Friday, April 09, 2010

David Frum vs. Conservatives

Jonathan Rauch has an interesting profile of David Frum, liberals' favorite conservative.

Ever since Frum started bashing conservatives, he has become a darling of the left, even though he couldn't be called "liberal" in any sense of that word. I actually agree with much of what Frum has been touting: Republicans have to come up with new ideas to cope with modern problems rather than simply relying on conservative solutions from the past. Regardless of their efficacy, those solutions appear shopworn to a new generation after 30 years of Republican ideas.

Frum is on a mission to penetrate Fox World with a message from reality. In Fox World, he says, Obama is a radical ideologue determined to impose European-style socialism on the United States; in reality, he is a pragmatic consensus-seeker who gets his ideas from the Left but wants to win re-election with 60 percent of the vote. In Fox World, Americans in the millions are rising up to protest Obama's expansion of government; in reality, many Americans are distressed by the economy and will simmer down when prosperity returns.

In Fox World, liberals have wrecked the country; in reality, 21st-century America is better in almost every way than the America of 1975 or 1955. In Fox World, people such as Palin and the conservative talking heads Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck speak for the overlooked American middle; in reality, they speak for a fringe, one big enough to make them rich but not to elect anyone to national office.

In Fox World, all we need to do is just stop doing what we're doing right now; in reality, conservatives need a specific program for governing. In Fox World, health care reform is ripe for repeal; in reality, Republicans have gotten themselves stuck with it for years to come.

I don't disagree with much of this. When one becomes too insular, getting one's news and information from only one side, for example, it can lead to skewed thinking. And when Frum complains that too many conservatives would rather be right (from the outside) than govern from the center-right, he's on target. The rise of the intellectual right has done much of this, but Frum's general argument that Republicans in Congress should be working with President Obama--and thus giving him the cover of bipartisanship--is simply wrong. Democrats were smart to go hard to the left in 2006, giving voters a clear difference between the two parties. If GOPers compromise too much with Obama and Pelosi, there is little reason for voters to change directions and elect Republicans.

I think Republicans are right to talk about repealing what they can of Obamacare in the fall. But Republicans must also begin offering new alternatives to HopeNChange, or else their return to power will be short-lived.