Frum goes to the dark side

(Note: be sure to see Clark Coleman’s and Tim W.’s comments.)

David Frum is an odd mixture of climber and shmendrik, of quick-footed ideological entrepreneur and man slipping on a banana peel—ceaselessly repositioning himself to advance his career, consistently wrong on issues, and repeatedly showing astoundingly poor judgment. An example of the last is his co-authoring of a book entitled An End to Evil, a utopian notion that, as I’ve said, ought to disqualify anyone from ever being taken seriously in politics. However, with his recent cover article in the leftist magazine Newsweek attacking Rush Limbaugh,—Frum’s byline appears on Newsweek’s cover with a grotesque close-up photo of Limbaugh making him look like a sweaty, pig-eyed, McCarthyesque ranter, and with a black banner across Limbaugh’s mouth announcing “ENOUGH!”—Frum has gone to a new stage in his restless journey. By participating in the standard liberal demonizing of conservatives as primitive bigots unfit for civilized society, Frum becomes not just risible and wrongheaded, but egregious, not just an intellectually vagrant careerist, but a traitor to conservatism.


Jeffrey Kuhner in the Washington Times saves me the trouble of demolishing Frum, hitting several points I would have mentioned, including Frum’s 1994 book touting small-government paleoconservatism, a position he immediately abandoned and has now explicitly reversed, and his support for Rudolph Giuliani for president.

Kuhner writes:

Mr. Frum is part of a growing number of elitist conservatives seeking to revamp and redefine the political right. Others include David Brooks, Ross Douthat, Reihan Salam, Ramesh Ponnuru and Newt Gingrich.

These conservatives are amateur Machiavellians posing as sophisticated political strategists. They offer policy prescriptions that will supposedly transform the GOP into a national governing majority once again. They claim to represent the future; Mr. Limbaugh the past.

However, they are effete policy wonks who lack firm principles. During the 1990s, Mr. Frum argued that the problem with Republicans is they lacked the will to fight the liberal ruling class. They had abandoned their anti-statist, tax-cutting, socially conservative roots.

Now, he argues the very opposite: It’s time for the GOP to accommodate prevailing social liberal forces. Mr. Frum recommends that the GOP jettison income tax cuts and embrace free-market health-care reform. He suggests Republicans adopt pro-environment policies and gay rights. He also wants the party to be more receptive to pro-choice vice presidential candidates such as Tom Ridge who, if chosen as John McCain’s running mate, would have made Pennsylvania more competitive in the November election.

In other words, Mr. Frum now wants to create a progressive conservatism characterized by expanding health-care coverage, environmentalism and hostility—or at least indifference—to traditional values. This is not adapting conservative principles to current realities, but diluting them to the point that they morph into liberalism. He is not saving conservatism; he is destroying it.

Mr. Frum is consistently wrong. For example, he has led the charge in defense of uncontrolled immigration, claiming it is good for business and America. When conservatives point out that no nation can absorb such a massive influx of immigrants—both legal and illegal—without profound social and economic dislocations, Mr. Frum dismisses them as “nativists.” The very Hispanics voting for the Democrats by large majorities are the direct result of the open-borders policies advocated by the likes of Mr. Frum.

Mr. Frum has taken credit for coining the phrase “Axis of Evil.” He predicted the war in Iraq would be quick, decisive and easy. Instead, it has degenerated into a protracted, bloody experiment in nation-building.

Elitist conservatives, like Mr. Frum, are consumed by power. They are not genuine, independent public intellectuals. Rather, they serve as the communications arm of the GOP. Ideas are simply pieces on a chessboard in which to checkmate the Democratic opposition. Principles, truth, morality—they are all expendable in the grand game of politics. They are deracinated narcissists who live in a policy bubble and are detached from the values and interests of Middle America. [Emphasis added.]

What Mr. Frum and his ilk don’t understand is that most voters don’t care about free-market health-care reform—or other boutique policy issues, such as hybrid cars, health savings accounts or partially privatizing Social Security. These will not revive the GOP.

Voters do care about the state of the country. What they have seen under Republican rule during the Bush years has been colossal incompetence: rampant corruption, runaway spending, soaring deficits, failing schools, broken borders, corporate plutocracy and quagmire in the Middle East.

The GOP has lost the electorate’s trust as a responsible party capable of governing. Posing as progressive Republicans will not solve the problem. In fact, it will only reinforce the electorate’s cynicism about the GOP’s lack of principles and honesty.

The Republican Party is supposed to be not only the conservative party, but the nationalist party. It has stood for great transcendental causes—abolishing slavery, preserving the constitutional republic of limited government and federalism, defeating totalitarian communism. If it abandons the seminal issues of our time—the defense of the family and the unborn—then it has lost its historical purpose. Social conservatives and pro-lifers will leave in droves. The GOP will become morally and ideologically rudderless; its various factions will fracture, reducing a once-dominant party into a rump.

Many elitist conservatives—including Mr. Frum—backed former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani to be the 2008 Republican standard-bearer, even though it threatened to rupture the GOP. He was their dream candidate: pro-choice, pro-gay rights, pro-environment, pro-immigration, pro-education reform—the ideal nominee for women, independents and educated professionals. Mr. Giuliani’s candidacy, however, crashed and burned. His failure should have served as a warning. Voters—from both parties—don’t care for progressive Republicans. [LA notes: Kuhner leaves out that Frum is still pushing Giuliani despite the total failure of his presidential candidacy. When Frum’s new website was inaugurated in January, it featured not just an article but a series of articles touting Giuliani. And, again, this was all presented under the rubric of reviving conservatism.]

Conservatives are in a state of civil war. The ultimate target of the attacks on talk radio is a populist conservatism that fuses patriotism, free-market capitalism and social traditionalism. First, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was disparaged by the elitist right. Now, it Mr. Limbaugh is the target. Mrs. Palin energized activists across the country and Mr. Limbaugh and talk radio mobilizes and gets the message out to tens of millions of listeners.

By contrast, elitist conservatives sit in their ivory towers building castles in the sky as their country burns.

[end of Kuhner article.]

Kuhner misses the point (discussed at VFR in September 2008) that Palin’s candidacy was destructive of social conservatism, causing conservatives to approve of out-of-wedlock pregnancy and of the feminist notion that a full-time high-level career is consistent with the responsibilities of motherhood. After Palin, the only plank of social conservatism that remained was opposition to abortion. Palin also expressed mindless support for the NEA’s agenda and for the legalization of illegal aliens. As someone said, Palin is not a conservative; but a militarist populist.

In the Newsweek article, Frum wrote:

In the days since I stumbled into this controversy, I’ve received a great deal of e-mail. (Most of it on days when (radio host Mark) Levin or (Sean) Hannity or Hugh Hewitt or Limbaugh have had something especially disobliging to say about me.) Most of these e-mails say some version of the same thing: if you don’t agree with Rush, quit calling yourself a conservative and get out of the Republican Party. There’s the perfect culmination of the outlook Rush Limbaugh has taught his fans and followers: we want to transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous dittoheads—and we don’t care how small the party has to shrink to do it. That’s not the language of politics. It’s the language of cult.

Now that’s a lie. People disagree with Rush Limbaugh all the time. Frum wasn’t just criticizing Rush Limbaugh, he was writing a Newsweek cover article portraying Limbaugh, the best known conservative in America, as a loud-mouth bigot who must be silenced. The message of that cover was that any vital conservatism must be banished.

Notice also how Frum says he “stumbled into this controversy.” He initiates a gratuitous personal attack on Rush Limbaugh, then tries to deny responsibility by excusing it as mere “stumbling.” It’s as though he can’t decide whether he wants to be Sammy Glick, brutally sticking it to Limbaugh in order to advance himself, or a schlemiel.

Here is Frum’s article:

Why Rush is Wrong

The party of Buckley and Reagan is now bereft and dominated by the politics of Limbaugh. A conservative’s lament.

David Frum

From the magazine issue dated Mar 16, 2009

It wasn’t a fight I went looking for. On March 3, the popular radio host Mark Levin opened his show with an outburst (he always opens his show with an outburst): “There are people who have somehow claimed the conservative mantle … You don’t even know who they are … They’re so irrelevant … It’s time to name names …! The Canadian David Frum: where did this a-hole come from? … In the foxhole with other conservatives, you know what this jerk does? He keeps shooting us in the back … Hey, Frum: you’re a putz.”

Now, of course, Mark Levin knows perfectly well where I come from. We’ve known each other for years, had dinner together. I’m a conservative Republican, have been all my adult life. I volunteered for the Reagan campaign in 1980. I’ve attended every Republican convention since 1988. I was president of the Federalist Society chapter at my law school, worked on the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal and wrote speeches for President Bush—not the “Read My Lips” Bush, the “Axis of Evil” Bush. I served on the Giuliani campaign in 2008 and voted for John McCain in November. I supported the Iraq War and (although I feel kind of silly about it in retrospect) the impeachment of Bill Clinton. I could go on, but you get the idea.

I mention all this not because I expect you to be fascinated with my life story, but to establish some bona fides. In the conservative world, we have a tendency to dismiss unwelcome realities. When one of us looks up and murmurs, “Hey, guys, there seems to be an avalanche heading our way,” the others tend to shrug and say, he’s a “squish” or a RINO—Republican in Name Only.

Levin had been provoked by a blog entry I’d posted the day before on my site, Here’s what I wrote: President Obama and Rush Limbaugh do not agree on much, but they share at least one thing: Both wish to see Rush anointed as the leader of the Republican party.

Here’s Rahm Emanuel on Face the Nation yesterday: “the voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican party.” What a great endorsement for Rush! … But what about the rest of the party? Here’s the duel that Obama and Limbaugh are jointly arranging:

On the one side, the president of the United States: soft-spoken and conciliatory, never angry, always invoking the recession and its victims. This president invokes the language of “responsibility,” and in his own life seems to epitomize that ideal: He is physically honed and disciplined, his worst vice an occasional cigarette. He is at the same time an apparently devoted husband and father. Unsurprisingly, women voters trust and admire him.

And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as “losers.” With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence—exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we’re cooperating! Those images of crowds of CPACers cheering Rush’s every rancorous word—we’ll be seeing them rebroadcast for a long time. [LA replies: it wasn’t enough that Frum had to make physical comparisons between the president of the U.S. and a radio host in a blog entry, he had to repeat it in Newsweek?]

Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined.

But do the rest of us understand what we are doing to ourselves by accepting this leadership? Rush is to the Republicanism of the 2000s what Jesse Jackson was to the Democratic party in the 1980s. He plays an important role in our coalition, and of course he and his supporters have to be treated with respect. But he cannot be allowed to be the public face of the enterprise—and we have to find ways of assuring the public that he is just one Republican voice among many, and very far from the most important.

All of this began even before Obama took office. In his broadcast on Jan. 16, Limbaugh told listeners he had been asked by a major publication for a 400-word statement about his hopes for the new administration:

I’m thinking of replying to the guy, “OK, I’ll send you a response, but I don’t need 400 words. I need four: I hope he fails.” … See, here’s the point: everybody thinks it’s outrageous to say. Look, even my staff: “Oh, you can’t do that.” Why not? Why is it any different, what’s new, what is unfair about my saying I hope liberalism fails? Liberalism is our problem. Liberalism is what’s gotten us dangerously close to the precipice here … I would be honored if the Drive-By Media headlined me all day long: “Limbaugh: I Hope Obama Fails.” Somebody’s gotta say it.

Notice that Limbaugh did not say: “I hope the administration’s liberal plans fail.” Or (better): “I know the administration’s liberal plans will fail.” Or (best): “I fear that this administration’s liberal plans will fail, as liberal plans usually do.” If it had been phrased that way, nobody could have used Limbaugh’s words to misrepresent conservatives as clueless, indifferent or gleeful in the face of the most painful economic crisis in a generation. But then, if it had been phrased that way, nobody would have quoted his words at all—and as Limbaugh himself said, being “headlined” was the point of the exercise. If it had been phrased that way, Limbaugh’s face would not now be adorning the covers of magazines. He phrased his hope in a way that drew maximum attention to himself, offered maximum benefit to the administration and did maximum harm to the party he claims to support.

Then, exacerbating the wound, Limbaugh added this in an interview on Sean Hannity’s Jan. 21 show on Fox News: “We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president.” Limbaugh would repeat some variant of this remark at least four more times in the next month and a half. Really, President Obama could not have asked for more: Limbaugh gets an audience, Obama gets a target and Republicans get the blame.

Rush Limbaugh is a seriously unpopular figure among the voters that conservatives and Republicans need to reach. Forty-one percent of independents have an unfavorable opinion of him, according to the new NEWSWEEK Poll. Limbaugh is especially off-putting to women: his audience is 72 percent male, according to Pew Research. Limbaugh himself acknowledges his unpopularity among women. On his Feb. 24 broadcast, he said with a chuckle: “Thirty-one-point gender gaps don’t come along all that often … Given this massive gender gap in my personal approval numbers … it seems reasonable for me to convene a summit.”

Limbaugh was kidding about the summit. But his quip acknowledged something that eludes many of those who would make him the arbiter of Republican authenticity: from a political point of view, Limbaugh is kryptonite, weakening the GOP nationally. No Republican official will say that; Limbaugh demands absolute deference from the conservative world, and he generally gets it. When offended, he can extract apologies from Republican members of Congress, even the chairman of the Republican National Committee. And Rush is very easily offended.

Through 2008 Rush was offended by the tendency among conservative writers to suggest that the ideas and policies developed in the 1970s needed to change and adapt to the very different world of the 21st century. Here’s what he had to say about this subject in his speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Feb. 28:

Sometimes I get livid and angry … We’ve got factions now within our own movement seeking power to dominate it, and, worst of all, to redefine it. Well, the Constitution doesn’t need to be redefined. Conservative intellectuals, the Declaration of Independence does not need to be redefined, and neither does conservatism. Conservatism is what it is, and it is forever. It’s not something you can bend and shape and flake and form … I cringed—it might have been 2007, late 2007 or sometime during 2008, but a couple of prominent, conservative, Beltway, establishment media types began to write on the concept that the era of Reagan is over. And that we needed to adapt our appeal, because, after all, what’s important in politics is winning elections. And so we have to understand that the American people, they want big government. We just have to find a way to tell them we’re no longer opposed to that. We will come up with our own version of it that is wiser and smarter, but we’ve got to go get the Wal-Mart voter, and we’ve got to get the Hispanic voter, and we’ve got to get the recalcitrant independent women. And I’m listening to this and I am just apoplectic: the era of Reagan is over? … We have got to stamp this out …

Here is an example of the writing Limbaugh was complaining about: The conservatism we know evolved in the 1970s to meet a very specific set of dangers and challenges: inflation, slow growth, energy shortages, unemployment, rising welfare dependency. In every one of those problems, big government was the direct and immediate culprit. Roll back government, and you solved the problem.

Government is implicated in many of today’s top domestic concerns as well … But the connection between big government and today’s most pressing problems is not as close or as pressing as it was 27 years ago. So, unsurprisingly, the anti-big-government message does not mobilize the public the way it once did.

Of course, we can keep repeating our old lines all the same, just the way Tip O’Neill kept exhorting the American middle class to show more gratitude to the New Deal. But politicians who talk that way soon sound old, tired, and cranky. I wish somebody at the … GOP presidential debate at the Reagan Library had said: “Ronald Reagan was a great leader and a great president because he addressed the problems of his time. But we have very different problems—and we need very different answers. Here are mine.”

I wrote that in spring 2007. But you can hear similar words from bright young conservative writers like Reihan Salam and Ross Douthat, and from veteran Republican politicians like Newt Gingrich. Gingrich told George Stephanopoulos on Jan. 13, 2008: “We are at the end of the Reagan era. We’re at a point in time when we’re about to start redefining … the nature of the Republican Party, in response to what the country needs.”

Even before the November 2008 defeat—even before the financial crisis and the congressional elections of November 2006—it was already apparent that the Republican Party and the conservative movement were in deep trouble. And not just because of Iraq, either (although Iraq obviously did not help).

At the peak of the Bush boom in 2007, the typical American worker was earning barely more after inflation than the typical American worker had earned in 2000. Out of those flat earnings, that worker was paying more for food, energy and out-of-pocket costs of health care. Political parties that do not deliver economic improvement for the typical person do not get reelected. We Republicans and conservatives were not delivering. The reasons for our failure are complex and controversial, but the consequences are not.

We lost the presidency in 2008. In 2006 and 2008, together, we lost 51 seats in the House and 14 in the Senate. Even in 2004, President Bush won reelection by the narrowest margin of any reelected president in American history.

The trends below those vote totals were even more alarming. Republicans have never done well among the poor and the nonwhite—and as the country’s Hispanic population grows, so, too, do those groups. More ominously, Republicans are losing their appeal to voters with whom they’ve historically done well.

In 1988 George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis among college graduates by 25 points. Nothing unusual there: Republicans have owned the college-graduate vote. But in 1992 Ross Perot led an exodus of the college-educated out of the GOP, and they never fully returned. In 2008 Obama beat John McCain among college graduates by 8 points, the first Democratic win among B.A. holders since exit polling began.

Political strategists used to talk about a GOP “lock” on the presidency because of the Republican hold on the big Sun Belt states: California, Texas, Florida. Republicans won California in every presidential election from 1952 through 1988 (except the Goldwater disaster of 1964). Democrats have won California in the five consecutive presidential elections since 1988.

In 1984 Reagan won young voters by 20 points; the elder Bush won voters under 30 again in 1988. Since that year, the Democrats have won the under-30 vote in five consecutive presidential elections. Voters who turned 20 between 2000 and 2005 are the most lopsidedly Democratic age cohort in the electorate. If they eat right, exercise and wear seat belts, they will be voting against George W. Bush well into the 2060s.

Between 2004 and 2008, Democrats more than doubled their party-identification advantage in Pennsylvania. A survey of party switchers in the state found that a majority of the reaffiliating voters had belonged to the GOP for 20 years or more. They were educated and affluent. More than half of those who left stated that the GOP had become too extreme.

Look at America’s public-policy problems, look at voting trends, and it’s inescapably obvious that the Republican Party needs to evolve. We need to put free-market health-care reform, not tax cuts, at the core of our economic message. It’s health-care costs that are crushing middle-class incomes. Between 2000 and 2006, the amount that employers paid for labor rose substantially. Employees got none of that money; all of it was absorbed by rising health-care costs. Meanwhile, the income-tax cuts offered by Republicans interest fewer and fewer people: before the recession, two thirds of American workers paid more in payroll taxes than in income taxes.

We need to modulate our social conservatism (not jettison—modulate). The GOP will remain a predominantly conservative party and a predominantly pro-life party. But especially on gay-rights issues, the under-30 generation has arrived at a new consensus. Our party seems to be running to govern a country that no longer exists. The rule that both our presidential and vice presidential candidates must always be pro-life has become counterproductive: McCain’s only hope of winning the presidency in 2008 was to carry Pennsylvania, and yet Pennsylvania’s most successful Republican vote winner, former governor Tom Ridge, was barred from the ticket because he’s pro-choice.

We need an environmental message. You don’t have to accept Al Gore’s predictions of imminent gloom to accept that it cannot be healthy to pump gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. We are rightly mistrustful of liberal environmentalist disrespect for property rights. But property owners also care about property values, about conservation, and as a party of property owners we should be taking those values more seriously.

Above all, we need to take governing seriously again. Voters have long associated Democrats with corrupt urban machines, Republicans with personal integrity and fiscal responsibility. Even ultraliberal states like Massachusetts would elect Republican governors like Frank Sargent, Leverett Saltonstall, William Weld and Mitt Romney precisely to keep an austere eye on the depredations of Democratic legislators. After Iraq, Katrina and Harriet Miers, Democrats surged to a five-to-three advantage on the competence and ethics questions. And that was before we put Sarah Palin on our national ticket.

Every day, Rush Limbaugh reassures millions of core Republican voters that no change is needed: if people don’t appreciate what we are saying, then say it louder. Isn’t that what happened in 1994? Certainly this is a good approach for Rush himself. He claims 20 million listeners per week, and that suffices to make him a very wealthy man. And if another 100 million people cannot stand him, what does he care? What can they do to him other than … not listen? It’s not as if they can vote against him.

But they can vote against Republican candidates for Congress. They can vote against Republican nominees for president. And if we allow ourselves to be overidentified with somebody who earns his fortune by giving offense, they will vote against us. Two months into 2009, President Obama and the Democratic Congress have already enacted into law the most ambitious liberal program since the mid-1960s. More, much more is to come. Through this burst of activism, the Republican Party has been flat on its back.

Decisions that will haunt American taxpayers for generations have been made with hardly a debate. The federal government will pay more of the cost for Medicaid, it will expand the SCHIP program for young children, it will borrow trillions of dollars to expand the national debt to levels unseen since WWII. To stem this onrush of disastrous improvisations, conservatives need every resource of mind and heart, every good argument, every creative alternative and every bit of compassionate sympathy for the distress that is pushing Americans in the wrong direction. Instead we are accepting the leadership of a man with an ego-driven agenda of his own, who looms largest when his causes fare worst.

In the days since I stumbled into this controversy, I’ve received a great deal of e-mail. (Most of it on days when Levin or Hannity or Hugh Hewitt or Limbaugh himself has had something especially disobliging to say about me.) Most of these e-mails say some version of the same thing: if you don’t agree with Rush, quit calling yourself a conservative and get out of the Republican Party. There’s the perfect culmination of the outlook Rush Limbaugh has taught his fans and followers: we want to transform the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan into a party of unanimous dittoheads—and we don’t care how much the party has to shrink to do it. That’s not the language of politics. It’s the language of a cult.

I’m a pretty conservative guy. On most issues, I doubt Limbaugh and I even disagree very much. But the issues on which we do disagree are maybe the most important to the future of the conservative movement and the Republican Party: Should conservatives be trying to provoke or persuade? To narrow our coalition or enlarge it? To enflame or govern? And finally (and above all): to profit—or to serve?

Frum, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of

- end of initial entry -

Clark Coleman writes:

Frum actually makes many good points, but his prescription for what the GOP needs to do is always wrong. The root of the problem is his lack of faith in conservative principles. Despite his talk of persuasion rather than provocation, he has no faith that we can persuade the public of certain conservative principles. Instead, we must take a few polls and go in the direction that the wind is blowing.

So, if the public does not see the connection between big government and its current problems, then Reagan-era small-government conservatism is over. No consideration is given to the possibility that we might inform the public of the relationship of big government to our current problems. I am not entirely sure that Frum himself understands the relationship. Does he know the effect of government on medical costs? Does he know the role of government in the mortgage meltdown? etc.

Similarly, he is good at identifying symptoms (e.g. the loss of California to the Democrats) but not much good at identifying the cause, much less having the courage to speak about its solution.

We must cave in to the idea that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant because, no doubt, some opinion polls indicate that a lot of people have been hoodwinked on this issue. We cannot courageously point out the global cooling that is now occurring. Instead, we must cave in to the status quo in public opinion. Frum would be terrified of what it might do to our poll numbers in the very short term if we spoke out against the status quo in public opinion. I suspect he is the type of relativist who would say that it does not matter what the truth is, it only matters what the public thinks, because we have to get their votes. Of course, the status quo in public opinion will always be shaped by liberal and leftist forces, and his cowardly course of action would ensure that this remains the case. By then following the public opinion that is shaped by liberal and leftist forces, the GOP would always be pulled to the left. It is really a very simple equation.

The alternative is to reshape public opinion in a more conservative direction, but this might involve “giving offense” or being embroiled in some controversy in the short term, so Frum has no stomach for it. He instinctively tries to position himself to be more popular with the liberal and leftist forces in society, and would prescribe the same for conservatism and the GOP.

LA replies:

Mr. Coleman has perfectly captured Frum’s essential intellectual orientation.

Tim W. writes:

It’s hilarious how open borders Republicans like Frum told us for years that immigrants are social conservatives. We should be delighted that all these people are flooding in from Latin America because of their pro-life and pro-family values. Now that they’re here by the millions, we’re told that we have to move to the left on those same social issues to placate them.

Frum acts as if the shift to the left among younger voters just happened by coincidence. It happened because of decades of public school brainwashing and liberal media imprinting, which people like Frum told us was no big deal. Just keep talking about tax cuts and privatizing social security, don’t worry about school curricula or the media, that’s too divisive.

For a period of over thirty years, from FDR’s first election to Nixon’s, the Democrats were the dominant American political party. They won every presidential race except for two featuring war hero Eisenhower. The solidly controlled Congress except for four years when the GOP fluked into very narrow control. During those years, the GOP was little more than a “me too” party, simply waiting for the Democrats to propose something and then coming up with a similar, but slightly less costly, version of the same thing. And they lost almost every time.

We appear to be heading into a new era of that type, only it’ll be far worse. The good-sized bloc of conservative and moderate Democrats that existed back in the pre-Sixties days is no longer there to reign that party in a little. And immigration has allowed the Democrats to become more anti-American and anti-white than people circa 1955 would have believed possible. A copy cat GOP will seal this nation’s doom as a free capitalist society based on the Constitution.

LA replies:

That’s a brilliant insight, though very alarming.

David Friedman writes:

I stand fully with Mr. Kuhner and Lawrence Auster on this matter. There can be no doubt that David Frum has perfectly served the interests of the liberals in writing this attack piece for a national audience. Frum’s line here is fully disingenuous—he states at the end that he has (perhaps) 80 percent agreement with the conservative take on Obama and yet he is willing to bathe in the warm light of big media acceptance by attacking one visible talk radio host as a leader of a “cult.” This kind of inflammatory language is beyond the pale, and if David Frum cannot understand the damage and risk of this kind of accusation—it is hard to let him off the hook for making it. For the left—it is picture perfect since it gives them the necessary psychological cover for their own malady of Obama adoration which is so obvious and so real. Rush Limbaugh, as a conservative has earned our support over time, while Obama conned people and came to power lacking of a resume.

Frum has a place in the Republican party—he has a much smaller place as a conservative. Rush, Levin and all the others he references continually refer to themselves as conservatives and not as Republicans and this is part of the reason why Frum and Limbaugh are speaking past each other. Conservatism requires a strong, principled intellectual outlook—the GOP requires a good candidates that are willing to conform more or less to those ideals. Can there be a pro-choice Republican??—I suppose one could be sold in a locale but this is not the right question—we do not need visible pro-choice Republicans making nice speeches about environmental sensitivity and health care.

We need to give the people a legitimate choice in the electoral process. One might be cordial to President Obama or argumentative—this is a matter of personality and either choice might work as a political strategy. Selling out principle to be popular with the media is the path of sure destruction and as someone who has always thought very highly of David Frum—I am appalled by his article. There may be a place for packaging, but the moment we are merely more fiscally responsible than the Democrats—offering the same programs only slightly smaller—we are doomed. People like Frum are convinced conservatism cannot be sold at the national level without a huge facelift. Perhaps he has a point. All I know is that we must act as if it can be sold and can win. Indeed, if anything can be gained from this whole Obama debacle it is the understanding that if some community organizer with no resume and no background can come out of nowhere and promise to transform America radically, then a good conservative can do the same thing, only for the good of the country instead of at our peril.

LA replies:

I agree with Mr. Friedman’s analysis of Frum. Frum has no notion that anything is true or right. And therefore he has no notion of leadership. Leadership consists of standing for what is true and right and persuading others of the same. That’s what self-government is, that’s what democracy (in the good sense) is. Frum has no concept of any of this. All he knows is polls and popularity, i.e., all he knows is what OTHER people think (or what he imagines they think), and his only politics is to adjust himself to what other people think (or what he imagines they think). To borrow from The Fountainhead, he is the perfect Second Hand man, who has nothing in himself, and seeks to adjust himself to the nothingness that is in others. In a society in which the dominent drift—the dominant nothingness—is liberal, the Frum approach is a recipe for the total defeat and extinction of conservatism.

March 17

LA writes:

I’m sure this has been said by others but I want to say it too. Frum’s ostensible purpose is to help the Republican party survive and thrive, right? Yet he publishes this article in Newsweek. Does Frum imagine, does anyone imagine that Newsweek wants to help the Republican party survive and thrive? Of course not, Newsweek wants to hurt the GOP, and they published Frum’s article in order to pursue that end. So Frum is in league with the left against the Republican party and against conservatism. There is no other way to see it. Someone giving helpful advice to America during the Cold War, wouldn’t go to Moscow to do it. Yet that’s what Frum has done here.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at March 16, 2009 08:01 AM | Send

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