The Coming Conservative Backlash

| Tue Oct. 14, 2008 12:47 PM EDT

THE COMING CONSERVATIVE BACKLASH....In today's column, David Brooks is already predicting a conservative backlash against upcoming liberal overreach. Sheesh. Can we please have our liberal overreach first? I'm looking forward to it.

Personally, though, I'm skeptical. I hope I'm just being my usual pessimistic self, but I'm skeptical anyway. Take this from Ezra Klein, for example, about the new Paulson bailout plan:

The liberals were right. Not the Democrats. The liberals. They were right that deregulation had gone too far....They were right that government intervention on a massive scale was needed to stabilize the capitalist system. They were so right, in fact, that Hank Paulson and George W. Bush couldn't hold the line, and will now sign into law the most profoundly socialist measure this country has seen since the 1930s.

Maybe. And this is basically what prompts Brooks to predict a social democratic renaissance hellscape, which will eventually degenerate into....something....and then produce an inevitable backlash.

But, really, is this bailout the most profoundly socialist measure this country has seen since the 1930s? In a technical sense, maybe it is (though conservatives would probably argue the case for Medicare), but I have my doubts that it's a harbinger of social revolution. The government isn't nationalizing banks, after all. They're taking what amounts to roughly 20% nonvoting stakes. And my guess is that in a couple of years, when the markets have settled down, they'll sell those stakes off and everything will return to normal. Hopefully it will be a more tightly regulated normal, but it won't necessarily have an enormous impact beyond the financial sector.

I hope I'm wrong about this. I'd like to see the social democratic renaissance that Brooks is so itchy about. But although I know that comparisons to Japan and Sweden aren't really fair since both countries are already pretty socially democratic compared to ours, it's still the case that massive bank failures in those countries in the early 90s didn't fundamentally change their characters. I have my doubts that it will happen here, either, unless Barack Obama turns out to be a far more dynamic leader than I expect him to be. I sure hope he proves my skepticism wrong, and if he does I'm perfectly willing to accept the conservative backlash in 2024 that goes along with it. We could get a lot done in the meantime.