David Brooks on the State of Presidential Politics

David Brooks offered his usual insightful analysis of last night’s GOP debate. It’s early in the primary season but he’s already fed up with what he sees as the inevitable tone of the ensuing national discourse:

Voters are in the market for new movements and new combinations, yet the two parties have grown more rigid. The Republican growth agenda — tax cuts and nothing else — is stupefyingly boring, fiscally irresponsible and politically impossible. Gigantic tax cuts — if they were affordable — might boost overall growth, but they would do nothing to address the structural problems that are causing a working-class crisis.
Republican politicians don’t design policies to meet specific needs, or even to help their own working-class voters. They use policies as signaling devices — as ways to reassure the base that they are 100 percent orthodox and rigidly loyal. Republicans have taken a pragmatic policy proposal from 1980 and sanctified it as their core purity test for 2012.
As for the Democrats, they offer practically nothing. They acknowledge huge problems like wage stagnation and then offer… light rail! Solar panels! It was telling that the Democrats offered no budget this year, even though they are supposedly running the country. That’s because they too are trapped in a bygone era.
Mentally, they are living in the era of affluence, but, actually, they are living in the era of austerity. They still have these grand spending ideas, but there is no longer any money to pay for them and there won’t be for decades. Democrats dream New Deal dreams, propose nothing and try to win elections by making sure nobody ever touches Medicare.
Covering this upcoming election is like covering a competition between two Soviet refrigerator companies, cold-war relics offering products that never change.
What is Brooks’ prescription? Something that might be too sensible to be embraced by any candidate:
If there were a Hamiltonian Party, it would be offering a multifaceted reinvigoration agenda. It would grab growth ideas from all spots on the political spectrum and blend them together. Its program would be based on the essential political logic: If you want to get anything passed, you have to offer an intertwined package that smashes the Big Government vs. Small Government orthodoxies and gives everybody something they want.