squad, with everybody attacking each other, and no coherent belief system, no leaders. You’ve got half the party waiting for Sarah Palin to come and rescue them. The other half is waiting for Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, to come rescue them. But no set of beliefs. Really a decayed conservative infrastructure. It’s just a world of pain.”

He added, “[F]undamentally, the conservative movement failed — and I’ve been in it my entire life — because it hasn’t addressed the problems of today.”

This sounds right to me. When it comes to guiding the party and its future, who are the “leaders”? Republicans can’t (or won’t) look to Bush or Cheney. John McCain will have about as much influence going forward as Bob Dole did after the 1996 elections. Sarah Palin is reviled by significant factions of the party establishment, and even those conservatives who adore have no idea what she thinks about substantive issues. Mitt Romney was pretty liberal up until a few years ago; Mike Huckabee is loathed by the foreign policy establishment, and Bobby Jindal is 37 years old and believes in exorcisms.

Who’s left? John Boehner? Newt Gingrich? Sean Hannity?

But Brooks’ even more compelling observation is that Republicans lack a “coherent belief system.” This became evident when John McCain failed to present a policy agenda beyond an anti-earmark crusade, but it’s bound to be even more glaring moving forward. After ’64, Republicans knew exactly where they wanted to take the country. After ’92, Gingrich had the sketch for a Contract with America.

At this point, though, the party exists to oppose Democratic ideas. That’s fine for an opposition force, but for a governing philosophy, it’s an obvious sign of bankruptcy.