May 23, 2008
’ Have the Republicans run out of ideas? ’ asks The New Yorker. In the current issue of the magazine, George Packer reports that following Bill Buckley’s memorial service , the egregious David Frum’s:
“mood was elegiac and chastened.” He now realized that, in 2001, Bush had been right and he had been wrong at their first meeting: the Party did need to change, but not in the way Bush went on to change it.
“It wasn’t a successful Presidency, and that’s a painful thing, and I was a very small, unimportant part of it, but I was a part of it, and that implies responsibility.”
In Packer’s view, “Frum has made his peace with the fact that smaller government is no longer a basis for conservative dominance. The thesis of his new book…. is that the Party has lost the middle class by ignoring its sense of economic insecurity and continuing to wage campaigns as if the year were 1980, or 1968.”
“If Republican politicians quote Reagan, their political operatives study Nixon,” Frum writes. “Republicans have been reprising Nixon’s 1972 campaign against McGovern for a third of a century. As the excesses of the 1960s have dwindled into history, however, the 1972 campaign has worked less and less well… Voters want solutions to the problems of today.”
Polls reveal that Americans favor the Democratic side on nearly every domestic issue, from Social Security and health care to education and the environment. The all-purpose Republican solution of cutting taxes has run its course. Frum writes, “There are things only government can do, and if we conservatives wish to be entrusted with the management of government, we must prove that we care enough about government to manage it well.
A decade ago, in Dead Right, Frum called Republican efforts to compete with Clinton’s universal-health-coverage plan “cowardly.” In his new book, he asks, “Who agreed that conservatives should defend the dysfunctional American health system from all criticism?”
He told Packer, “The thing I worry about most is if the Republicans lose this election?and if you’re a betting man you have to believe they will?there will be a fundamentalist reaction. Not religious?but the beaten party believes it just has to say it louder. Like the Democrats after 1968….A lot of the problems in the Republican Party will not be fixed.”
Asked if the Conservative movement still existed. Frum replied: “We’ll have people formed by the conservative movement making decisions for the next thirty to forty years,” he said. “But will they belong to a self-conscious and cohesive conservative movement? I don’t think so. Because their movement did its work. The core task was to stop and reverse, to some degree, the drift of democratic countries after the Second World War toward social democracy. And that was done.”
The parting shot from this laxest of weevils : “One of Buckley’s great gifts was the gift of timing … To be twenty-five at the beginning and eighty-two at the end! But I’m forty-seven at the end.”
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