Isaac Chotiner says David Brooks is wrong about Disraeli:
As for Disraeli, whose new conservative party was created out of opposition to free trade(!), his second premiership may indeed have led to the introduction of numerous social reforms. But voting was so restricted during that time–and the issues of the campaign so far removed from those of our own time–that to imply “the people” of the 1870’s wanted incremental change from “conservative” politicians is almost absurd (Disraeli actually lost the popular vote in the crucial 1874 election). Disraeli’s imperialism and nationalism are interesting to compare to Roosevelt’s, but any comparison to modern-day America is downright silly.
This is perhaps a good time to note that I’m not really a fan of historical analogies as a mode of argument. The reason is that accuracy in historical characterization is rarely particularly relevant to the point the analogy-maker was trying to make. But under the circumstances, there’s actually not much need to make the analogy. At the end of the day, I think I understand what Brooks is saying here perfectly well and I don’t know anything about Disraeli. To me, the interesting thing about the use of the analogy is simply that for whatever reason modern-day conservative reformers don’t like to site Eisenhower and Nixon as predecessors even though they would make more familiar references.