The Head and the Heart

Two tropes worth highlighting in the op-ed pages lately:

First, the usual suspects at the NYT and the FT are declaring the Republican Party brain-dead. Depending on the columnist, the party is officially out of ideas, actively brainwashing its base in an ecstasy of mutually-constructed hallucination, or worse.

The worst that most of them have to say about the Democrats is that they’re fractious and/or less than totally inspiring. (Good heavens — a candidate who doesn’t demand our attention every moment of every day! That doesn’t sound like a relief at all, does it?)

But the FT’s Ed Luce, in a multi-book review on the future of the West, lands a critique that ought to give lingering pause. Discussing Thomas Frank’s new book, The People, No, Luce writes that

Rather than blame themselves for [their] 2016 defeat … [Democrats] targeted the electorate. Much as Bertolt Brecht joked that communist dictators should dissolve the people and get a new one, America’s liberal cognoscenti would happily trade the country’s white working class for another.

Ouch. Four years later, the word “deplorable” is off-limits, but the sentiment is still clearly there.

Here’s where we need to get really clear about something, and it’s something that traditional conservatives, ever alert for relativism, ought to primed to see especially crisply.

Simply, put, there are problems with both parties — that’s plain to see. But, difficult as a heart transplant is, it’s still much easier than a brain transplant. And a kleptocratic cult of personality looks like brain cancer, not heart disease.

Anger and disillusionment are well deserved. Soul-searching is much needed, and a change of heart can’t come soon enough.

But our politics, always the realm of less-worse choices, has given us a choice between brain cancer and heart disease. Neither a diagnosis you want; both conditions the result of years’ or decades’ worth of lesser decisions.

We don’t get a chance to remake all the decisions that led us here. The only decision now is between these two ugly prognoses. And the only questions are, which one can we recover from — and which one will we pick?