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David Brooks: 'McCain-Lieberman Party' still emerging

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Published: Wednesday August 9, 2006

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According to New York Times columnist David Brooks, the "three major parties in America" are "the Democratic Party, the Republican Party and the McCain-Lieberman Party," and "all were on display Tuesday night."

"The Democratic Party was represented by its rising force -- Ned Lamont on a victory platform with the net roots exulting before him and Al Sharpton smiling just behind," Brooks opines in Thursday's edition of The Times. "The Republican Party was represented by its collapsing old guard -- scandal-tainted Tom DeLay trying to get his name removed from the November ballot."

"And the McCain-Lieberman Party was represented by Joe Lieberman himself, giving a concession speech that explained why polarized primary voters shouldn't be allowed to define the choices in American politics," Brooks continues.

The conservative columnist for the Times compares America's politics with Iraq's.

"The McCain-Lieberman Party begins with a rejection of the Sunni-Shiite style of politics itself," writes Brooks. "It rejects those whose emotional attachment to their party is so all-consuming it becomes a form of tribalism, and who believe the only way to get American voters to respond is through aggression and stridency."

Even though Lieberman lost Tuesday's primary, Brooks believes "McCain-Liebermanism" is still emerging.

"The McCain-Lieberman Party is emerging because the war with Islamic extremism, which opened new fissures and exacerbated old ones, will dominate the next five years as much as it has dominated the last five," writes Brooks. "It is emerging because of deep trends that are polarizing our politics. It is emerging because social conservatives continue to pull the GOP rightward (look at how Rep. Joe Schwarz, a moderate Republican, was defeated by a conservative rival in Michigan)."

"It is emerging because highly educated secular liberals are pulling the Democrats upscale and to the left (Lamont's voters are rich, and 65 percent call themselves liberals, compared with 30 percent of Democrats nationwide)," Brooks' column continues.

Excerpts from Brooks' column:

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The history of third parties is that they get absorbed into one of the existing two, and that will probably happen here. John McCain and Hillary Clinton will try to reconcile their centrist approaches with the hostile forces in their own parties. And maybe they will succeed (McCain has a better chance, since the ideologues on the right feel vulnerable while the ideologues on the left, perpetually two years behind the national mood, think the public wants more rage).

But amid the hurly-burly of the next few years -- the continuing jihad, Speaker Pelosi, a possible economic slowdown -- the old parties could become even more inflamed. Both could reject McCain-Liebermanism.

At that point things really get interesting.

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TIMES SELECT SUBSCRIBERS CAN READ FULL BROOKS COLUMN AT THIS LINK