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David Brooks: If "Reality Caucus" Can Retake Control In House, Immigration Will Pass

JUDY WOODRUFF: David, his death comes just two days after this -- the end of this -- I don't know what we want to call it, Armageddon, the week that -- two, three weeks that swallowed Washington.

What are we left with after all this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, we're left with people unlike Tom Foley.

He was also an institutionalist.

MARK SHIELDS: That's right.

DAVID BROOKS: He was a lifer. He was on the staff of Scoop Jackson, the senator from Washington State, who was sort of a hawkish, centrist Democrat.

And he was someone who was committed to some -- well, the institution as something that would transcend generations, and he was just the temporary steward of that. That mentality is not so much in evidence these days. And I think what we're left with, with the pointless Armageddon, if you want to put it that way, is a Republican Party wondering, and the Democrats looking at the Republican Party and wondering.

Democrats are feeling pretty good. Republicans are not feeling good. And the question is, is the Republican Party going to change? Will what I would call the reality caucus take back control of the party? And I am more optimistic than most that the people who do believe in the basic functions of legislation, including Mitch McConnell, are finally fed up.

And they have always been fed up privately, but whether they actually have the courage of their convictions has been in doubt until now. I think they're beginning to get that courage. And I think, outside the donor class, all those people are deciding, we need some institutions to match the Tea Party institutions. So I think you're beginning to see some kernels of change.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you have the same optimism about what David is calling the reality caucus?

MARK SHIELDS: I'm not sure, Judy.

I just think all the energy, all the passion, all the intensity is with the Tea Party and conservative army within the Republican Party. Yes, Republicans agree that the party has to change, but a solid majority of them believes they have to be more conservative. That's the change they should do.

If you're a Tea Party member, you know the party's lost five of the last six popular elections, popular vote national elections. And you sit there and you say, well, we nominated John McCain in 2008. He was a bipartisan guy, he was a reformer, a maverick. He lost. We nominated Mitt Romney in 2012. He was a blue state governor, and he lost. We won once in the past four elections. That was in 2010. We won 63 seats because we stood unabashedly and unambiguously conservative. And, my goodness, that's why.

And I just think that's a strong -- David's right. There is a -- among the leadership, the establishment of the party, the donors, you know, we have got to do something about this.

But I just think the energy and the intensity and the passion, the people who are going to stuff envelopes, make calls, go door to door, drive people to polls, I think, are with the conservatives at this point.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What do you think happens to those folks who -- who tried so hard to defund Obamacare, defund health care law, who really wanted more out of this confrontation than they got? What happens to them?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, they will have to figure it out. They -- they're putting on a brave face today, but they were so legislatively incompetent.

Competence does essentially matter. They started a fight they couldn't win, there was no possibility of winning, and they marched the party into disaster. So, can they really be unaware of that? Certainly, the rest of the party isn't unaware of that.

If they hadn't done this, we would have spent the last week talking about how badly the Obamacare website is rolling out. Sarah Kliff made that earlier -- that point earlier on in the program. And so this was a colossal blunder.

If I were President Obama, what I would do right now to test this proposition, I would go full-bore on immigration. If the -- well, I will keep calling them the reality caucus. If they can retake control, then they will pass something like what the Senate passed, and President Obama will have a big substantive victory.

If the energy is on the Tea Party side, and they can't pass anything, then they will have further marginalized themselves, and the president will have a great political victory. And so, to me, this is the opportunity to test the proposition whether the Republican Party can change or not. Immigration is the issue.

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