Republicans have admired Westerns for decades, continually flocking to leaders—Goldwater, Reagan, Bush, Palin—who embody the John Wayne ideal of individualism and bravery. But as David Brooks writes, Westerns aren't really about lone heroes, but "civic order": how newcomers build communities in inhospitable regions. For the New York Times columnist, a true John Wayne figure would be devoted to "community and order, and the bonds that built the nation."
The GOP has become so individualistic that it has no tools to speak to the young, who are "exceptionally community-oriented," or to the lower middle class, "who fear that capitalism has gone haywire." The Republicans can continue to obsess over freedom from government, and isolate themselves from the cities and suburbs. Or they can be true Westerners, and stake their claim on "the health of the communal order."