These changes aren't unrelated. In the 1990s, both the left and the right fell in love again with the American Progressives. Brooks led the Weekly Standard's crusade for Teddy Roosevelt-style "National Greatness." When Newt Gingrich took over the House as speaker, he declared that it was the dawn of a new progressive era, and on the stump today, he sings the praises of the Progressives. (Full disclosure: My wife consults for Gingrich). Sen. John McCain openly models himself on the Progressive Teddy Roosevelt, and just this week Time magazine has an essay by Karl Rove on what T.R. can teach us.
Meanwhile, on the left, the word "progressive" has started to replace "liberal," for several reasons, including a renaissance of faith in the socially transformative power of the state. Recall that liberalism in the 1970s and 1980s was more about empowering interest groups rather than what Hillary Clinton has called a new "politics of meaning" (which she grounded in the Progressive social gospel tradition). A host of intellectuals - and Bill Clinton himself - argued that Clintonism represented the restoration of progressivism. Recently, Joel Kotkin argued in the Washington Post that the failures that followed Hurricane Katrina proved that we "need" to return to the cult of government competence manifested by the Progressives. The New Republic's Peter Beinart's new book, "The Good Fight," is, as others have noted, the most coherent case for a new program of "Liberal National Greatness." And at the supposed ideological extremes, we've seen Naderites and Buchananites finding common cause.
Progressivism is not merely the faux populism of the Internet. Nor is it solely the label for whatever policies self-described Progressives prefer. It is a faith - often grounded in Christianity, but not necessarily so - in the redemptive power and professional competence of the state. And, frankly, I despise it.
As a matter of analysis, Brooks is right. Much of intellectual conservatism has bought into the logic of progressivism. The war on terror has hastened the classically Progressive yearning for security. The arguments between the political parties for the foreseeable future will not be between champions of state intervention and champions of laissez-faire. They'll be between those who want the state to do "liberal" things, on race and the environment, for example, and those who want it to do "conservative" things, such as faith-based initiatives and national education standards. Forced to choose, I'll take the latter. But I won't like it.